Saturday, January 21, 2017

Book Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules
Author: Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace
Publication: Margaret K. McElderry Books (September 22, 2015)

Description: The children of world leaders are held hostage in an attempt to keep the peace in this “slyly humorous, starkly thought-provoking” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) novel.

Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies.

The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.

Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power.

Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed...unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.

My Thoughts: This story is told by Greta, also known as Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy. She has been a hostage - a Child of Peace - since she was five years old. Now sixteen, she knows that if she can survive until she is eighteen, she will be sent back to rule her country. But if war breaks out between her country and any other, she will be killed by the AI that controls everyone. And her country is on the brink of war...

In this world, the polar ice caps melted suddenly and wars broke out when people from the newly drowned areas moved to higher ground. Then the plagues came and reduced the population by half and half again. To control the constant warfare the UN appointed an artificial intelligence named Talis to restore the peace. He did so by instituting the whole hostage taking thing. A ruler couldn't rule unless he or she sent their child to one of the Prefectures. Four hundred years have passed and the system has mostly worked. But it has taken quite a toll on the children who are hostages and who know that they could be killed at any time.

What surprised me most was that so many of the characters managed to show strength and not turn into quivering heaps. Greta watches the news and studies the ancient thinkers. She's particularly fond of the Stoics. But her precariously balanced world is shaken when a new hostage arrives. Elian is from the country that neighbors hers and he wasn't raised to be a hostage. His grandmother has recently taken charge of the military of her country. Elian's struggles to fit in and the torture that is used to make him comply, open Greta's eyes to the undercurrents of the life she has been living.

When Elian's grandmother's forces take over the Prefecture, they draw the attention of Talis and lead Greta to make a life-changing decision.

The characters were richly drawn and well-rounded. The world building made complete sense to me. Perhaps the most interesting character beyond Greta was Talis. He was once human but now he is a self-confessed monster. He is willing to do quite horrible things to stop the world from sliding back into a time of constant wars. At the same time, he is a man out of his time who has almost forgotten what it was like being human. He is so focused on the big picture that he doesn't really see what effect his actions have on individuals.

I really enjoyed this story and look forward to reading the sequel to find out the results of Greta's choice.

Favorite Quote:
Elian reached up and took one of my wrists, stopping the motion, looking me up and down. I'm sure he was trying for as a man looks at a woman, but it came off rather more as an engineer looks at a bridge pylon. How much fear would it take for Elian's flirt to go wrong like that? A lot, I thought.

Terrified. He's terrified.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

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