Study Guide

The Scorpio Races

By Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races Introduction

Dogs might be called man's best friend, but they're in close competition with horses. There's a long line of books about people and their equine companions—Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, War Horse—and there are so many movies about horses too—Secretariat, Seabiscuit, that War Horse again—that we might as well put dogs out to pasture.

All of these books and movies put the beauty, power, and intelligence of horses on display and make us think they're just as human as we are. But do you know what those works are missing? Horses that eat people. Hey, Cujo did it for dogs—horse lit has to compete.

Maggie Stiefvater saw this heinous literary oversight and filled it full of scary carnivorous horses with her 2011 novel The Scorpio Races. It's the Kentucky Derby-meets-Hunger Games of young adult novels, and it received tons of glowing reviews and a Michael L. Printz Honor for best book written for teens. All that's missing are people wearing wacky hats and placing bets.

The Scorpio Races is about two nineteen-year-olds who find themselves training for the race of their lives: the titular Scorpio Races, in which vicious water horses called the capaill uisce run at break neck speeds along the beach while their riders try not to break their own necks. It's a unique world drawn from Celtic lore, and the bizarre, dangerous water horses are just as memorable as the humans who try to train them.

Stiefvater knows all about supernatural weirdness, having crafted the uber-popular Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, including Shiver. The Scorpio Races is a one-off book though, so remember to pace yourself while reading. With no sequel planned, this just might be your only chance to hang out with man-eating horses for a while.

What is The Scorpio Races About and Why Should I Care?

It's simple: The Scorpio Races is unlike anything you've read. It's fresh, fun, and even scary-gory-and-gross in a landscape that has become saturated with romantic vampires and lusty werewolves. (Stiefvater is partially to blame for this, creating super-sensitive werewolves in the Wolves of Mercy Falls.) Seriously, when was the last time you read a book in which a horse bit someone's face off? We'll wait while you rack your memory…

Yeah, we don't think there is one, unless zombie horses suddenly took over The Walking Dead while we weren't looking. What makes The Scorpio Races even more interesting is that it's not totally made-up. Stiefvater uses real-world Celtic mythology about the water horses to create her unique world, giving you something else to obsess over when you're done researching the histories of vamps, werewolves, angels, and fairies/faeries/whatever.

The Scorpio Races Resources

Websites

The Official Site of The Scorpio Races
Okay, so it's not quite the island of Thisby, but the official web-site of The Scorpio Races has tons of cool extras, including icons, wallpapers, and striking foreign book covers.

Movie or TV Productions

Cast Away
Of course there's a movie. Of. Course.

Articles and Interviews

Seventeen Again
Maggie Stiefvater does tons of interaction with her fans. In this interview, she talks about that and, more importantly, the fun trips she took to do research for the beautifully dangerous cliffs of Thisby.

Stuck Like Glue
The Guardian warns us how addicting The Scorpio Races can be in this review. Hm, sounds like the same addiction to danger that drives Sean to compete in the races every year.

New Blood
In this glowing review, the NY Times not only gives us a pronunciation key to capaill uisce (thanks, guys), but also raves about how it pumps new blood into a genre overflowing with vamps, weres, and angels. Who knew carnivorous horses were just what we needed?

Video

Brushstroke of Genius
Maggie Stiefvater does some incredible animated trailers for her books, and The Scorpio Races gets the same super-special treatment. Our only suggestion, Mags: More red ink. It's not bloody enough, though still bloody good work.

Plastic Hooves of Doom
This fan-made trailer does a good job of evoking the haunting mood of the novel… despite using plastic horse toys and Ken dolls.

Audio

What Did You Say?
Listen in awe as a lot of people try (and fail) to pronounce capaill uisce.

Scary Fairy Tales
In this Scholastic interview, Maggie Stiefvater reveals the legend of the water horse that inspired her book. Don't worry, no limbs were lost in the writing of this novel.

Images

Corr Making Waves
This fan-art shows what Corr might look like emerging from the sea. We'd rather take our chances with Jaws…

Morris the Car
Although a year for the book's setting is never given, Finn's Morris could look something like this 1960 Morris Oxford.

Help! Kelpie!
So capaill and kelpie aren't exactly the same (Stiefvater made her own unique creation), but this little chart is a nice guide to help you identify your friendly neigh-borhood horse versus an evil carnivore from the sea.