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My dear readers (or reader, for more accuracy),

It has been quite a while since my last installment. Alas, I have been spending time with books of quite a different nature than those I review on this blog, which is both exciting and somewhat depressing, as I haven’t been getting my fix of escapist literature. But I am back, and for good reason: Maggie Steifvater’s The Scorpio Races.

The Scorpio Races tracks the parallel stories of Kate “Puck” Connolly and Sean Kendrick who are entered into an annual race involving monstrous carnivorous water horses, the capaill uisce (CAP-ul ISH-kuh), that emerge from the sea once a year on the island of Thisby. Both the island and the story are mysteriously out of time—Thisby has cars and radios, but no cell phones or internet—and out of place, attached to a vague mainland that seems something like Ireland. The island, the horses, and the race are fickle and volatile influences for Sean and Puck: they bring the greatest moments of joy in measure with unparalleled tragedy.

Steifvater, best known for her Shiver trilogy, provides an excellently paced and tightly written story in The Scorpio Races, in a story that is wholly original and unmatched by her previous writings. Her two main characters, Puck, in particular, are fully realized in a confident yet sparsely written manner. She provides us with meaningful details without overdoing it and she manages to tell a violent tale without letting the violence overpower the story.

While told from the perspectives of Puck and Sean, the novel is filled with memorable characters of both the two and four-legged variety. No stranger to describing animals as characters (i.e. Shiver trilogy), Stiefvater’s descriptions of the monstrous horses that captivate as they mutilate haunt the shoreline of the novel’s imaginary island: “Froth drips down their lips and chests, looking like sea foam, hiding the teeth that will tear into men later. They are beautiful and deadly, loving us and hating us.” Kendrick’s horse, Corr, is the heart of the depiction of the capaill uisce, and the relationship between horse and rider weighs as significantly as those between people.

One of the best things about this story, in my opinion, is the fact that I can end a review without saying “this is the first book in a planned trilogy.” The book stands alone, it needs no addendum.

Why you might love this book: Haunting and perfectly paced, a wonderful story with unforgettable characters.

Why you might not love this book: Equinophobia (fear of horses).

Rating: Five out of five black cats.


Publisher: Scholastic Press (October 2011)

ISBN-10: 054522490X

ISBN-13: 978-0545224901


Drink Deep by Chloe Neill

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been waiting for the arrival Drink Deep, the fifth installment of Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampire series since I read all four of the previous books in the series in two days over the summer. I would also be lying if I, like most of Neill’s intelligent readers, weren’t waiting with two specific questions in mind (SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t read the fourth book in the series):

  1. How is Neill going to bring master vampire, love interest, and man candy, Ethan Sullivan, back from the dead?
  2. How many books will it take to do so?

While I am certainly not able to answer these questions in this review, I can tell you that, as readers, we are destined to do some more waiting in this book. We are waiting, endless pages, for Merit to quit mourning Sullivan and get back to being the sassy “Ponytailed Avenger” that has made her one of the leading lights in the paranormal/urban fantasy lit market. We are waiting for Neill to allow her heroine to solve the latest “mystery” offered for this book: this time it is the natural landscape of Chicago that has gone haywire, with lakes turning black and skies turning red. Perhaps most frustrating about all of this waiting is that Neill shows her hand a bit too early in the book, and the reader will have figured out what is causing all the trouble long before the book gets around to revealing it.

All this waiting, however, is not without perks. Merit, even languishing in grief, is better than no Merit at all, and there are a number of entertaining side plots to keep us entertained. Moreover, Neill leaves the reader with a satisfying ending with a big enough cliffhanger that this reader will definitely be coming back for the next installment.

Why you might love this book: In a word: Merit. Also, you knew you were going to read it anyway!
Why you might not love this book: Neill has dug herself a bit of a hole here, as this book has to stand next to the other books in the series, and it just doesn’t have quite the same sass and style as its predecessors.

Rating: Three out of five black cats.

Publisher: Penguin USA

ISBN: 9780451234865

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Welcome to The Arcane Reader, a site dedicated to reviewing and discussing paranormal, urban fantasy, science fiction, teen supernatural, and any otherwise arcane, magical, mysterious, vampiric, otherworldly, dystopian fiction we deign worthy of recognition. The Arcane Reader’s mission is to keep our readers informed of the latest books, authors, series, and trends. The Arcane Readers reviewers are, first and foremost, fans. We are, however, discerning fans, and we are committed to providing our honest and impartial reviews. We are voracious readers and are always looking for something great to read, so we would love to hear your suggestions, thoughts, and opinions!