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The children of world leaders are held hostage in an attempt to keep the peace in this “slyly humorous, starkly thought-provoking” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) novel.
Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies.
The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.
Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power.
Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed...unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.
Welcome to my Unpopular Opinion Review of the month! (alright, I’m writing “unpopular opinion” reviews more often than that, BUT let’s be honest, usually it’s the other way around). What this means is : if you hated The Scorpion Rules, you might find me too lenient. Hello you! If you loved The Scorpion Rules, you might be happy to hear that no, you’re not alone. Hello you! If you haven’t read The Scorpion Rules, what are you waiting for? Hurry up and come back to tell me which category you fall into!
“Borders straines, checkpoints broke, and of course people started shooting, because that what passes for problem-solving among humans. See, guys, this is why you can’t have nice things.”
This is part of the prologue and I already knew that I would love it at this point.
So. Guys. I’ve read a lot that there wasn’t any plot… and I’m going to politely disagree. Nothing happens is such a subjective thing, when you think about it. For me there’s a difference between a lack of big events and a lack of progression. There IS a progression and nothing was irrelevant in my opinion. Of course, most of the first half deals with the Children of Peace’s everyday life and that life is weird. I mean, there are goats and harvests and a lot of zucchini? (you might be worried at this point – DON’T)
The truth is, I can see why people would complain about this but I thought that it was incredibly well done. What annoys me in dystopian is : they’re unrealistic (random couple saves the world for some reason), more often than not they’re devoid of any world building (if you don’t count “standard tyrant took over the world because he’s evil” and… I don’t, sorry but it’s not a WORLD-BUILDING, it’s A SIMPLISTIC SUMMARY OF WHAT HAPPENS EVERY DAY)
In The Scorpion Rules, it makes sense. THIS IS LIFE. THEIR LIFE. Of course it’s relevant! Not to mention that it made for the BEST built-up. This book was crazy and NASTY (There’s TORTURE) and also super weird BUT I loved every second of it. It took my breath away – and I didn’t need big explosions to do so (even if they were fun hehe). It may have gone forward quietly, but it never lost its tension.
(this is the moment when my dear friends who hated it shake their head while murmuring “but the goats!”)
(and it will probably be the only time I’ll get to write this in a review but in my opinion, the goats were necessary to get the sense of what their world became. Oh my God, I love goats.)
1) I loved Elian almost instantly, and I’m not even ashamed. Because you know what? Even though I know that he’s supposed to incarnate The Bad Boy New To School ™, by no means can he be restricted to this stereotype. HE IS MORE : fleshed out and brave and a coward and he doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up even when mechanical spiders are scrawling all over him and electrocuting him (ow!). He’s also loyal and charming and LOST. POOR BABY.
2) TALIS!!!! Give me a book in which I can LOVE the villain and you’ll get a win almost every time. Think Deadpool on crack (I know, it’s mind-blowing)(except, Talis actually, I don’t know, win sometimes?) Seriously guys, I was cracking up at the prologue without even knowing that the narrator would be a character (and at this point, my understanding of the world was nearly inexistent). The ruler of the world, who thinks that blowing up cities is fair game, whom we should hate, shows such a likeable personality, so damn sarcastic and funny, that we CANNOT hate him. Not for one second we cannot. Give him some slack! He’s only acting for the greater good… I think?
3) Sure, Greta wasn’t the most interesting character to read about, given that she was brainwashed into being a dull, nerd princess, BUT I completely bought her character, and that’s saying something. Dull she was at first, yet I loved seeing her opening her fucking eyes and standing up for her friends. YOU GO GIRL.
Oh, how that (mostly unimportant aspect) was hated! First thing first : you need to know that the romance didn’t affect most of 15 pages out of the whole book. I’d say that it’s not enough to spoil the entire book if you don’t like it, BUT sometimes one sentence can make me rage SO I won’t be this person and disrespect that.
This said, here’s what I think : Well, I think that our knowledge of the tropes make us reject anything that comes close to a love triangle and in my opinion it’s pretty… frightening to see that we’re so damn used to them that we analyze novels through their lens without even realizing it.
Look : There’s this boy whose arrival is disruptive for the plot, so of course we expect him to be a love interest. What I mean is that in our head, we tick the love interest box. Is there something in the book, at this point, that actually implies it? Fuck no, but we don’t need it, we just know it. Then when he’s not a love interest – or, rather, when the situation reveals to be more complicated than that – we yell love triangle because really what else could it be?! Well it’s not. No, in my opinion it’s not. Yes, the MC kisses two different characters, but I don’t have in me to restrain this situation to a love triangle as we generally understand it, that is to say some dumb girl who’s hesitating through 3 books between Love Interest #1 (the Golden Boy) and Love Interest #2 (the Bad Boy), and whose whole behavior and decisions revolve around that fucking choice.
Try complex relationships instead. Friendship. Empathy.
See, I was talking to my dear Chelsea about it, and I told her this : since WHEN do I need for a character to be a love interest to love him? SINCE WHEN? Well, since every fucking character in every fucking YA book taught me that their personality would be ruined if they weren’t love interest because THEY WOULD NOT MATTER. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of characters I love in YA who aren’t any kind of love interest, and for me it shows that there is a problem with YA. I used to ADORE characters who aren’t romancey at all. Thank you Erin Bow for reminding me that.
My friend Laura said that she didn’t so much see a love triangle but a fullness of love. I’m stealing that line. What love indeed. Who needs labels? I don’t.
Can I just say something? I didn’t feel an ounce of romantic chemistry between Greta and Xie. Sorry, OKAY? I just didn’t. I wish I had, but what you gonna do. Oh, well. There’s barely even romance anyway. FRIENDSHIP is what matters, NOT BEING BLOWED-UP is what matters, so I’d say that it’s not a really important flaw in my book.
► Honestly? Such a good surprise, I cannot wait to see where the story goes.