Write Perspective: The Scorpion Rules

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Book Description:

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.

Good for people who enjoy: post-apocalyptic, LGBT protagonist, strong female lead, robot versus human

Review: What strikes me about this book is that I didn’t want to like it.  Erin Bow has a unique writing style that at first I didn’t care for, but now it’s one of my favorite things about the book.  Bow writes from the first person and very informally.  I thought it was strange, but every time I put the book down I’d pick it back up five minutes later.  Why?  The book got me thinking.

The main character Greta is someone I truly enjoyed reading about.  She’s a duchess and Crown Princess so she’s strong, but she’s also a Child of Peace and therefore weak.  She’s complex and intelligent and very diplomatic.  Throughout the book you see the world she thinks she knows shattered in front of her all because of a boy, but the way Bow goes about it is so unconventional that you’re on the edge of your seat.

Perhaps one of my favorite exchanges between Greta and the all-powerful robot overload is when she tells him that no, she’s not doing this for the boy she loves – in fact, she’s falling in love with her (female) best friend, Li Da-Xia or “Xie”, the Daughter of the Heavenly Throne. The boy Elian changed her life, not by coming in on a horse to save her, but by coming in shackled in chains to doom her.

The world Bow creates in clear cut and no-nonsense.  If her people go into war, Greta will die.  Her only concern is to do so gracefully and with honor.  In fact, the entire novel starts with one of her lifelong friends being brought to his own death.  Her thoughts?  At least he’d be proud his nation won.  When I think to Greta of that scene, and then the Greta at the end of my book, I’m so overwhelmingly impressed by such a drastic growth arc that felt so natural when reading.

I was brought very quickly into this world ruled by Artificial Intelligence.  It’s the kind of world where when you’re back brought into this one, the ‘real world’, you start thinking.  This world feels a little less real because your mind is so deeply invested in this one created by Bow.

This review is unique in that I don’t want to go more into the book, because somehow I feel like anything I can say would be a spoiler.  All I can say is that I read this book from the library, and it’s so good that I’m now buying the hardcover so that I can read it whenever I like, and you should do the same.

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Write Perspective: Caraval

 

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Book Description:

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

Good for people who enjoy: strong female leads, beautiful scenery description, diverse personality group

Review: Where to begin?  The first thing I’d like to point out is how easily it was for my to fall into the rhythm of the world that Stephanie Garber created.  Her opening scene already had be empathetic towards the protagonist, Scarlett, even though I didn’t know too much about her yet.

Then, we’re swept away to the magical world that is Caraval, now paired with the love interest, Julian.  I’ve always been one who loved the dark, mysterious man.  Perhaps that’s why I was shipping the two from the get-go.  My only complaint about their relationship is how forgiving of his mistakes she is time after time, with little fight against it.  Still, he was so complex with a history that I was dying to figure out.  I have to insert my favorite quote in the book here: “Not quite sure how far she’d already fallen, she imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars come out.”  I enjoyed his progression throughout the story, and how he softened throughout the novel in regards to his willingness to falling in love.

The relationships between the characters was one of the best parts, in my opinion. Scarlett and her sister Tella’s personalities bounced off of each other in a way that only sisters can.  Having two sisters of my own, I could feel the weight that Scarlett felt trying to save her sister.  I loved her struggling between loving Tella and loving Julian, and fighting between her own desires and her protectiveness of Tella.  Even the minor characters had very strong personalities that made you instantly like or hate them.  She was constantly meeting new characters on her journey, trying to decide who was friend or foe.  I liked one in particular, Aiko, who just popped in randomly and was awesome.

Caraval itself was a world I’d love to visit.  It balanced magical curiosity and imminent danger in a way that I have to give applause to Garber.  You wanted to see its wonders and experience everything all at once, even though you knew there was something not quite right.  I felt like I was walking right along with Scarlett and could see and feel its pull all around me.

I think what I love most about this book is how I was constantly filled with so many questions that I had such a need to know the answer to right then and there.  Garber knows exactly how to give you just enough information to wanting more.  This is the first book in a long time that I read in one sitting.

 

Overall Rating: 4.5 stars

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