Odd Shelf: Maggie Stiefvater

Aaah–the last Odd Shelf before it goes Old Shelf.

First of all, let’s just admire Maggie’s decision to use her given name and not go with a penname, because probably no one is going to be able to properly pronounce her last name for most of her career (I personally just pronounce it the way I want).

Maggie Stiefvater’s “Shiver” trilogy wafted through the YA circles some years ago (not too long; the industry moves fast) and I tried the first book. I was kind of bored and uninvested, and though I’m sure it’s a good book and many people like it, for whatever reason I quit halfway through and never picked it up again.

I thought it was another one of those things, where I was destined to be dissatisfied with YA books forever more because I’d simply grown out of them. I didn’t want this to happen, but I used to burn through YA books at a pace of one a week when I was younger, and I thought, maybe I just don’t enjoy this genre anymore.

False.

love this genre. But I’m pickier. And YA is the bread and butter for a lot of publishers and agents nowadays, which means the shelves are awash with mediocre work.

To make a long story short, I’d kind of written Maggie Stiefvater off as an author not-really-for-me, and then I read Scorpio Races and had a change of heart.

And then, because I liked Scorpio Races so much, I picked up Raven Boys and realized, yes, officially: Stiefvater is pretty neat.

cover_scorpio1

But back to Scorpio Races.

What’s up with this book?

It’s about killer horses. If that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.

Based on the legends of the eich uisce — the Celtic water horse — The Scorpio Races take place on the tiny, fictional island of Thisby. Each November, water horses emerge from the black ocean and gallop the beach beneath the cliffs of Thisby. And each November, men capture these horses for a thrilling and deadly race.

Both Sean Kendrick, four time champion, and Kate “Puck” Connolly, newcomer to the races, will ride this year, and both of them have more to gain — or lose — than in any previous year. But only one can win.

And–you guessed it–Puck and Sean have a little thing goin’ on between them.

Why you should read it:

Using the Celtic legend is a really unique premise. It’s interesting in and of itself, even without the story Stiefvater weaves into it, which is also good. Life on Thisby is a very rough-and-tough small town way of living–I related it to it all, and felt nostalgic over this make-believe town by the end.

Why I like it as a writer:

Stiefvater has a naturally lyrical way of writing. It’s very poetry-like and she focuses on small people-details. And by people-details I mean she gives attention to those unnameable -isms that occur between us, how we’re reacting to each other, the little details in our faces, the changes in atmosphere. Other writers focus more on setting or fast-paced plot, but Stiefvater keeps us close and personal with the characters, traveling along at their shoulders, not above them.

Why some people might not like it:

The two viewpoint characters are both kind of moody and withdrawn. They have a lot of likeable qualities, but if you’re looking for warmer romance and selfless, charismatic like protagonists, this will probably be harder for you to get through. Also–if you’re very action-oriented, this book runs at a slower pace. Stiefvater takes time to explore her bleak island and the race itself is the main point of action and some people might find it drags a bit.

Also, apparently Maggie is a musician (as if I wasn’t envious enough by her talent), and she wrote this song for Scorpio Races, and it’s kind of awesome:

http://maggiestiefvater.com/wp-content/uploads/02-The-Scorpio-Races-Long.mp3

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