The Scorpion Rules – Erin Bow

ScorpionOn The Cover: 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 Prefecture. 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 Prefecture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Prefecture’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?

Published: September 2015

Why I Chose It: I received an ARC from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I entered the giveaway because I was interested in the world building and politics that were referenced in the book summary.

The Review:

The one aspect of this story I was really intrigued by was the world Bow had created and the Precepture structure, and thankfully Bow does not disappoint. The world she creates is a very interesting future version of our own world, and I enjoyed the references she makes so that I was able to orient myself quite easily. The world history was easy to follow, and the formation of the book’s world is entirely believable, which is a factor I really appreciated.

There is a very nice variety of characters in this book, and I like that there are different cultures, ages, sexual identities, and even varying levels of AI technologies. It made for a very interesting cast of characters. As the main character, I really liked Greta. She believes in the system of Precepture hostages and tries to remain an example of duty and honour. But I love that she has human moments and her acceptance and passivity slips sometimes. Overall the characters appear simple at the beginning but throughout the novel become more complex and engaging. In addition, the love stories feel very organic, and I very much enjoyed reading them.

Unfortunately the writing in this story lends itself to telling rather than showing, and it did not leave much depth for the reader to draw their own conclusions. I didn’t like that I had to be told what every gesture meant, or how significant a person’s words were. There was also a lot of sexual references and the repeated discussion of sex – a perhaps failed attempt at trying to mature the story without maturing the writing. Unfortunately while all the main characters were 16 or 17, I could not picture them above 13 due to the simple writing. I was left struggling with the age demographic of the story and felt a weird disconnect when sex came up in the story.

What I appreciate about this story is that it does not follow the storyline that many of today’s YA dystopians follow. There are a few twists and turns that were unexpected and kept the novel feeling fresh. I can’t say I really liked where the story went, as I was not happy about the movement away from the politics on which it had started, but I remained interested in the story simply because I didn’t know where it was going next. I enjoyed it because it kept me interested all the way to the conclusion, and lends itself extremely well to a sequel. While I didn’t find the writing that complex, the storyline and concepts were smart and perceptive. I would recommend this for an early YA reader who is comfortable with sexual content.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Technology: 4 / 5
History and Politics: 5 / 5
Depth of Writing: 2 / 5
Descriptions and Imagery: 1 / 5

Quotations:

“Gregori spotted it first – in truth he spent a lot of time watching for it – and stood up so fast that his chair tipped over. It crashed to the flagstones of the orderly little classroom, loud as rifle fire. Long and careful training kept the rest of us from moving. Grego alone stood as if his muscles had all seized, with seven pairs of human eyes and a dozen kinds of sensors locked on him.” p 1

“The Rider took a step forward, and one of her wings bumped against the door frame. They tipped sideways. She grabbed at the harness strap. Dust puffed out from wings and coat. ‘Children of Peace,’ she said, and her voice cracked. Anger flashed through me. How dare she be clumsy, how dare she be tongue-tied? How dare she be anything less than perfect? She was supposed to be an angel, the immaculate hand of Talis, but she was just a girl.” p 8-9

“Elián had come into my life the way comets had once come to medieval skies, the way Swan Riders still came, over the horizon with their wings catching the light. He’d come like a portent of doom.” p 71

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