Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules has a big buzz going in the YA book world, and I have to say it lives up to the buzz. It has all the things I want in a book (thus, all the things you want in a book) and it is wildly different from anything else I’ve read this year. Ultimately, I had a few problems with it so it was only a four star read, but if you want to keep your status as the hip kid at the bookstore cafe (or the biggest Geek in the SciFi Club), you are going to want in on this book early.
The Scorpion Rules is publishing September 22, 2015.
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?
There are many reasons I quickly lost contact with the outside world when I started reading this book. First, the premise – Artificial Intelligence decides the only way to end the wars that threaten humanity is to keep rulers in check by holding their royal offspring as hostages. One of those hostages is going to throw a wrench in that plan in a pretty horrible way. Awesome. Second, Greta – the narrator and protagonist is compelling and smart and pretty scared she will die very, very soon. Yes, please! Third, the setting – a mind melt of pastoral harmony and menacing threat – think 1984 set in an Abbey with intelligent robot spiders who like their tazers. Brilliant! Finally, the AI running this rodeo – awful in such a crazy good way that readers are probably going to be talking about him more than anything else in this entire book. So we have all the hallmarks of a huge hit – kids threatened with death for the greater good, strong yet sensitive female protagonist, rebellion, evil robots. So why doesn’t my review have a huge five star rating at the top? Because I’m still struggling with the way this one ended. I don’t exactly hate it, but I’m not sure what to do with it, and I think a lot of readers will struggle with that as well. Don’t get me wrong. I think you should scoop this book up and run to your reading hidey hole immediately, but I bet you are going to want to talk this one out as soon as you finish. I think this is going to be a very big deal in the YA reading world, and if you want in on the conversation, you are going to want to read it. Now. Before someone corrupts it with a movie deal. I have no doubt this will be a hot item with my high school readers, and I think lots of adults are going to find it just as compelling. Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers who are prepared for some sensuality and bloodshed (that means all of them).
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.