A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
As November nears, the fierce water horses surge out of the sea onto the beach at Thisby. Tourists flock to the island as the locals try to capture and train the dangerous capaill uisce (water horses) for the Scorpio Races. Four-time champion Sean Kendrick lives to ride his stallion and knows well how deadly the races are, but this year he has even more than his life at stake. Puck Connolly lost her parents to the capaill uisce a year earlier. Afraid of losing her older brother to the mainland and her family home to the lender, she signs up to race on her own mare. As the first woman ever to enter, she’s met with hostility -- until she forges an unlikely friendship with her rival, Sean.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence throughout the book. Is it used effectively, or is it over the top? How would the story be affected if the author scaled back the description of the violence? Do you find the violence incongruous with the romantic elements, or do they work together?
How would you classify this novel? Is it a fantasy? A romance? A thriller? An adventure tale?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love fantasy
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.