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Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Scorpion Rules, by Erin Bow. Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster. 2015. $22.99 ages 13 and up

"So we chose. Yes to magnetically launched suborbitals and retroviruses that could rewrite a faulty gene. No to petroleum-driven personal transportation and chemical fertilizers. Yes to transcranial magnetic psychotherapy. No to robotic labor - except in an extreme case like the Precepture, where stakes are high and humans cannot be trusted. Yes to cargo zeppelins."

You will know young teens who are big fans of Erin Bow's writing. So, you also know who will want to read this book as soon as it is available for borrowing. They are sure to talk about it with friends and pass it on as soon as they have finished reading it themselves.

Wars were a part of the world for too long ... in the past four hundred years there has been a big change, initiated by Talis, the leading AI who keeps everything in line. The
world is now as peaceful as it has ever been. Part of his plan guarantees thoughtful consideration and much negotiation before one country declares war on another:

"In the Dark Ages of Europe, kings had exchanged their own children as hostages to secure treaties. Each king  knew that if they broke the peace, their own sons would be the first to die.

The royal hostages of those days were raised in enemy courts. In the Age of Talis, we are raised in  a handful of Preceptures, scattered around the globe. We are raised together equitably, and we are educated impeccably, and we are treated as well as can be managed. And if war comes, we are still the first to die.

And therefore, war does not come."

Greta is one of the Children of Peace. She is also Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy. One day while she and her classmates are studying the events of WWI, a classmate is claimed by a dreaded Swan Rider, and taken to his death as a result of war at home. His replacement is the headstrong, opinionated, and sarcastic Elian. He arrives aboard a ship, his hands lashed together at the wrists. Greta has always been obedient to the rules set for them. With Elian's arrival, she begins to have some questions of her own.

Talis' unexpected arrival at their Precepture, in the guise of a young woman, brings further change to Greta's role in the group. Talis is full of dark humor, great power and an unflinching determination to ensure his dominance as the world's leader. That world is unique and chilling.

This is a tale of love and war, of power and submission, of right and wrong, and of trying to be true to yourself while also looking for the greater good. It is often violent, yet also full of heart. There are real moments of humor and light, accompanied by much darkness and some difficult decisions.

It affords its readers a chance to think thoughtfully about some tough questions, and consider our actions on Earth today, not in some distant future. There are characters here who have a tremendous impact. They beg us to ask some very important questions: Is violence the answer? How long can we sustain ourselves in a world that takes little notice of what chaos we are creating? Will tensions over water between their two countries result in war and ultimately then death for Greta and Elian? Can Greta continue to believe that she will go to her death quietly as she has always planned?

It is a challenging read, full of suspense and thought-provoking.

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