Ever since the Titans first appeared in her Detroit neighborhood, Astrid Sullivan’s world has revolved around the mechanical horses. She and her best friend have spent countless hours watching them and their jockeys practice on the track. It’s not just the thrill of the race. It’s the engineering of the horses and the way they’re programmed to seem so lifelike. The Titans are everything that fascinates Astrid, and nothing she’ll ever touch.
She hates them a little, too. Her dad lost everything betting on the Titans. And the races are a reminder of the gap between the rich jockeys who can afford the expensive machines to ride, and the working class friends and neighbors of Astrid’s who wager on them.
But when Astrid’s offered a chance to enter an early model Titan in this year’s derby, well, she decides to risk it all. Because for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, it’s more than a chance at fame or money. Betting on herself is the only way she can see to hang on to everyone in the world she cares about. (Synopsis taken from Goodreads)
I was a bit hesitant when I picked this up. Judging by the blurb, it seemed a lot like The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, and I didn’t want The Scorpio Races 2.0 (or 0.5. Nothing tops Maggie Stiefvater). And, yes, there are similarities. You race horse-like things in a big, dangerous race to win a huge amount of money and save your house. But that’s about as far as the similarities get.
The whole idea behind the story is this: Astrid has been watching the Titans since they first appeared during/a little after the stock market crash in 2011. This year is the 5th anniversary of the first races, and it’s announced that the winner of the qualifying races will be able to enter for free.
Astrid gets a chance to enter on the first Titan model, a 1.0, which she names Padlock. She gets to race against the bigger, stronger engined 3.0 models. And she has a lot at stake; both her family and her best friend Magnolia’s family is well on their way to foreclosure on their house. The money could literally save them.
What I did like:
-This isn’t a book that focuses on romance! Instead, it focuses on the relationship between Astrid and Magnolia, between Astrid and her trainer, Rags, between Astrid and her family.
-Padlock. Padlock is awesome. The whole idea is that 1.0 titans have what they called an EvoBox, which gives them a personality. Padlock isn’t the mindless machines that are the 3.0 Titans; he has been programed so he seems almost human.
-Astrid is a pretty likeable, real character. She’s smart, but not in a genius kind of way. She’s smart because she grew up around engineers and mechanics, and has just always liked numbers. She cares about her family and about Magnolia, but she does get angry or scared or frustrated sometimes. She didn’t let the rich jockeys bully her into giving up. She had both trust and guilt issues that sometimes worked against her. She seemed very much like a real, flesh-and-blood person.
-The writing style was perfect for this book. It wasn’t too slow, nor did everything just kind of zip by. It was fast enough to keep you entertained and wanting more.
-The races themselves. What would you get if you combined the speed and mechanics of car racing, but added the luck and skill of horse racing? You would get the Titan races. The Titans are a combination horse and racecar. They move like horses, and even look like horses to an extent, but they’re machines that you have to direct like a race car. The idea is just so fascinating. And the races themselves are extremely dangerous; you’re on this metal beast going 40, 50, 60 miles an hour, on a track with 20 other of these beasts, plus you have the occasional trap or “jam”, like an unexpected jump or obstacle. If you fall and you’re at the front of the pack, you’ll be killed by the metal hooves behind you.
-The cover. Oh gosh, the cover. I want to stroke it and display it on my bookshelf because it is totally gorgeous. I love the electric blue/black/gray combination it has going on.
What I didn’t like:
-Some of the secondary characters fell a bit flat. Magnolia and Rags were pretty well developed, but people like Arvin, Lottie, Barney, and Hart were a bit one-dimensional. And I didn’t really get why Astrid racing a Titan 1.0 was a bad thing, or why the 1.0s were discontinued in the first place.
So, yeah. I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and am glad I read it.
So tell me, oh those of the blogsphere, have you read Titans yet? Do you want too? Do you love the cover as much as I do?