Everyone knows that when November comes to the island of Thisby somebody’s going to die. With November come the Scorpio Races where men pit themselves against one another in a race down the beach, but these are no ordinary horses that they ride. These are the capall uisce, water horses, that come ashore in the fall. These horses aren’t content to nibble clover and hay; these horses eat flesh. When the salt water strikes against them, they remember the sea, how much they want to be there and they fight tooth and nail to get there in a race that’s man against man, horse against horse and horse against man where unwary riders find themselves the victim of the water horses’ teeth.
When November comes, everything’s going to change.
For Sean Kendrick, it is a time when he feels so, so alive. He’s a young man who lives with one leg in the sea and one leg on the sand. No one knows the capall uisce better than Sean, even at nineteen. For six years he’s raced down the sand for the Scorpio Races and four times he’s won. Before that he watched his father fall in one of the races. It was then that Sean vowed not to do what his father did that last fateful race–never show fear. But whether he lives or dies in the race isn’t something Sean does fear, so there’s nothing to hide.
He knows the words to whisper in the capall uisce’s ears to calm them, the ones that can be calmed. He knows what iron to apply to rein in their wild spirits, what knots to tie in their manes to direct them and how, if need be, to kill them. He knows how to train them and sometimes it is almost as if he is them.
Sean’s never really cared for another person outside himself. It’s him and the horse he rides, Corr, who belongs to another. It’s the horses and uisce he trains. This year, the ante is higher. It’s not victory Sean’s aiming for, it’s Corr, the same red capall uisce from which his father fell. The same one Sean loves to ride but knows he cannot fully trust.
Puck Connelly’s lived her life on the island, but she’s never seen the Scorpio Races. She has reason to fear the capall uisce for they killed her parents one night while they were out on their boat. But Puck will race this year for it will keep her older brother Gabe on the island a few weeks longer. But the race becomes more than a way to keep her brother at home, it becomes a way to save the family house.
Puck can’t make herself ride the capall uisce though she tries because she keeps thinking about what the water horses did to her parents and she promises her younger brother Finn that she won’t. Instead of having a strong, violent creature for the race, Puck’s going to train her small island horse Dove for a race where true horses don’t belong and, neither in the minds of most, do girls.
November doesn’t follow the plans of either Sean or Puck. Sean finds himself in a dangerous game, a game in which he wants no part when Mutt Malvern, his bosses son takes it into his jealous head to hurt Sean however he can and it seems the only way to hurt Sean is by hurting the capall uisce and the horses he loves.
Puck has to find a way to train that’s still within the rules, but that isn’t going to get her eaten alive by the capall uisce or the other men training. Many will make her time difficult from challenging her eligibility to participate to trying to deny her certain rights. Sean tells her the first day to keep her pony off the beach. Puck will not be swayed, and it will be Sean who will eventually stand up for Puck and say that it is courage that counts most on Thisby. Two stubborn characters face the perils, natural and otherwise, of the Scorpio Races, which only one can win and many will not survive.
Filled with quirky characters on an untamed, unforgiving island, The Scorpio Races is a beautiful, bloody story of what it is to fear, love and throw oneself in without restraint that will linger on long after the hoof beats have silenced.