The Scorpio Races (Audiobook) – by Maggie Stiefvater
My first fiction audiobook! After listening to a bunch of autobiographies, I finally ventured into the realms of fiction. This seemed like a bigger risk, because the books wouldn’t be read by the author, and it wouldn’t simply be, say, Stephen Fry telling me about himself. No – now I had to worry about whether I’d like the narrator/s or not.
I thoroughly enjoyed Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys last year, and I’d heard good things about The Scorpio Races too. The short version of this review is: HELL YES. The longer version follows.
Set on a small island where horses that are nothing like their land-bound counterparts roam the seas, looking for prey, The Scorpio Races introduces us to Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick. Both Puck and Sean have entered in this year’s deadly Scorpio Race, though for very different reasons. The races are the only sort of freedom Sean Kendrick has ever known. The glory and prize money are nothing compared to the possibilities afforded if he can win once more. Puck Connolly really doesn’t want to be in the race. But she does want to win – on her own horse, not one of those vicious, nightmarish water horses. If she wins, maybe they can save their house. Maybe her brother will stay home, instead of running away to the mainland to escape the grueling responsibility or looking after Puck and her younger brother.
Puck and Sean have precious little in common when they first come into each other’s orbit, and very little to say to each other. As the race draws closer, and the stakes get higher, however, the two are inexorably drawn together. But it’s impossible for them both to win.
I was right – narrators can make or break an audiobook experience. The good news is that two narrators for The Scorpio Races were both wonderful. Puck’s voice was light, young, and not annoying or breathy, and it really helped me connect with her character. Similarly, Sean’s narrator had a
gorgeous deeper, masculine voice that wasn’t too old for his character but lent an amount of gravitas to this somewhat-unhappy young man.
The plot, too, was excellent. Stiefvater has an ambitious storytelling style that I absolutely adore. Her island setting may be small, but her characters and ideas are certainly not. Puck is fierce, and scared, and absolutely determined to win the race and save her family. Sean is contained, repressed resentment that has not quite managed to render him bitter. He still dreams of better for himself and his water horse, even if he can’t quite believe it will ever happen.
I was so absorbed by this story that I had to force myself to concentrate as I walked – I’d get distracted and drift to a halt, which made me unpopular with my fellow pedestrians! If that’s not the mark of an exciting tale, I don’t know what is.
If you’re interested in fantasy, and/or looking for a book to try in audio format, it’s hard to go wrong with the Scorpio Races. (I’ve bought The Dream Thieves as an audio book now, because I’m desperate for this sequel to The Raven Boys, and hoping for the same kind of experience!)