The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater
After a half decade of werewolves, vampires, ghosts, fallen angels and faeries, I assumed there was nothing new under the paranormal sun—at least, nothing new that would capture my interest. But Maggie Steifvater, author of the Shiver trilogy, proved me wrong with her latest young adult stand-alone, The Scorpio Races.
Races takes place on a cold island in the North Atlantic at some point in the past. The capaill uisce—vicious and wild water horses—emerge from the ocean each year, and are raced along the beaches of Thisby on the first of November. Orphan Kate Connolly finds her family and livelihood at risk, and the race is her only solution, even though a girl has never dared to ride in the November races. At the same time, fellow orphan Sean Kendrick sees the race as his final chance to claim the horse he loves as his own—until he realizes there may be another he cares about even more.
The familiar world and horse-driven story make this book a good fit for readers seeking an accessible fantasy, and Steifvater’s language and atmosphere is more than enough to draw in a reluctant reader. That being said, there are several instances of disturbing violence and gore when the horses fight each other or their humans, and this may not be the right book for anyone with a delicate stomach.