Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Book Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules
Author:  Erin Bow
Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books, 384 pages
Expected Publication Date:  September 22, 2015
*ARC received from publisher via NetGalley

From 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 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?

What worked:

1.  The concept.  I loved the idea of the solution to war being to make it personal.  Each ruler has to have a child that is kept hostage.  This makes countries negotiate because if one side declares war, the hostage from each country is killed.  It definitely makes you think.  It's for the greater good and for the most part it works.  But you see how unfair it is to the hostages who live in these "schools."  Children who are terrorized and tortured.

2.  AIs are the rulers.  Don't they always take over?  Even though it's cliche, still loved it.

3.  Quiet and introspective, parts of it reminded me of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  You wonder why the children are just taking it and not rebelling (although I have to admit, the AIs are SCARY).  It's just part of their life and you definitely get that from the main character, Greta.

4.  Not the typical romance.  You expect it to be, but then it's not.

What didn't work:

1.  The main issue I had was with the characters.  They fell a bit flat.  It may have been because the book is told from the POV of Greta, who has distanced herself from everyone to a certain extent because it's her way of dealing with the possibility/probability of dying.  Apparently water is in short supply (and thus great demand) and her country is powerful and controls a lot of water.  So she's lived her whole life knowing it's only a matter of time until she dies.  And she's such a good hostage. She doesn't make trouble, she just accepts her fate.  It makes her hard to connect with and then I don't feel like I really got to know the other characters because she hasn't allowed herself to get close to them either.

2.  The ending…still thinking about how I feel about it.  There's still so much that's left open, but my understanding is that the author is writing a companion novel so maybe we'll find out.

Posted by:  Pam


  1. I like the sound of this one. I'm just not sure it's for me. Great review though. you definitely highlight the good parts without leaving me blind! :)

  2. Oh no, characters who fall flat are not for me but the premise does sound interesting. It seems like it was an interesting read but not sure if the ending, characters and cliche aspects would work for me. Great review!

  3. What an interesting concept regard the children! I didn't know that about the book...

    I've heard mixed things. Not sure it's a "me" book but I'm definitely more interested now. Sucks that the characters fell flat tho!

    Great review, Pam!