Monday, November 28, 2011

The Scorpio Races

Unlike our dear Tracey Neithercott over at Words On Paper, I asked for a pony when I was a wee one. Not only that, but my wish was granted. His name was Buck. Buck was an ex-barrel racer, trained to buck on command, and the color of a caramel latte. His name was quite appropriate considering his coloring and nature. But I loved him anyway.

Buck was only the first horse to come into my life, although he will always be one of the more memorable. 

While reading The Scorpio Races, I couldn't help but think of Buck whenever Dove was mentioned. The memories of my childhood kept floating to the surface, like Capaill uisce, and galloping across my mind. I think it made my reading of the book all the more special. 

Tracey has already done a wonderful job of discussing some of the fundamentals regarding Stiefvater's novel, such as the dual plot narrative, the setting, etc. 

However, I want to focus on the kelpie legend and the final outcome of the book. 

I hope no one who hasn't read the book happens upon this post, because there will be spoilers from this point forward. So, here's your warning. 

Stiefvater mentions in her afterword that she struggled with writing this story for a while, because the mythology surrounding the water horses was so dense. There were multiple legends pointing to separate ideas of what constituted a kelpie, but most kept the bloody aspect. There are just as many names for the kelpies/water horses/capaill uisce as there are legends about their existence. 

As a fan, I have to say that I think Maggie did a wonderful job of utilizing the myth (I think that by isolating the characters on an island was a great way of containing the scope) and the capaill uisce were extremely believable. I'm with Tracey here. If Stiefvater told me that Thisby and the capaill uisce were real, I'd believe her 100%. 

The fact that the island and the people on it felt Irish or Celtic to me (in my head) also added to the atmosphere of the book. I've always pictured kelpies as being creatures that haunt the Celtic isles and indigenous to that area only. I can't tell you why. 

The End
Part of the wonder that is this book is the way I found myself at a loss over who I would like to win the race. Usually, I tend to favor one character over another, or either the author manages to make it easy for readers to choose a favorite. However, I couldn't choose between Sean and Puck. At one moment, I think I may want Puck to win because she has to take care of her family, but then Sean would return to my mind and I'd remember how he feels about Corr and his own story. 

Even down to the last few pages, when the race is in full swing, I was unable to choose between them. I wanted both of them to win, which in a way, I suppose they did. The conclusion cinched the book in a way that I didn't know was possible. How could they both win when only one of them could win? Regardless of my own confusion, it all made sense. 

Puck wins on Dove, saves her home, and because Corr is damaged beyond repair, helps Sean purchase Corr from Mr. Malvern. It's a tidy ending to an otherwise messy dilemma. Yet, it isn't rushed and makes complete sense. When books end as happily (or semi-happily as it felt to me) as The Scorpio Races when the entire book prior to the ending has been contention on all corners, readers usually tend to doubt the neatness of the ending. 

However, not so in this case. I'm happy to believe in this ending, because it doesn't at all smell of hasty end-tying. The entire book falls into place like a neatly played game of chess, so that at the end, when Stiefvater checkmates me, I'm so entirely surprised and impressed with the skill in which she played me, that I'm perfectly thrilled to have been beaten. 

Now, if you haven't read The Scorpio Races and my comments haven't ruined it for you (which they shouldn't have), I recommend that you go out and get your hands on a copy, and then promptly read it. You'll thank me. It's not everyday that you get to read a book like this. 

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