Expected Publication: September 22nd, 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
*I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions. Thank you to Edelweiss and S&S!
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 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?
I saw a lot of awesome reviews for The Scorpion Rules in the beginning, so I definitely had high hopes going in. But I went in and it took me more than a week to get through the first 15%. After that? I just put it on hold. The writing was great and I was definitely intrigued, but I guess it just wasn't enough to pull me in. I knew I needed to finish it, so I committed to it for ARC August. It was still a little slow-going, and I honestly don't think I can really explain why.
I was definitely a little confused. There's an explanation for why children have become hostages, there's a system behind it all, but I guess I didn't really believe it? There's artificial intelligence involved, but I still feel like people would become a lot more desperate if their children were constantly being taken from them. There are quite a few characters - or maybe not and I'm just dumb - and it took me a while to get a handle on all of them. By the end, I still couldn't really tell you who Grego or Hans were besides some names. Greta would mention things about the Precepture or her world and I would have no idea what was going on.
The AI aspect is, however, awesome. (And it definitely leads to a great ending for the novel!) I love the idea of Talis, the once-human AI who keeps the peace by enforcing the Preceptures. If a country declares war? Their hostage child dies. He likes to blow things up, too, which is always fun to read about. For a computer, he sure has a strong personality.
I did feel a disconnect with the story and the characters, which I think was a problem with the writing for me. The words and the narration just felt a little too stiff for me at times. I will say that Erin Bow has a VERY strong voice in her writing which I really enjoyed. There's definitely plenty of humor woven throughout the book.
Still, most of the time I felt as if the characters felt nothing. There was no emotion in the writing for me. Which made the romance (which is more sort-of-romance) kind of hard to read, because there was nothing there. Not to mention I never really felt any connections - between either of the characters that Greta ends up kissing. (And yes, one of them is a girl!) I just honestly didn't feel any genuine emotions from these characters most of the time. They said words, sure. But the way Greta sees and narrates things? Nothing comes out. I don't know. I don't know what it is. I DON'T KNOW WHY I'M STILL TALKING.
"Anyone who thinks goats are less destructive than lions on fire does not know goats well."
I did love the concept of taking children hostage in order to prevent war. (I loved in a totally non-crazy way, I swear.) The entire story is a question of whether the ends justify the means. And the end wasn't all wrapped up in a pretty little bow where the system has been defeated. (There is resistance to the system, though not nearly enough, if you ask me.)
tl;dr: Confusing. For me, at least. Fantastic story with a fantastic voice and bits of humor, but that wasn't enough for me. Ultimately, I just wasn't always interested in what was happening. I did still enjoy it, so I give The Scorpion Rules 3 stars.