A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn a bit about horses and their care, and may be inspired to learn more about water horse legends.
Bravery, determination, and hard work propel Puck and Sean. The twin narratives reveal how our self-image often doesn’t match our outward appearance: Puck, for example, often feels foolish for being so precocious, but Sean and others see her as fiery. Sean and Puck ultimately show how rivals can still be partners, even when their goals are mutually exclusive.
Positive Role Models
The women -- including Puck -- are quirky, strong, and full of surprises. Puck is petulant and impetuous, but others readily see her courage and determination. She doesn’t act out of any feminist impulse but sets a fine example in character that puts the men around her to shame. Sean is less showy but still a fiery spirit. There’s an assortment of nasty, unpleasant peripheral characters, but most of the secondary characters demonstrate great integrity.
Violence & Scariness
The water horses are predatory, bloodthirsty creatures: During training, in races, and in between they are quick to attack and kill -- several characters are brutally slain by capaill uisce. A bully threatens and harasses his rival, attempting to orchestrate his death and others. He also cruelly maims a horse. Both of the main characters lost parents in attacks by water horses.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There’s some innuendo, but little beyond kissing. One adult character appears in a hotel with rumpled clothes and lipstick on his collar. There are intimations of other sexual relationships and a bit of kissing, but it's generally tasteful. Some characters comment on a woman's chest size.
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Some salty language is peppered throughout, including "bastard," "piss," "balls," and "tits."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A festival scene features a drunken crowd, and a few characters drink to excess in a bar.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this 2012 Printz Honor Book is an action story about killer horses by the author of Shiver -- and there’s a lot of killing. Parents are snatched from boats; riders are grabbed by the throat, torn to pieces and trampled; islanders are menaced by mystical beasts that come from the sea. The violence is never gratuitous and often is tempered by touching moments of humanity: holding the hand of a man as he dies, joining a family at a funeral pyre for a slain teen, setting aside disputes to try to save the life of an endangered rival. The romantic thread is more about kindred spirits than physical attraction.
Is It Any Good?
Maggie Stiefvater serves up a terrific mix of action, magic, and romance that defies neat categorization into any one genre. It’s a fantasy horse story for teens who hate both fantasies and horse stories: The pulsing danger of the capaill uisce (water horses) is seductive. The narration shifts between Puck and Sean, both strong and appealing voices. The two perspectives together paint a vivid portrait of Thisby and the solid supporting cast. Stiefvater’s Thisby is the kind of place readers want to get lost in: She drops so many intriguing hints into the lives of the secondary characters, you wish you could follow them a bit more too. The American Library Association named Scorpio Races a 2012 Michael L. Printz Honor Book for excellence in literature for young adults.
The story is a thrill ride, so much so that the romance sneaks in quietly. Sean and Puck, both headstrong and fierce in their own distinct ways, are classic heroes who’ll resonate with independent-minded teens.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.