Title: The Scorpion Rules
Author: Erin Bow
Release Date: September 22
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing on NetGalley (A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.)
Check this out on Goodreads.
A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace – sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals – are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.
Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Precepture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.
Enter Elián Palnik, the Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Precepture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.
What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war? (Source: Goodreads)
When the world falls to disease and global warming and AI steps in to correct the mistakes of humans and thus becomes the leader of the world. He takes hostage the children of the leaders of the world’s remaining nations so as to prevent wars from happening – if a nation goes to war their hostage is killed. Greta is one of these hostages, and when Elián, grandson to her nation’s biggest threat, arrives as a new hostage everything changes. Can these two Children of Peace prevent an inevitable war?
I really enjoyed this book, quite a lot more than I was expecting I would. This is a dystopia but it’s quite unusual compared to a lot of other dystopias in my opinion, because while there was a dystopian nature to the story there was a sense that maybe the world really was better off under Talis’ control. I also thought Bow’s approach to the new laws, and that Talis would take children as hostages (referencing specific historic examples of this very thing happening before) was pretty excellent. I had some issues with character development in the book but overall it was really interesting and Bow made some choices that made this standout in my mind against other dystopian YA.
The Scorpion Rules has a pretty standard set-up for dystopian novels – the world is low on resources, constantly at war, and of course children’s lives are being threatened by the leader of the world. The thing that really stands out for me is that, the world seems kind of…better off? The kids are farming and rationing resources and not being wasteful or poisoning the earth with toxic waste or any of the myriad horrible things we as a society do currently. Talis seems a little insane and unstable, but the world seems like it’s moving in a good direction. There was something also so comical and human about Talis you couldn’t really hate him for basically enslaving the human race. I thought the ending presented an interesting twist, but I don’t want to spoil anything!!
I was especially fond of the reasoning that Bow went through to develop these laws that Talis uses. There was something very intelligent and in depth about the system that Talis develops, it was all very historically grounded. I really enjoyed this depth of reasoning and the intelligent nature of the storytelling and the internal logic of the world of the book.
In terms of character development I think Bow did a pretty good job overall. I didn’t feel that I knew most of the characters in Greta’s group of friends, which lead to some chemistry problems. There was a sense that Bow knew them and loved them all fiercely, but I don’t think she really brought that across too well in the writing so that other’s would love them too. I kind of didn’t feel much of anything for any of the characters, maybe Greta but not very strongly. I think there was a massive lack of chemistry between Greta and the person who becomes romantically linked with her (also a spoiler unfortunately). This felt so disappointing. I honestly think I felt more for the AI than for most of the humans.
This was probably one of the more interesting takes YA dystopia that I’ve read, I would highly recommend this book to fans of dystopian and sci-fi books. It may also surprise non-dystopia fans though so give it a try.