Book Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Title: The Scorpion Rules
Series: Prisoners of Peace
Author: Erin Bow
Sale Date: September 22, 2015
Age: Ages 14 And Up
Genre: Action & Adventure \ Survival Stories
Pages: 384 pages  
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3 Stars
Buy: Amazon
Add to: 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?

Set in a future where environmental ruin has played havoc on Earth, author Erin Bow creates a darkly imaginative story where teens, known as the Children of Peace, are held hostage by an Artificial Intelligence determined to maintain peace at any cost. War and destruction are not an option.  

I discovered Erin Bow's writing with her book SORROW'S KNOT, and I fell in love with the writing, world building, and characters. So of course, I needed to read THE SCORPION RULES!

The story's premise is interesting as it centers on an AI that uses an old tradition where children are held/raised in their neighboring kingdoms or house's to ensure everyone gets along. Talis the AI, uses these forced alliances to make sure the humans don't get any ideas of starting up any wars. 

The setting takes place in what feels like a commune where Greta and the other Children of Peace are educated, sharing in the work of running the farm/commune. There are moments of humor and silliness to break up the serious tone of the story. Let's not forget those goats! But, for the most part, it feels very stark. The writing does a great job of conveying the extent of power Talis holds over them, and even their parents who threaten their very existence. 

The hardest part for me in the story was the simple fact I just did not connect well to any of the characters, especially Greta whom I was so excited about originally. I admired her resilient and noble nature - her willingness to sacrifice herself if need be for the greater good. Yet, even when the rebel Elian arrives at the commune and shakes up some of Greta's passivity, I never managed to connect to her emotionally. 

There is a wonderful camaraderie between the teens. I especially liked the strong female friendship between Greta and Da-Xia that felt authentic and Elias, who's very much the rebel boy. There's a sort of romance, which surprised me because I thought it was going one way and it ended up in a surprise twist. The cast of characters are diverse coming from varying backgrounds which gave the story a global feel, yet they didn’t feel fully fleshed out. For me, the character easy to connect to - snarky and full of passion, was Talis, the AI - aka the villain!

In the end, I did enjoy the concept behind the story, especially Talis as an AI used to convey and build danger and tension. But, not connecting emotionally to the characters left me feeling less than enthusiastic about the story as a whole. 

PLEASE NOTE: A courtesy review copy of this book was provided by Margaret K. McElderry Books in exchange for my fair review. Thank you, Margaret K. McElderry Books for the review opportunity.