The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Amazon summary to get this shin dig going:
"From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Shiver and Linger comes a brand new, heartstopping novel.
Some race to win. Others race to survive.
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
Some riders live.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition - the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
As she did in her bestselling Shiver trilogy, author Maggie Stiefvater takes us to the breaking point, where both love and life meet their greatest obstacles, and only the strong of heart can survive. The Scorpio Races is an unforgettable reading experience." AMAZON LINK OF MEH SUMMARY
Alright, this book is told from two different perspectives; Sean Kendrick and Kate (Puck) Connolly. Sean is nineteen years old and has grown up around the horses or capaill uisce (the lethal water horses) and lost his Father to the races when he was 10. Since he lost his Father, he has worked for Benjamin Malvern whose stable yard turns out some of the best horses. Kate or Puck (Puck is her nickname, I don't recall it being explained in the story, but I assume it refers to Shakespeare's character in A Midsummer Night's Dream, a trickster of sorts) lost her parents when they went out on a boat one day, presumably they were killed by the capaill uisce. She has two brothers, Gabe and Finn. Sean is an only child.
So this book is kind of complicated in delightful ways. It embarks on the journey of explaining what the capaill uisce are, what kind of people and cultural inhabit the island of Thisby, and the spirit of the people who live there. I'd say one of the main themes of the story is determining what you love and what you cannot live without, but to say there is only one main theme would just be silly. There's a lot going on.
So the book begins by illustrating the state of which the Connolly's house has inevitably fallen into due to their parents having died about a year ago. Gabe, the eldest brother announces that he will be leaving the island of Thisby for the mainland which basically breaks Kate's heart. But instead of trying to properly deal with it or sort out why he's doing it, she announces that she will be racing in the Scorpio races.
The Scorpio races is a race in which the man-eating horses, the capaill uisce, are harnessed and raced on by people. It's an island tradition that has the feeling of dating back before anyone can remember first settling onto the island. For some reason, it appears that Thisby is the only island that really is visited by the capaill uisce and it is a novelty for tourists; the capaill uisce begin to appear in October (well, more heavily, it seems that there always there or there year round), and the Scorpio Races take place on November 1.
Alright, so Gabe is like, WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO RACE? and Kate's like YEAH, and Gabe's like CRAP, WELL I'LL STAY UNTIL AFTER THE RACES, BUT I'M LEAVING RIGHT AFTER THAT. So Kate and Finn begin to go through a lot of emotional turmoil over their brother leaving. As the reader, we slowly get to see how Kate sees her brothers and Finn turns out to be a person who tinkers a lot; by tinkers I mean always has to be doing something with his hands, takes things apart and puts them back together, and very observant.
Also, I'm not entirely sure of Kate's exact age. I'm not sure if it was mentioned in the book, but I think she's either 16 or 17 but she could be 18. Her attitude in the beginning of the book originally led me to believe that she was much younger, say 12 or 13 but to enter the races you have to be 14, and there are other clues along the way such as the remark of her transitioning from girl to woman that makes me uncertain as to what her age is. It does bother me to not know her age.
Anyways, the story progresses so that we're introduced to a variety of characters that all in large or small ways, contribute to the shape of our two main characters. Eventually Sean and Kate meet each other and begin to slowly work their way through of acquaintance to a bond of some sort, to a general uncertainty about the other person.
I'm really not inclined to venture into spoiler land on this one, or to delve too in depth into it as there are a lot of subtle intricacies, metaphors, symbolism, and so much more happening in this book. I suppose it could be read as a straight forward book, but it would be ignoring the heart of the book.
I will say that it took them a long while to get to the actual races, really the races are at the very end of the book, and at points I did struggle with maintaining my attention on the book. It was easy for me to leave and do something else before coming back to it, yet I was still curious enough about the story to come back for it. There does seem to be an unexplained magic about it.
...it's a very curious book, yet I would say it was worth the read.