It’s the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.
The first line of The Scorpio Races has captured my attention since I first read it a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to reread it in November, and this year when I picked up the book just to read the first little bit, I found myself reading further (even though I had already started another book… and I don’t do multiple fiction books at once unless one’s on audio).
In full disclosure, I did want to reread it this year via audiobook, but while it had been readily available from the library suddenly wasn’t right before November 1 when I checked again. I put a hold on it and figured I’d probably finish reading it before it became available, but I actually had not gotten very far and switched over a couple days later.
I found my review from when I read The Scorpio Races the first time, and it was interesting to see both the similarities and differences of opinion I had this second time.
The short version: I loved it more this time.
The Sean & Puck Relationship
The first time I read The Scorpio Races, I didn’t really feel the developing relationship between Sean and Puck was all that romantically inclined, and when they kissed for the first time (pretty late in the book), it felt sudden to me. (At the time, I was still kind of a newbie to the modern age of YA and I was floored by the lack of a define-the-relationship talk before the kissing.)
This time, the opposite was true. The romance is really subtle, but there is such a sweet, slow development between them that makes the reader really long to see something happen. When Sean grabbed Puck’s wrist and her heart was racing, I was so ready for them to kiss! But they didn’t! It happened later! It’s so funny to me now that before I thought they kissed too soon, and this time it was later than I wanted (though not later than I think it actually should have been, to be clear).
While I had remembered a decent amount of the book from before, one scene I had completely forgotten about was when Sean comes over for dinner. I super loved that scene this time around and doubt I’ll be forgetting it again.
I say, “I will not be your weakness, Sean Kendrick.”
Now he looks at me. He says, very softly, “It’s late for that, Puck.”
In my first review, I touted my love for George Holly and I definitely stand by this after my second read. What’s interesting, however, is that the other secondary character who stood out to me in my first read was Dory Maud, but this time it was Sue Gratton instead. I’m not sure if this was due to reading the book in another format or if she’s just who I connected with more this time around, but regardless, it’s interesting to see the shift nonetheless.
“I think you’re right, Mr. Kendrick,” George Holly says, eyes closed. His face is to the wind, leaning forward slightly so that it doesn’t tip him. His slacks are no longer pristine; he’s tracked bits of mud and manure up the front of them. His ridiculous red hat has blown off behind him, but he doesn’t seem to notice. The wind has its fingers in his fair hair and the ocean sings to him. This island will take you, if you let it.
I ask, “What am I right about?”
“I can feel God out here.”
I brush my hands off on my pants. “Tell me that again,” I say, “two weeks from now when you’ve seen the dead bodies on the beach.”
Holly doesn’t open his eyes. “Let no one say that Sean Kendrick isn’t an optimist.”
The Scorpio Races is a very slowly paced book. That was definitely harder for me the first time, but it didn’t go unnoticed the second time. I think both times I was really ready for Sean and Puck to meet, so it could feel like their story together could begin, but they do have very important individual arcs, which is part of what makes this book so rich. This slow pacing also really matches the tone of the island and helps set the atmospheric aesthetic of it. Maggie Stiefvater says she wants readers to feel like they’ve visited Thisby and weeks later still feel like they need to shake salt from the water out of their hair. I think she did a pretty good job with that.
Shhh, shhh, says the sea, but I don’t believe her.
So I ended up listening to at least 3/4 of the book on audio, and it took me a moment to get used to the narrators who clearly sounded like adults instead of teenagers. But over time, I really warmed up to the narrators and thought they did a wonderful job of portraying their characters. I think Sean’s voice specifically is going to stick in my mind over time.
Author’s Writing Style
The only other book I’ve read by Maggie is her other standalone, All the Crooked Saints, and upon rereading The Scorpio Races I was surprised to find more similarities between the two stories than I would have expected. They’re most definitely two very different books in many respects, but having read them both definitely gives me a sense of Maggie’s writing style. She writes very clever and beautiful metaphors that I only dream I could one day concoct. Her main characters are often misunderstood but they feel deeply, even if they’re trying to hide those feelings from others and sometimes even themselves. There are religious references and broken-down cars and other little things that feel just distinctly Maggie to me (because in addition to reading these two books I have also heard her speak on a panel).
My original rating for The Scorpio Races was four stars, but after this reread I would bump it up to 4.5. It’s beautiful and quiet and raw, and I find very little to complain about it.
Have you read The Scorpio Races once or multiple times? Did your feelings change with rereading?