This might be my favorite Maggie Stiefvater book. I can’t stop rereading it.
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
I freaking love this book. I’ve read it, I don’t know, maybe five times? And it doesn’t stop being worth reading again.
The characters are the defining characteristic of this book. Puck Connolly is the BEST. She’s the ultimate sarcastic, take-no-shit YA protagonist, but she also cares deeply for her family. The risk she takes in entering the Scorpio Races is massive, and I appreciate that she actually doubts whether it’s worth it. She’s impulsive and snarky and honestly human—the perfect voice to tell this story from.
Sean Kendrick, her biggest competitor and love interest, is equally complex. He has a love-hate relationship with his life and clearly struggles with issues of poverty and his lack of power over his own destiny. I love that even though he seems like your average broody tough guy, he actually grapples with internal conflicts and isn’t nearly as brave as he wishes he was. His relationship with Corr, his water horse, is beautiful to experience, and his fear of losing her is heart-wrenching.
The romance in this book is swoon-worthy. Puck and Sean’s relationship develops at a slow and realistic pace, but by the end, it is clear that the two of them share a deep emotional bond—and that it has changed both of them. Seeing Sean’s transformation as he slowly warms to Puck, then falls for her is a-freaking-dorable—and vice versa with Puck. Their romance is slow-burn perfection, and it never overpowers the other plot lines, though it helps them along.
The Scorpio Races is more than a romance, though. Both Sean and Puck face their own plot lines, culminating in the races. There is prevalent commentary on societal sexism; empathizing with Puck’s plight will make a feminist out of you (if you somehow aren’t one already). Poverty and the rich-vs-poor divide also figure prominently into the plot.
As always, Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is incredible. The world-building is gorgeous, and every character gets their own personality. Though the pacing of TSR is moderate, I couldn’t put it down; the plot is addictive without resorting to dramatic battle scenes or cliff-hanger gimmicks. There are scenes that will make you laugh, scenes that will make you tear up, and scenes that will make you angry.
I would recommend this book to fans of emotional stories with subtle-but-amazing romances. TSR has fantasy elements, a vaguely historical setting, and contemporary plot concerns—making it perfect for basically every book lover. Seriously, if you haven’t read this book, GO READ IT. You’ll have a new bookish happy place. 🙂