Basic premise: Thisby is an island where once a year the Scorpio Races are held. People from the island and the mainland come to watch and race - but these are no ordinary horse races. Instead, riders try to contain the wild capaill uisce - water creatures that look like horses but have a taste for flesh and a burning desire to return to the sea. Puck Connolly lost her parents to the sea and now she's losing her oldest brother to the call of the mainland. She decides to ride in the races to try to keep him on Thisby and to win the purse. Sean Kendrick's father was killed by a capaill uisce, but that hasn't tainted his love for the wild creatures. He's won for the last three years, but this year everything is riding on his victory.
So here's 10 things I loved about this book:
- The world - Although Stiefvater never provides a geographic location or even time period, there is such a rich sense of place. Every word of the book is saturated with the world in which it takes place so you can smell, hear, taste, see, and feel it. Rich is the word I keep coming back to. Rich without being overwhelming or overdone.
- The capaill uisce - (pronounced CAP-ple ISH-ka) There are a number of mythologies about these water horses, which I had never really heard of before. As she did with werewolves in the Shiver trilogy, Stiefvater says she picked and chose the aspects that would best serve her story. But these creatures are epically fascinating and terrifying. I both wished they were real and was fervently thankful they weren't. Their mythology is as real as the rest of the worldbuilding, whether it's invented or not.
- Sean - As one of the narrators, Sean gives a strikingly different and yet very similar view of this world than Puck gives.. He's almost a capaill uisce himself, with his connection to the creatures, his love for the island, and his sixth sense. He's clearly drawn through his language and his narration and I liked that he was not the stereotypical YA male protagonist.
- Puck - speaking of not stereotypical YA protagonists, Puck fits this in a wonderful way. In a lot of ways her narration reads as much younger-sounding than she is, but there is reason for this and her voice matures as she does throughout the story, but in a believable fashion. She's grumpy and snarky and rude and you root for her so strongly. Her love for the island, despite the things she's lost to it, is evident in every word she speaks and thought she has.
- Corr - Corr is the water stallion closely connected to Sean. Corr is the reason I bawled my eyes out at the end of this book. Horses kind of freak me out even when they're not flesh-eating sea beasts, but I want a Corr.
- Dove - If I can't have a Corr, then I'd settle for a Dove - Puck's horse has so much character as well. They're absolutely adorable together.
- Finn - Puck's brother just made me want to give him a big hug. I really appreciated the way Stiefvater handled his compulsive behavior and his anxiety issues. And he's just adorable.
- Mutt Malvern - So, I don't really like him as like the way his character was used in the story. It's difficult for YA authors to depict real live antagonists that are the same age as the protagonists. In so many stories I've read recently the villain is either a government or an authority figure or the protagonist him or herself. Mutt is a bully and angry and evil, yet there are also layers to him and to why he behaves the way he does.
- George Holly - Even though he was a bit of a side character whose purpose is a little vague to me even now, I couldn't help but like him. He popped in and out of the story at odd times and added another layer to the things going on in Thisby for the races.
- The sisters - the trio of sisters who own the trinket shop where Puck sells things cracked me up. I felt like they were the three fates or something - always squabbling and pronouncing dire predictions.