Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Basics:
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Margaret K McElderry Books
YA, Science Fiction
Book One in the Prisoners of War series
Published September 22, 2015
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon Kobo Goodreads

Why I picked up this book:

I got the feeling this book could be the next 'big thing' and I wanted in on the ground floor. So, good job hype!

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?

My Thoughts:

In the wake of so many big "female protagonists kicking ass in dystopic world" books, The Scorpion Rules looks poised to inherit book publishing's tiara next.

This book is a brutal, violent, terrifying look at a potential future wherein AI rules the world. It is emotionally graphic, pulls no punches, and was occasionally hard to read. It is a terrifying interpretation of using lessons of the past to inform the present, of making hard decisions to benefit the many while sacrificing the few. 

I loved this look at a mix of human and machine. There are some really cool (and scary) robots (an oversimplification) in this book. I loved the mixture of clunky and graceful machines. And I especially loved the questions raised about defining humanity and AI and the coexistence of the two. There's some really interesting material in the book that stretches beyond the exact story on the page.

And the story absolutely had me engaged. I was glued to The Scorpion Rules. A lot of this book is about trying to make the best of a bad situation, and oh. my. God. Bow does a fantastic job of taking bad situations and making them worse... and worse... and worse. 

The Scorpion Rules ticks a lot of the boxes people are clamouring to have ticked, mainly related to diversity in all things. It also plays on some of the most beloved tropes--love triangle, heroine rising up to shake up an evil overlord, snark, really cool robots... It's all pretty slick, and in that slickness is, I think, space for criticism. But you won't hear it from me on this front.

The only thing that troubled me was the love triangle and its outcome. Not because I didn't approve of Greta's choice (I did, except...), but because I didn't really believe in the triangle. I didn't believe in either romantic possibility, both felt too sudden to me, too forced by the circumstances to really invest in. Now, what I did like about the romance is that it had a certain delicacy that did feel appropriate (if only it had developed differently!). It's tricky really... I liked what was written except that I didn't quite make the leap from Greta's initial opinion to her new opinion.

I can easily see re-reading this one. 

Bottom line:

If you like YA science fiction, grab a copy of The Scorpion Rules. If you're fed up with the love triangle trope, rest assured that this one is pretty fresh-feeling, but also doesn't dominate the book. There's *so much more* happening here. I absolutely recommend it.

4.5 stars
For fans of dystopia, YA, science fiction, the Hunger Games

Don't just take my word for it though! I've gathered up a couple of other blog reviews, so check them out for some other opinions!

Don't Stop Believing 

Navigating the Stormy Shelves

The Story Sanctuary


  1. I've been seeing this book on blogs but you're review was possibly the most honest one. I've been shying away from dystopian books for a while now but this one does sound really good. I'm really curious to read this one. Thanks for the review :)

    1. Thank you! I liked how different this book felt from the other dystopia series I've read. The emphasis on AI and technology and how it controls the lives of the main characters was so good. And it's very raw--definitely not for sensitive/young readers!

  2. You have me intrigued. This is a wonderful review! I think you have me sold! Adding to my TBR.