I keep going back and forth on how I feel about this book. I actually enjoyed the romance in it, and the setting was pretty great. As a woman who was horse-mad as a young girl but who was frustrated in her interests, I reveled in all the great detail that the younger me would have done violence to obtain firsthand. But I really had problems with how realistic two of the main characters were, as well as with certain other craft issues.
The most minor of my complaints (at least in terms of how it affected my reading enjoyment) is that the pacing felt a bit stop-start, and I think this has to do with how mystified I felt through large sections of the book as to why the characters did what they did. I still don’t understand how Gabe thought it was okay to run away and leave his family in penury without giving them any warning of their impending homelessness. It was a total asshole move, but forgiveness was automatically expected somehow? Look, just because you feel trapped by your circumstances doesn’t mean you can use it as an excuse to fuck other people over. I totally understand the urge to leave, but not telling people about the bad things that were about to happen is just coldly selfish. I was aghast at how it was rolled so easily into his very real and understandable feeling of suffocation, as if seeking to grow and being a cowardly jackass necessarily go hand in hand. I was also mystified by how someone as business-focused and manipulative as Benjamin Malvern would let his son keep getting away with things that were destructive to both self and financial profit.
And then I didn’t like the way the novelty of Puck’s riding was handled. Again it had that stop-start feel, as if it only mattered when it was convenient to what Maggie Stiefvater wanted to write about at the moment. I mean, yes, no one thinks about gender discrimination all the time — that would be exhausting! — but every time it was brought up, it was like something new all over again. And the conversation Puck had with Tommy’s dad was another mystifying interaction. He sorta explains the cultural significance of having the race be for men on water horses, how that relates to his religion and how her decision to enter on a regular horse is disrespectful, and she apologizes but doesn’t actually care and no one says anything else? I’m not asking for a sociological treatise here but some attempt at reconciling the tradition with more modern sensibilities beyond a “hur hur, girls can’t do guy stuff” would have been nice. I felt sometimes that everyone’s general laconic demeanor was used as an excuse to not explain things, which is especially irritating in a book written from first-person perspectives.
Anyway, I got the enhanced version of the book which included a recipe for November cakes and they were tasty but not as wildly delicious as described in the book. I wanted that burst of butter and orange flavor in my mouth, darn it! They were still quite good but perhaps more work than I’d like to put in on the regular. I’d totally buy them from a bakery every once in a while tho, should they be on offer.