Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Scorpio Races

Maggie Stiefvater, the author of the popular Wolves of Mercy Falls series, has done it again.  Her new book, The Scorpio Races, captured me from page one.  I am really looking forward to meeting her at the Colorado Teen Literature Conference next April.  The author bases her new action packed thriller on the Celtic legend of water horses that come out of the sea each fall to terrorize villagers. The story takes place on Thisby Island where men have learned to capture the predatory carnivores called capaill uisce and control them using iron and magic long enough to stage an annual festival and race. Sean Kendrick, who has won the race four times on a capaill uisce named Corr, is racing this year in hopes of buying Corr from his boss who runs Malvern Stables. Kate "Puck" Connelly enters the race in the hopes of using the winnings to buy her family's home from Malvern.  Puck and her brothers, who were orphaned when capaill uisce killed their parents, are facing foreclosure. Puck decides to ride her beloved land mare Dove, but is thwarted at every turn by the men who do not want a woman to ride in the race. Sean, who initially tells Puck to "get off the cliffs," is impressed by her tenacity and horse handling skills and begins to train with her.  While there is plenty of action, human villainy, suspense, and a breath-taking climax, it is the quietly evolving relationship between Puck and Sean that makes the book must read.
Another book with strong male and female protagonists is Ashfall by Mike Mullins. A supervolcano beneath Yellowstone Park erupts and sends the world into a tailspin of darkness, ash and violence. Alex, who is home alone when the volcano erupts, begins a 140 mile trek to find his sister and parents, who are visiting relatives. Along the way he is attacked by an escaped convict and he stumbles his way to a farm where he is nursed back to health by Darla, a spunky girl, whose knowledge about mechanics and farming are essential in this post-apocalyptic world.  When more atrocities occur, the two of them leave the farm and set out to find a safe harbor in an unkind world. This thriller has a few sexual references that may be inappropriate for younger readers.
Finally, Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Paul Richard Evans is the first book in a new series that will also appeal to both boys and girls. As the story begins we meet Michael Vey who has strange electrical powers resulting from the installation of  a faulty machine at the Pasedena hospital where he was born. Of the 47 babies born in the hospital at that time, 17 survived with a variety of electrical powers. Michael, who has Tourette's Syndrome, is the constant target of bullies, but he must hide his powers because he and his mother are on the run from a mysterious organization called Elgen which hopes to control the children.  When he succumbs to using his powers against three bullies who are attacking him, the event is witnessed by his crush Taylor Ridley, who is also one of the 17 and has the power to "reset" people's minds.  When Michael's mother and Taylor are abducted by Elgen, he must enlist the help of friends and enemies to rescue them.  This book was of great interest to teen readers at Monarch High School, when I did book talks there last week. The sequel Michael Vey: Rise of the Elgen will be released next August.