I can't believe I'm just now reading this book! Now I know why so many people adore Maggie Stiefvater as a writer, too, though I already adored her as a person. The Scorpio Races is dark, beautiful, and gritty, just like the Scorpio Sea. This book is top notch, from the deeply-flawed but lovable characters, to the breathless, windswept setting, to the terrifying, nightmare-inducing capall uisce, and finally, to the plot itself. I mean, HELL-O! killer water horses! As usual, though, it was the characters that spoke to my heart... and not just the human ones.
Kate "Puck" Connolly, Sean Kendrick, and their two steeds, Dove and Corr, respectively, really steal the show. And so they should. Kate is so proud and stubborn, refusing to be defined by her orphaned status or by the jeers and sideways glances of the men around her. Sean is the sort of friend everyone wishes they had; the sort who is so observant, they notice when your eyebrow twitches a certain way, and when it does, what it means. The horses mirror their owners, in both character and personality: Dove, a seemingly simple, skittish broodmare, turns out to be clever and strong; and Corr, a deadly beast known for being cunning, aloof, and heartless, learns that our churning, internal battles can be conquered by one word: love.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention, again, the capall uisce. Each time they were described, I became a bit more uncomfortable, but my eyes actually did bug out of my head when the "devil" appeared. Maggie sure does know how to fire up the cannons and get your heart racing! If you want to be equally as freaked out, look up a picture of an Akhal-Teke, particularly the darker-colored ones. They are probably the closest match to the description in the book. You can thank me later for your nightmares! How clever of Maggie, though, the way she worked this mythical being into the story, and so seamlessly, too. This book is, of course, a work of fiction, but the very best fiction makes you forget, even if just for a minute, that what you're reading isn't real (at least not in this world.)
Finally, the plot. If you've read my reviews, you know that I can be forgiving of a hum-drum plot if the characters are well-done, but Maggie has nailed this aspect as well. Each main character has something important and great to lose if they do play their part well, and there always seems to be something in the way of things going right. As in any well-done novel, the plot and its characters are inextricably linked. As the characters become more real, we are drawn into their worlds, their hopes and dreams, and we find our hearts clenching alongside theirs when disappointment looms on the horizon.
There is not much more I can say that others here have not said before, and perhaps better. It suffices me to say that this book is a gem and I eager to read my next Maggie S. book!