Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin BowThe Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry on September 22, 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: BEA
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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?

The Scorpion Rules was my first Erin Bow book, but it definitely will not be my last. Despite knowing little of the book or the author, I had this feeling about The Scorpion Rules, this gut instinct, that told me it was one of the books I most needed to obtain at BEA. Obtain it I did, and glad of that I am. (Also, apparently I talk like Yoda now.) The Scorpion Rules surprised me at every turn, because it did so many things in so many ways that defy the genre and a reader’s expectations. The Scorpion Rules is a darkly comedic treasure.

Coming off a string of DNFs, books lacking in voice and personality, The Scorpion Rules immediately wowed me with its character. It really drove home how disappointing those previous books were that a robot’s point of view proved so much more human and real than the characters in those other books. From that prologue, I was completely hooked. I am forever devoted to Talis.

The world of The Scorpion Rules is one in which Talis, an AI, takes over the world. Talis was once human but changed into an AI in an attempt to find immortality. Talis worked for the UN and got sick of all the wars, so he blew up a bunch of key cities and took over. He created a new way of preventing war: leaders’ children or grandchildren would be taken to Preceptures, their lives to be forfeit if their parents or grandparents declared war. These potential future rulers are known as the Children of Peace.

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What really blows my mind about The Scorpion Rules more than anything else is that, though it definitely qualifies as a dystopia, I actually find myself rooting for the AI overlord, Talis. Sure, there are flaws in the system, but Talis seems better qualified than most. His ideas of governance aren’t actually that far off from some of the scenarios I’ve imagined in my own head. Never have I read a dystopian novel where I legitimately liked the leader of the government before, and that adds so much more complexity to the story.

Aside from the prologue, The Scorpion Rules is a first person story narrated by Greta, the princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy. She’s no nonsense, a classicist, and very much devoted to the system. As one of her classmates at the Precepture is taken away to be killed because his country went to war, Greta hardly feels a twinge. Then a new Child of Peace is brought in chains and defiant. Elián makes her challenge everything she’s held to be true.

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This is where I was expecting the story to do the standard dystopian romance thing where those two fall in love and overthrow the evil robot together. Obviously I won’t tell you what happened, but I will say I was wrong. It’s a delight when a book can truly surprise me, and The Scorpion Rules very much did in so many ways. It’s also full of diversity of both race and sexual orientation.

The Scorpion Rules gets dark. Very dark. At the same time, though, it’s a truly funny book, at least it was to me. I absolutely love when books can manage that sort of macabre humor, because it’s a tough balance to strike. Also, Talis is my favorite and I’m kind of in love with him, despite the fact that he’s not human anymore and admits to being a monster.

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If you enjoy reads that challenge your expectations and step outside of the box, I thrust The Scorpion Rules. at your face. You will thank me.

Favorite Quote:

Once upon a time, humans were killing each other so fast that total extinction was looking possible, and it was my job to stop them.

Well, I say “my job.” I sort of took it upon myself. Expanded my portfolio a bit. I guess that surprised people—I mean, if they’d been paying the slightest bit of attention they’d have known that AIs have this built-in tendency to take over the world. Did we learn nothing from The Terminator, people? Did we learn nothing from HAL?

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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5 responses to “Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow”

  1. This one really did seem very unique but it sounded a little too out there to work. Apparently I need to give it a shot though. I love it when books go unexpectedly dark. Great review. 🙂
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Something To Look Forward To – Week of September 21st, 2015My Profile

  2. Couldn’t agree more with this review, I read this one without any expectations and completely blew my mind away. So glad to see more people enjoying it.
    Deyse @ Bound with Words recently posted…Top Ten Books On My Fall TBRMy Profile

  3. So glad I read your review, I had not heard much about this one yet, the fact that it surprised you and you could not guess what was about to happen is a huge bonus for me. Predictability is not something I am usually a fan of.
    Ashley @The Quiet Concert recently posted…Storm Siren & Siren’s Fury by Mary WeberMy Profile

  4. Lyn Kaye says:

    I loved this book, and I am thrilled to see that you liked it! It was something so new and different! And now, the writer has more in store for this universe, and I am so HAPPY!

    I am also thankful for the humor, because there was some very disturbing this in this book (apple press, oh my gods…..) and I think I would not have liked it without the relief of the snark.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Garden Gazette September Wrap-UpMy Profile

  5. shae says:

    I am concerned that I love TALIS as much as I do, and yet I feel no shame whatsoever.

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