The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow #bookreviews

A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: 11516221the 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? – Goodreads.com

I’ve seen some pretty impressive and highly complimentary reviews of this book, and that’s part of the reason I wanted to read it but, unfortunately, it didn’t resonate with me as much.

Something I really liked was the unique concept of this YA dystopian novel.  Holding hostage the sons and daughters of world leaders in order to maintain peace?  Amazing.  It’s obvious the author put a lot of time and imagination into her world-building and I especially liked the idea of AIs making the rules and the humans’ acceptance of this.  The diversity of the characters was refreshing and although there was a love triangle, it was between the female MC, a man, and another woman, adding some interesting dynamics.

A couple of things that just didn’t work for me were the pacing and characterization.  Despite the slow pace of this novel (where I learned far more about goats and farming than needed), I stuck with it because of the other reviews I’ve seen.  Somewhere around page 100, it picked up a little, but not enough to hold my interest.  The characters felt flat, with none really standing out, and I had difficulty connecting with any of them.  I also couldn’t buy into the fact that Greta was considered the leader among her cohorts.  To me, Greta was who everyone expected her to be, following all the rules and never questioning them, so I felt as if I never knew the real Greta.  When she finally stood up to someone, I was completely shocked, because it seemed so out of character based on her previous actions.

Judging by so many rave reviews, I’m definitely in the minority on this one, but it just wasn’t for me.  If you’re a dystopian fan, you should check into The Scorpion Rules and decide for yourself.  This book is scheduled for publication September 22, 2015.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

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