I received the ARC for The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date is 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 Prefectures. 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?
I have mixed feelings about this book. There were a few things I liked and a few things I didn't. The concept was kind of awesome. I thought I hated it at first, but then somehow I became all for it. Basically, the Children of Peace are children of kings and generals and they are hostages at a school. They spend their entire childhood prepared to die for their parents. Basically, these hostages are used as a deterrent for war. If two people go to war, their children die. And it doesn't even matter who declares war on whom: as Talis says, he doesn't take sides. This is supposed to inspire everyone to negotiate and use war as a last resort and it generally works for the most part.
With a concept that exciting, you would think I wouldn't be bored. But I was. I was bored for probably the first 30% of the book. The pacing was just so slow and it wasn't even due to awesome world building. As a matter of fact, I still have a lot of questions about the AI's and how they came to power and what happened. There were a couple of sentences that alluded to what happened, but they were very brief. There were several characters that were actually machines and I didn't even know this at first. I would be picturing a human person and then bam! The author would throw out a detail that indicated they were machines. But I honestly have no clue what these machines look like.
Most of the beginning of the book was introducing us to the characters and the author didn't do a great job with that. There were about six or seven Children of Peace that the author focused on. The only problem was that I had no emotional connection with any of them and I couldn't even tell them apart. They all followed the rules of the school blindly. That's about the extent of what I knew about them. Not to give anything away, but something does happen to one of the Children later in the book and I just didn't care.
I was kind of confused about Greta. As a main character, she was kind of bland (just like the rest of them). Maybe it was the cult mentality or whatever. I did start to like her towards the end of the book. But I didn't understand why she was the leader of the group. All of the otter Children listened to her because she was royalty. But the other Children were kids of royalty or high ranking officials too. So why her? When Elian shows up, there is something about him that she is drawn to but I didn't get it. He was super rebellious against the system, despite all the torture that was inflicted on him. Greta kind of falls for him instantly and then starts to realize how crazy a system it is. I guess I don't understand why Greta refused to see the torture that was happening right under her nose until Elian. I know that the point of the story was to root for Greta to live. But she spent about 60% of the book being prepared to die if necessary and willing to be strong in the face of death. How am I supposed to root for her to live if she spent most of the book being okay with dying? There was a love triangle, kind of. It seemed like Greta made her decision fairly quickly, even though she continued to make out with both of them. Weird. That was a subplot that didn't really need to be there, but this is a YA novel and as such, a love triangle is absolutely necessary. <Insert eye roll here> I did like the other person she was with more than Elian. They just had a bit more personality.
I really liked Talis. He was the main AI guy, the writer of The Utterances (which us basically their version of the Bible or something) and general controller of the world. He was very sarcastic and kind of funny. Honestly, he seemed more human than machine. I guess I expected that as a machine, all emotion and humor would be kept out of his interactions.
Here is an example of the sarcasm: "About time, people, said the Utterances. I can't save the world by myself, you know."
I honestly don't know if he was supposed to be a villain or just a very strict father figure. I think I would have preferred the book from Talis's POV. Now that would have made for an interesting book.
While the first 30% of the book was a bit boring, last half of the book is what kept me turning the pages. There was a lot of action and I actually grew to like Greta. She grew a backbone at some point and I did admire her determination and strength. I know there is going to be a companion book to this one at some point and I think there is enough here to keep me reading. Maybe the next one will be from Talis's POV?? I really want more of him.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Borrow this one. It's an interesting read, but maybe not worth spending the money on it.