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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

REVIEW: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

**I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a review. **

I'd heard so much buzz about this book so I was super excited to give it a go.  Imagine a world not all that different from ours.  Climate change is an issue as is constant war among nations and the real fear of regions running out of food and water.  Now, throw in a rogue AI--chalked full of attitude and hell bent on getting humans to stop and pay attention, even if that means blowing up cities and reinstituting archane practices to keep them in line.

Fast forward 400 years...

The world has changed remarkably; however, there is tenuous peace between nations...for the most part because of 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 is an exemplary queen in training.  She excels in her studies and understands her duty should she survive the next 18 months--get married, have a child, be the next queen and send her future children away to keep the peace.  Her obedience is challenged following the death of one of her cohorts and the arrival of Elian--the grandson of the general who is Greta's mother's--Queen Anne--biggest rival.  Greta opens her eyes to the harsh realities of her world and has to make some very difficult choices based on significant events throughout the story.

I really enjoyed The Scorpion Rules.  There's a flare of dystopian but the genre has evolved.  Parts of the story remind me of the Hunger Games, Divergent and the Red Queen all rolled into a beautifully crafted and exciting new literary present. The narrative feels familiar and yet new and futuristic.  The addition of the AI twists and turns makes for an intriguing read.  I'm definitely interested in what is in store for the next installment.  Events during the latter part of the book bring new questions about the nature of the brain, the soul and what it might mean for character development and interaction.  The tone is hopeful with a little kernel acknowledging that a power shift is afoot. 

This is a great read to recommend for ages 14 and up.  I'd probably say age 15 since I think it will take some maturity to really grasp the full depth of the plot.  Another selling point is the appeal for LGBTQ teens. Greta is exploring her sexuality, partly with Elian but also with her roomate, Xie. This modern adaptation of the traditional love triangle trope is long overdue and adds The Scorpion Rules to the list of trending YA titles accessible for a multitude of teen readers.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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