The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Stiefvater, Maggie. 2011. The Scorpio Races. New York: Scholastic Inc. ISBN 9780545224918


The Scorpio Races is equal parts heartwarming and chilling.  Puck and Sean’s separate yet slowly converging tales allow the novel to easily appeal to both genders.  Both characters must define themselves, find bravery, and choose what truly matters in life.  They must do all of this on a rugged island with bloodthirsty, sea-mad horses. 

Rather than the more popular, and common, changeling story, Stiefvater chooses to use one of the many legends of the water horse as the basis for her fantasy.  While this may confuse younger readers, it creates an excellent draw for the older teen.  It would be a wonderful introduction to world myths.  This being said, it is not necessary for the reader to have any knowledge of the Irish or Scottish water horse myths.  Any reader who isn’t put off by blood in their books and who enjoys equestrian fiction would find this novel a gripping read.

The Scorpio Races is evenly balanced in terms of character development and plot.  One does not outweigh the other in importance or development.  In fact, the book seems to delight in crossing genres.  While its all encompassing genre is fantasy, it is also a story about family, coming of age, pets, love, and horse racing. 

One thing that could potentially bother readers is the alternating viewpoint.  While the two points of view are clearly marked, some readers do not like switching out of one character’s mind for another, no matter how smooth the author makes the transition. 


This novel could be used in many different ways.  It could be included in a selection of equestrian fiction.  It could be used to introduce Irish or Scottish myths.  It is a sport book.  An interesting potential project would be to encourage teens to make up their own land to fit a myth.  For example, Stiefvater created Thisby specifically for her breed of water horses.  They don’t exist anywhere else.  Assign each teen a myth and then have them create a land specifically for whatever mythical creature dominates the story.



Michael L. Printz Honor book 2012

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award finalist 2012



BookList- “And in the water horses, based on mostly Celtic legends, she’s created scary yet compelling forces of nature. A book appealing to lovers of fantasy, horse stories, romance, and action-adventure alike, this seems to have a shot at being a YA blockbuster.”


The Bulletin Center for Children’s Books- “Though the plot arc unfolds slowly, Stiefvater does a masterful job in creating an immersive world with well-developed traditions, history, prejudices, and complex social relations. The book credibly depicts the subtle tensions of a developing romance between two stubborn and taciturn people with a multitude of concerns: their training for the races, Puck’s worries about money and the splintering of her family, and Sean’s love and care for his horses, among other things. Those willing to take it slowly will be richly rewarded with a story whose mythic dimensions stand easily with its more quotidian ones, thus embodying the tensions between the water horses and their humans.”


Coats, Karen. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. December 2011. Vol. 65, No. 4.  Accessed via CLCD

Cruze, Karen. Booklist. Sep. 1, 2011. Vol. 108, No. 1. Accessed via CLCD



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