Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Scorpio Races (Review)

The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater
Stiefvater is good.  Very good.  Every book I have read of hers I have nodded and thought, "She is good with the words and the momentum."   Although The Scorpio Races has a slower build than the Shiver trilogy (nay, Shiver four), for example, it presents its end-game from the outset.  You know there will be races.  The characters will be in those races.  I wanted to know what the outcome would be, from the start.  Other notes:
  • It felt so other-worldly.  It reminded me of reading Elizabeth Knox, only it was easier (Knox, your words are beautiful, but sometimes I must read your sentences twice+ to fully process them).  It is like magical realism intermingles with historical fiction in this one.  There is no effort to convince you of mythological creatures coming to life (like Bella considered spider bites and other explanations for Edward's speed), things are as they are, no apologies or disclaimers.  I loved that.
  • The story is told from two different character perspectives and both were interesting.
  • Physical character descriptions of extra characters are so. so. good.  A few well-formed sentences produce vivid and original caricatures time and time again.  The main characters...well, their descriptions are different.  They're there, but they're vague enough to allow you fill things in (I personally don't mind that), but occasionally I was confused by other characters' reactions to my protag's compared to their self-assessment or assessments of each other (i.e. they are "nothing special" in appearance in their owns minds or to each other...then later an extra calls them gorgeous or attractive).  I don't know why, but I'm thinking "Do you find each other attractive, or not?"  My characters don't have to be beautiful to everyone, but I hope love interests will find some positives in their love interest.
  • I really liked the subtle growth and development of the romantic arc -- these two didn't sleep in bed next to each other and talk endlessly about how they wanted to do more (how refreshing!).   It was a slow burn and touches on hands were thrilling -- yay!  Most incredible, I think we are shown how they feel about each other, instead of told.  That was very interesting, for me.  My only complaint is that I was left wanting more!  (which isn't a bad thing).  Overall, I think this was very well-executed, and Maggie should be proud.
  • The female lead was muddy for me.  I couldn't understand her entirely.  For starters, I couldn't really gauge if she was a kid, a teenager or pretty much an adult.  I also don't know where she thought she fell, age-wise.  I wanted to know.  I didn't think it was important initially, but somewhere along the line, I realised my mental picture of her kept glitching, and I would rather I had this idea locked in earlier. 
  • The language, sensuality, violence, and all other potentially offensive things are handled SO well.  There are vague sexual references, but it is so tame, and the language is great.  The violence probably gets the highest score, but it isn't grisly, but it is there.
  • If I had to nitpick, I would say the opening lines in Maggie's books are...hmmm...risky?  In the long-term?  I think she is smart to drop you into the action immediately.  She demands your attention.  But this style, if often used, sets up an expectation for action that may be slow to come.  In Shiver, I remember thinking, "Gosh, all books should start like this!"  But then, they can't.  They really can't all start with the life or death point, or it starts to get cheap.  All of this said, every opening I've read of Maggie's, I've gone, "Yes, bring it!"  So...while it's a risk, it's one she's done well to take.  I wonder if overused or used in the wrong hands if this device would get tired fast.  In this novel's case, I think it set an inaccurate standard for the opening chapters a little bit.  Arguably, it charged the everyday with suspense, so I don't think it could be's just...something I've noticed.  What do you think about her opening lines?
  • I read this as often as I could until it was done.  I wanted to be in the story and I wanted to pound it out.  I consider this a good sign.
  • The ending is perfection.

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