February 22, 2016
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
The Scorpion Rules
by Erin Bow
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Greta is crown princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy. Posh as it sounds, Greta is a hostage to Talis, an artificial intelligence that the United Nations put online to find a solution to global conflict. Talis found a solution no one expected.
The students at the Precepture spend part of the day in the classroom. It is vital that they understand history and the havoc brought to the world by war.
The rest of the day is spent caring for the goats, orchards and gardens that feed the Precepture. Yes, the students go home a few times a year. That’s essential to maintain the bonds that will hopefully keep their parents from doing anything rash.
If a King, Queen or President goes to war, his hostage will be killed.
When she goes home for a visit, Greta wears ball gowns. She has her portrait painted. The people adore her.
Back at the Precepture, she and the others watch for the tell-tale plume of dust from a lone rider. A lone rider is most often Talis’ messenger to announce a war and execute one of their classmates. Greta knows she could easily be next.
I realize that I’m not revealing a lot about the plot in this particular review. Why? Because it is marvelously, deliciously complicated. To delve into it would be to get lost in it.
Still, this wasn’t an easy book to get into. Greta holds her emotions close so that she feels cold and distant. She isn’t. In reality she’s terrified. Elian is her opposite. He is a wild cannon, tortured daily by the artificial intelligence that runs the Precepture. Shocked until he can no longer stand, he refuses to give in and just go with the flow. Elian wasn’t raised a prince or a lordling, but a shepherd. It is his country that will likely go to war against Greta’s.
It is an amazing moment when Greta realizes what power she has and seizes it.
This is postapocalyptic fiction at its finest. The characters are amazingly well drawn. The world is complex. It is easy to see that we could end up living this reality some day in the not too distant future.
But the torture makes it really, really hard to read. It isn’t graphic. It isn’t gory. But it is painful to witness, as it should be.
Still this is an excellent choice for a young reader who is a Hunger Games or Divergence fan. Pick it up and be ready for some deep discussions.