Addley Fannin is a freelance writer and graduate student in Northern Studies at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @addleyfannin or on Tumblr at adelinecappuccino.tumblr.com. This is her review of THE SCORPION RULES, with a few minor editorial adjustments. This review appeared originally in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner. -- Blog Ed.
THE SCORPION RULES is YA ''cli-fi'' novel set 400 years from now
More than 400 years in our planet’s distant future, about 30 generations from now, ''Greta Gustafsen Stuart'' is the crown princess of her nation and a Child of Peace, a hostage taken as an insurance policy against international war. If her country goes to war, she dies. And in a world devastated by disasters both natural and man-made, there is always a chance for war.
Greta is essentially the princess of (what used to be) ''Canada,'' the setting is contained to rural Saskatchewan, and so much of the political maneuvering that redefines the new world and dictates the hostages’ fate is based in the aftermath of a planet devastated by AGW aka man-made global warming, which even today is an issue deeply tied with the politics of the North.
Such is the plot of “The Scorpion Rules,” a new YA cli-fi adventure novel for young adults from former-physicist-turned-author Erin Bow. And if that’s not enough to get you interested, know this: “The Scorpion Rules” is one of the best books this year.
As in Bow’s previous novel, “Sorrow’s Knot,” the emotional heart of “The Scorpion Rules” hinges on the powerful emotional bond (romantic and otherwise) between the female protagonist and her two closest companions, a boy and a girl.
It’s a delight to see that dynamic explored again, this time with Greta, her Himalayan goddess-royal roommate, and the newly-arrived, irreverent grandson of an American general who disrupts their previously peaceful life.
This is no love triangle. There’s no fighting for Greta’s attention or petty jabs at a romantic rival. No, this is a strong love, loyalty, and devotion between three people with Greta at its heart. There’s some re-arranging toward the end when she definitively falls in love, but the bond between three stays strong throughout and helps to support the equally strong friendships formed with their classmates.
Likewise, Greta is no chosen one. She’s not out to destroy a regime, only to survive until she’s 18, when she will be no longer eligible as a hostage. Raised to rule and struggling to live up to her mother’s example, she grows from a sheltered and naïve young girl into a confident, observant woman worthy of the respect she garners from others.
It’s brilliant cli-fi storytelling, delivered through a first-person narration with a strong voice that constantly evolves as Greta does.
The last three chapters feature a final big plot twist and a major shift in narrative style that’s a real kick in the teeth.
Also, the whole affair is super clever and laugh-out-loud hilarious. So much of the subject matter is so serious — ranging from war, duty and family devotion to torture, sacrifice, and the suffering of innocents — that (typo fixed) you don’t expect to laugh. S
o when it comes, it’s cathartic and gut-busting. And, rather than dilute the effectiveness of the different scenes, the contrast between drama and humor makes the darkness seem darker and the laughter all the more light.
An especially nice bonus for regional fans is how “northern” the book feels without needing to be.
Greta is essentially the princess of (what used to be) Canada, the setting is contained to rural Saskatchewan, and so much of the political maneuvering that redefines the new world and dictates the hostages’ fate is based in the aftermath of a planet devastated by global warming, which even today is an issue deeply tied with the politics of the North.
In short, this is not a book that treats “the North” like a genre, but it also couldn’t have been written anywhere else. Teens and adults alike will love it.