The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races

What It’s About

A lonely island, an annual race, and deadly magical horses.

Why I Think You’d Like It

First, a personal confession. I’ve wanted to read a fantasy novel about water horses for ages. If you don’t know, they are a creature, with variations throughout Celtic mythology, that approaches humans in the form of a beautiful horse in order to drag them into the water, often to eat them. I love the incongruence of an elegant horse and a vicious water monster, but it’s either a concept most authors are unaware of, or unsure what to do with.

Maggie Stiefvater has become one of my favorite authors, precisely because of how well she takes magical premises that could be a bit too bizarre and makes them not only natural, but real, raw and heartfelt. As a kid, I went through a serious horse fanatic phase. I loved the “we’ve got to win the big race to save the farm!” plot and the “I work with horses and love this particular horse so much, but alas someone else owns it” plot and of course the “look at these two protagonists who both totally deserve to win, you really want them to win but it’s got to be one or the other, I’ll torture you for the next two hundred pages mwahahahaha” plot. So, for me, I’d love this book just for mashing up all that with a tragically underused mythological creature.

But it’s so much more on top of that.

It’s one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever read. It’s one of the most frightening fantasy novels I’ve ever read. It’s one of the most atmospheric gothic novels I’ve ever read. It’s a book of blood and nerves and wind and salt water tears. It’s one I want to read over, and over, and over and over again, until I’ve memorized every beautiful phrase.

I think you’ll love it.

Content Warnings

The plot revolves around flesh eating magical horses, so there’s gore. It’s not even violence that you should be concerned about. There’s very little, except for a few race scenes, and then things happen so fast it’s like the prose equivalent of shaky cam (and I mean that as a compliment; she does a great job making you feel the chaos while still letting you follow the action). It’s just that if you don’t want to read weirdly poetic descriptions of viscera washed up on the beach, this isn’t the book for you.

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