On the first of November on the island of Thisby, racers ride capall uisce, fast but dangerous water horses. This is the Scorpio Races, where the winner is known throughout the island and the losers are dead if they are unlucky.
Kate “Puck” Connolly is practically an orphan. Her parents have recently died on the sea; now she and her two brothers, Gabe and Finn, struggle to survive. But Puck is content so long as she has her brothers and her beloved horse, Dove. But when Gabe announces that he is leaving for the mainland, Puck’s world falls apart. In a desperate attempt to keep Gabe close – at least for a little while – Puck enters the Scorpio Race. She’s the first female to do so (though there are no actual rules against women races); not only that, Puck has chosen to race not on a capall uisce, but on her ordinary island horse Dove.
Sean Kendrick is a four time Scorpio Race winner and head trainer at the Malvern stables. He works for Benjamin Malvern, who owns half of Thisby as well as Sean’s beloved capall uisce, the red stallion Corr who once belonged to Sean’s father. Sean’s only desire is to buy Corr, the one thing he loves most in the world. But Malvern isn’t selling, and Sean must contend with Malvern’s jealous son, Mutt, who sees Sean as a person to torment and hate.
As the race draws near, Puck and Sean become acquainted. Their passing friendship becomes more as they begin to understand what drives the other to try and win this year’s Scorpio Race. Puck, fearful and mistrusting of the water horses, begins to see how much Sean loves Corr and how much the capall uisce cares for Sean in return. Sean, in turn, is drawn to Puck’s bravery as she fights misogyny and sexism in a sport that is dominated by men – men who don’t want a female on the beach no matter what her reason is.
The Scorpio Races is so much more than an urban fantasy tale about young people and mythical racing water horses. It’s a story about true heart felt love, love that extends beyond the boundaries of family and species. It’s a story about Puck’s struggle against a patriarchal sport dominated by the gender she is not; Puck didn’t enter the race to fight with sexist views, but that’s what she ends up doing. But mostly it’s about two people who discover another person who shares the same feelings they do for the island they grew up on and the horses they both love.
My rating: 4.5/5