Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, November 7, 2011

Racing For Your Life

Authors hook their readers at different points in their storytelling, on the first page, within the first chapter or easing into it gradually over several chapters, using a variety of techniques, an explanatory word, a startling sentence or a defining paragraph.

Maggie Stiefvater author of The Scorpio Races chooses to reach out and grab her readers immediately.

It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.

Without a doubt that chain of words is going to find a place on a top twenty-five best first sentences' list.  After reading that all you want are answers; who is going to die, why are they going to die, how are they going to die and where is this death going to happen.  And you can not turn the pages fast enough as events unfold, unforgettable characters are set forth fully alive, and fantastical creatures emerge from the sea.

Two people living separate lives share two loves; the land upon which they live and horses.  Fate decrees that a third love will find a place in each of their hearts, a love for one another.  These two were both made orphans by the capaill uisce, water horses.

Awesome in their savage beauty, frightening in their capabilities, these water horses come from the sea each November to roam the land.  If captured, while they remain wild beasts drawn to the salt water, they are superb mounts in every respect.  True danger lies in their need for meat; no distinction is made as to what kind.

The land surrounded by the sea that releases these mythological beings is the island of Thisby, a craggy, rocky wind-swept place replete with cliffs and sandy beaches that stretch to the water.  Hours from the mainland, Skarmouth is the largest town. Heart of the island and center of the celebrations that accompany the annual Scorpio Races, Skarmouth at night becomes a scene of rites and magic as old as time.

No race compares to this race; the horses need to feed...on the riders dragging them back to the sea that they crave.  People flock to the island like migrating birds each year for the races; some drawn to the animals themselves as buyers or lovers of these exquisite creatures, others not wanting to miss the excitement of the race,the need to see who will finish, who will win, who will live.

Nineteen year old Sean Kendrick has had an unearthly connection to the water horses since he was a child; an understanding of their souls.  A four time champion of the races he rides Corr, a breathtaking animal colored in shades of red.  It was riding Corr that Sean's father lost his life.  Honoring Sean's whispered request prior to the race,  Corr returned to the sea without eating his father. Even though it was he who recaptured the water horse, it belongs to Benjamin Malvern where Sean lives and works as head of the stables. Sean has to win the race this year to save everything that he values most in life.

At sixteen Puck (Kate) Connolly has never known anything but life on the island of Thisby and that is enough for her.  But this year she is entering the races as the first woman to do so.  Her oldest brother, Gabe, has recently announced that he is leaving the island.  Puck and her younger brother, Gill are living day to day in disbelief.  She is shocked to learn that Malvern holds a mortgage on their home and that Gabe knew it.  Dove, an island horse, will be her ride.  Puck has to win the race this year to save everything that she values most in life.

Told in alternating chapters by the voices of Sean and Puck readers are held captive by vividly descriptive words causing the air they breath to hold the scent of the sea, the feel of wind on their skin and the motion of the horses hooves striking sand beneath their bodies and them to marvel at the courage and conviction of these two characters.  Sense of family is held high as a range of emotions ebb and flow between Puck and her brothers as events escalate.  Secondary characters, essential to the tale, in the town's people, Malvern's son, Mutt, and an American, George Holly, are colorful and realistic.

Here are just a couple sentences that show the connection Puck and Sean have to their horses,

I get a currycomb and a brush and I knock the dust out of Dove's dun hide until my fingers warm up.  By the time I saddle her up, she's clean and I'm grubby.  She is my mare and my best friend, and I keep waiting for something bad to happen to her, because I love her too much.

Corr can hold a thousand things in his heart and reveal only one of them on his face, like he did earlier today.  He is so very like me.

This is just a portion of one of many, many wonderful passages in this book.

The Scorpio drums pound a ragged heartbeat as I wind my way through the crowds that fill the streets of Skarmouth.  The cold air smarts as I breathe it in; the wind carries all sorts of foreign scents. ...Everything the race makes me feel on the inside is bleeding up through the seams in the street tonight.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is an extraordinary achievement stunning and spellbinding until the final sentence; readers are richly rewarded.  It, like the capaill uisce, is a breed all its own.

 My autographed copy has been ordered.  Not surprisingly, within ten days of the book's release Warner Bros announced that it had grabbed the movie rights.  It is my recommendation that this title is for eight grade students on up.  Appeal for both guys and gals is a given; heart-pounding pure adventure, characters you come to love or to hate and a landscape populated with mystical, mythical creatures says it all.

This is a book trailer that Maggie Stiefvator created.  Be sure to follow the link with her name at the beginning of this post to a top notch web site and a blog.

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