Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Book Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

I’m not sure where I got this book or how long it’s been sitting on my shelf, which made it a great candidate for a ClearAShelf challenge book. I have not read the sequel (published September 2016), yet, but plan to.

The GoodReads lead in:

The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies. [Link to GoodReads page]

First, the summary doesn’t really do the book justice, which is why I didn’t post the whole thing as I typically do. So let me just cut to my bit.

My Two Cents: 
Ok, so here you have a sci-fi dystopian world set somewhere in the US about 400 years into the future. A robot (the PC term is a being with Artificial Intelligence) has declared himself the ruler of the world in order to save humans from themselves. Today, in 2016, I can certainly see the inclination, but I digress. Talis, the AI in question, was once a human and talks like an entitled pain in the ass douchey guy. In his system, the children of those next in line to rule are raised together, their lives becoming forfeit if their countries declare war. The reasoning is thus: go to war, lose your child/ heir. The kids are Prisoners of Peace, helping maintain the peace in their countries with the fragility of their lives.
Fan Art from Nellas Bocker (linked)
So, Greta is set to become Queen one day and though she knows that her parents love her, she also knows that her mother may have to go to war soon. She’s resigned to this fate and determined to die gracefully. When Elian, a new hostage arrives, she realizes that this is basically slavery by another name and she and her friends are complicit. She resigns herself to this, too, mostly, until war breaks out and she chooses to step up in order to save her friends. Greta's eyes are opened to the role that she can play but also to the relationships around her. 

Fan Art from Nella Bocker (linked)
Ok… so what’s good? The world- building is definitely good. Things are not over- explained and sometimes it takes a page or two to learn what a word is referencing but I like not being spoon- fed too many things that the people in the story really have no reason to explain to each other. The characters are good. Greta is the de facto leader of the oldest cohort of hostages and she cares for all of her friends, even the ones who get on her nerves. She is self- sacrificing without being gooey; she’s brave without being an asshole. Her best friend and roommate Xie is poised and capable without being snotty. And the gay boys love each other without flaming sass. Plus the characters come from far and wide, giving a range of backgrounds to the group. Even the “bad guy,” Talis, has a story and a soft side. He’s a monster, maybe, but one that makes a lot of sense. He's also pouty and a little ridiculous. I don't think I've given a whole WNDB sticker in a blog in a while. Welp. Here ya go. 
Fan Art from Nellas Bocker (linked)
Also, the budding romance(s) are well- done and not overplayed. The sci-fi/ dystopian/holy shit factor is good. There are some pretty knee jerk-y moments is a high stakes situation and a fast paced story line.

To be honest, I’m having trouble coming up with things I didn’t like about this book, which basically has me on edge waiting for some glaring problem that punches me in the face when I least expect it. Even so, I think this is a top YA offering, dystopian or otherwise.

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