Margaret K. McElderry Books
September 22, 2015
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon
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 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 Precepture. 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 Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Precepture’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?
When humans were on the verge of destroying each other and the Earth, the AI known as Talis intervened. The intervention was planned, Talis's exact means of salvation were not.
After much death and destruction, Talis had everyone's attention and was able to put the plan into action; the Children of Peace were introduced.
For centuries now, rulers give a child over to be raised with the other children of rulers, in a remote ad isolated location. ("...If you're in charge of blowing stuff up, I require you to have children." pg 79) This mostly keeps the peace because of why they are there: if war is declared, the children of both rulers are killed.
This is Talis's first rule of stopping wars: make it personal.
The mix of the antiquated practice of hostages used to prevent wars mixed with a near-future sort near-apocalypse prevented by an AI is a intriguing concept. That sort of old, forgotten way of things mixed with futuristic technology really carries through the whole novel.
Greta and the other Children of Peace (hostages) at the Preceptures live a life more in keeping with another century, but under the watchful eye of machines more advanced than today. It makes it less like they're centuries in the future - until something involving Talis comes into play.
I liked the mix of futuristic technology, historic methods and the conscious reversion to forgotten methods. It created a unique, compelling setting that was unlike any other time period.
I liked The Scorpion Rules but it was a slow read for me. Greta, Xie, Elián and the others were enjoyable characters, but I wasn't pulled into the story at first. Once there was some conflict and real tension, once Talis's rules and sayings became more than just things to quote, that's when it really got good.
Talis is an unlikely world ruler, though maybe not if you ask him. That combination of humor, irreverence, not-quite-humanness and possibly (at least originally) good intentions was really quite something.
Talis was my favorite character (just ahead of Xie). The rules and utterances, the way everyone - form the hostages to their parents/rulers to the general population - are all impacted and who they come from has me really looking forward to what Book 2 has in store.
Other Books You Might Also Enjoy: Icons by Margaret Stohl and Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton
digital galley received, through NetGalley, from publisher