The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow – Review

Posted October 5, 2015 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Reviews / 8 Comments

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow – ReviewThe Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on 9/22/15
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Source: NetGalley
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, but it isn't described; Some violence)
My rating:
4 Stars

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 Take

The Scorpion Rules is the type of book that isn’t always easy, but the moral questions that it asks will really get you thinking. In this dystopian an AI named Talis has taken over the world by force – to save us from ourselves. This AI sees the destruction that war has caused to the human race and the earth and he decides that he can do better. So, basically, he takes hostages. Every ruling family of every country has to have a child who will rule after them, and that child is kept in a Precepture until they’re eighteen (at which time someone else with a child has to rule until they have one). But here’s the kicker – if the country declares war or commits acts of war for ANY reason, the child is killed.

Greta and Elián’s countries are on the brink of war, and Greta knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s sacrificed. As frightened as she is by this idea, she has been taught since she was a young child that her death would be for the greater good. She believes in the peace that Talis has created and she doesn’t really question path her life has taken – much. But when Elián shows up at the Precepture, his rebellion makes Greta realize that maybe she should be questioning – and when things take an even darker turn than she ever imagined, she finds herself wanting to live – and maybe even change things.

What fed my addiction:

  • The moral questions presented. Even though Talis is an AI, you find out that he was actually originally a human. What this means is that he has a very human personality, and he actually ends up being one of the most charming and engaging villains you will ever read. In fact, you’re never even quite sure if Talis actually is a villain – after all, he’s saved humanity from destroying itself, right? And in war, so often we kill in order to preserve – that’s kind of what war is in a lot of cases – both sides feel that they need to kill in order to stop something even worse from happening. It’s all a matter of perspective when you go to decide who’s right and who’s wrong and when you try to determine which is worse – the act of war (killing) or the conditions that would exist without the war. So, is Talis’s murder of innocent children to prevent war worse than the deaths of innocent children who die during war? It’s quite a quandary, and it will really get your head spinning if you think about it too much (which I love to do!). I love books that present these types of moral questions and don’t necessarily give pat answers.
  • The romance. If you read the synopsis of this book, you might think that you know pretty much how the romance in this book will play out. Let’s face it, we’ve all read this story before, right? Well, it didn’t play out all the easily. I found the romance in this book surprising and refreshing, and that’s all I’ll say about that.
  • The action. This book kept me guessing and moved in directions that constantly surprised me. I was engrossed in the story, wondering what would become of Greta and her friends – a lot of times it didn’t look good!!

What left me wanting more:

  • Greta’s lack of personality. Here’s the thing – Greta has lived her life following the rules. She hasn’t really ever questioned the world around her beyond what she’s learned in a classroom, and she has a very logical and almost detached personality. She is a product of her environment, so this is not surprising, but it does make it harder to connect to Greta as a main character, especially in the beginning. Still, her character growth made up for this for me, because she became a much stronger character by the end of the book, and her journey went in a very unexpected direction. Though there was one little thing that bothered me slightly. View Spoiler »

So, overall, I found this to be an extremely thought-provoking dystopian. I’m eager to see where Bow brings the series next! I give this book 4/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

About the Author


Hi! My name is Erin Bow — physicist turned poet turned author of young adult novels that will make you cry on the bus. I’m a white girl, forty-something, feminist, geeky enough to do the Vulcan salute with both hands — in public. I live in Canada. I love to cook, hate to clean, and yes, I do own a cat.

In the beginning, I was a city girl from farm country—born in Des Moines and raised in Omaha—where I was fond of tromping through wood lots and reading books by flashlight. In high school I captained the debate team, founded the math club, and didn’t date much.
In university I studied particle physics, and worked briefly at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, Switzerland. Physics was awesome, but graduate school kind of sucked, and at some point I remembered that I wanted to write books.
Books: I have five of them — two novels, and two volumes of poetry and a memoir (the poetry under my maiden name, Erin Noteboom). My poetry has won the CBC Canadian Literary Award, and several other awards. My two novels, Plain Kate and Sorrow’s Knot, also have a fistful of awards, including Canada’s top award for children’s literature, the TD. No one read the memoir.
Right now I’m looking forward to the publication of my third novel, which I think is the best thing I’ve written: The Scorpion Rules, coming fall 2015 from Simon & Schuster.

Did you notice I got to Canada in there somewhere? Yeah, that was true love. I’m married to a Canadian boy, James Bow, who also writes young adult novels. We have two small daughters, both of whom want to be scientists.

 Author Links:

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8 responses to “The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow – Review

  1. I read this one and I agreed completely. I kind of loved Talis. Before I realized he used to be human, I was thinking he sounded way more human than machine. But that is not a bad thing. I loved his sarcastic personality. And like you said, I never knew for sure if he was a bad guy or not. I was bored for about the first 15% of the book (maybe because of all the world building), but then the romance and the action picked up and I ended up enjoying it. I was not a big fan of Greta. Maybe that’s also part of the reason I was bored in the beginning. She was just kind of bland. I am very interested to read the sequel. Maybe we will get luck and there will at least be a few chapters under Talis’s POV??

    Cynthia @ Bingeing On Books recently posted: BOOK REVIEW: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

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