The Scorpio Races

After complaining on Twitter that I didn't have any time to read I snuck in some time and went on a big reading spree. I read four issues of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (which were all terrific and you should subscribe, I think it's ninety nine cents per month on the Kindle), a semi-boring zombie novel, a short story called A German Storyteller, and a fantastic book called the Scorpio Races. I also watched a terrible movie called Sublime, about a man who gets an operation that goes wrong. You should definitely skip this one, unless you're excited by rehashed storylines and dialogue that includes reading the directions on a bottle of pre-op laxatives.

If you take a healthy dose of National Velvet, mix in some Black Stallion or Island Stallion, then cook it in the fairy realm, you have the Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Set on a small island whose main industry is breeding horses and accommodating tourists, the novel focuses on two characters. Puck, a young lady who's struggling to keep her small family together, and Sean, a young man who works in a stable and rides in the Scorpio races. He's a four time winner and loves his mount, a big red water horse called Corr.

Both Puck and Sean are parentless. Sean's mother ran off to the mainland and his father was killed by Corr. Puck's parents were both killed and she now lives with her two brothers, Gabe and Finn. Gabe is about to desert them for the mainland so Puck demands that he stay until after the races, which she decides to enter. The stakes are very high for both of them. Puck needs to save her family home and Sean has something equally important at stake.

Puck is planning to race on her small horse Dove, a move that is viewed as madness by almost everyone on the island. But she knows that one of the dangers of the race is that the sea horses, called the eich uisce, want to run back into the ocean and escape, so the other riders will have to fight their mounts every step of the way. If she and Dove just run straight and true she may have a chance. Unfortunately she has to battle more than the other horses and riders. She will be the first woman to ride in the races and there are plenty of people on the island who will try and stop her.

Meanwhile Sean is fighting his own battles at the stables where he works. His boss is kind of awful (the boss also owns the mortgage on Puck's house and came over to see her face when he said he was going to foreclose) but the boss' son Mutt is even worse. Mutt loathes Sean and is jealous of his riding ability and skill with the horses, both land and water. But more than that, Mutt hates Sean because Sean's has Mutt's father's grudging respect. Matt has little control over his temper and with an upcoming race where riders are routinely killed he will have plenty of opportunities to take his rage out on his target.

The Scorpio Races is a beautifully told story. It's about courage and fear, all sorts of love, and the imbalance of power between the wealthy and the poor. It's also about the lure of the sea and the forbidden or dangerous. Puck's bond with and love for Corr, a member of a species that loves to kill, is understandable to anyone who has ever looked at a lion or a tiger and wished they could be friends. (Aslan anyone?) I just wish this book was a series because I was not ready to leave its world.

You can read a five page excerpt here: http://maggiestiefvater.com/wp-content/uploads/SCORPIO-RACES-EXCERPT.pdf

A German Storyteller
A German Storyteller by Marshal Payne is a Kindle short story. It's a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, told from the perspective of the stove, and set in modern times. Hansel and Gretel are meth addicts, who aren't particularly bright and the witch is a new age hippie who loves to bake scrumptious treats. This is a cute story but I was appalled by how one character treats male rape as a joke. That really put me off. You can find the story on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/A-German-Storyteller-ebook/dp/B008CAZA3M

Bonus Treat:
To go with the horses in the Scorpio Races this week's bonus treat is a comic by the very talented Gabrielle Bell. It's called Horses and is about her experience with two very different horses. It's also about freedom and societal expectations. http://gabriellebell.com/2010/01/11/horses/