The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace #1) by Erin Bow
Published in 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Margaret K. McElderry Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA post-apocalyptic sci-fi.

My rating:

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the

Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power

As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

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Going into books blind seems to be a theme lately. I recently reviewed Illuminae, a book where I knew absolutely nothing about the plot before I started reading it, and it really didn’t turn out all that well. I requested Scorpion Rules on Netgalley after I saw an author I admire call it fantastic and I also didn’t read anything about it before plunging straight in. I’m wondering now whether this is a good tactic – I liked this one okay but didn’t love it. 

Scorpion Rules is the beginning of a post-apocalyptic series that’s different from others of such type I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to read. The premise is quite similar to Hunger Games or Divergent, with the world divided into new countries, the life conditions perilous, the political situation uncertain – but this time, the world is controlled by an artificial intelligence system which made peace by blasting several large cities off the world map until people started paying attention to it. 

Now, children of the rulers of each of the world’s countries are taken (a person can’t rule a nation without having children) and they spend their time in camps, waiting to see if their illustrious parent will start a war. If this happens, the child is taken and executed for their parent’s sin. 

When we meet Greta, she’s almost old enough to be released from this obligation, she’s living in the middle of a desert with other children of peace, trying to keep her head down, hoping her mother, the queen of one of the largest territories that also has large supplies of the most coveted resource: water, won’t start a war or enter one if attacked. That’s when Elián lands there, he’s the grandson of a general of a new country that borders Greta’s. He doesn’t know how to behave, is reckless and gets punished constantly by the robotic guards and instructors running the facility. 

Now, you may be rolling your eyes at this, suspecting the plot is surely very predictable from here on out: the girl and the boy fall in love, he makes her see that fighting for the right cause is good, they run away together and fight for a better future for all humanity. Well, not quite. First of all, the love triangle (yes, there is one) here is much more interesting than usual, mostly because it involves a same-sex relationship without giving it labels and without making a fuss about it. I know coming-out stories are extremely important, that having openly gay characters deal with the problems in the society is necessary, but it’s also nice to see a relationship where being gay is… not extraordinary. Or rather, it’s nice to read a book where gender isn’t the deciding factor for choosing one’s partner. 

Anyway, if you like post-apocalyptic sci-fi and you’re tired of angsty teenage stories, this is a good book to check out. I was a bit thrown by the ending (I can’t really see how the story will continue with things being as they are) and I thought the pacing was too slow at times – the tone is much more… contemplative than is usual for YA (not necessarily a bad thing, I just wished the story moved on faster because I wanted to know what would come next). These are the reasons for my lower rating – purely personal. So if the premise sounds interesting to you, give it a try, by all means, because it’s really nice to read something that deviates from the mould from time to time.

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Have you read Scorpion Rules? What did you think?

Do you have any good postapocalyptic recs?

I’d love to hear from you!

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  • Hmmm, this sounds interesting. I wasn’t sure when I saw it around at first, but now I think I might need to check it out.

    • I’m glad to hear that. I liked the story, it’s definitely different from most dystopias I’ve read, and Greta is a really interesting character.

  • I definitely want to check this one out but I’m sorry you didn’t love it more! I agree with you 100% though – it’s REALLY nice to read a story that deviates from the norm! It’s seems so rare these days :)

    • Eh, when I look back, I can say I liked it well enough. It wasn’t love at first sight, but it rarely is. :)
      But yeah, Greta is an interesting character and the story LOOKS like it will follow the conventional genre rules at first but then changes into something completely different, which is cool.

  • I love the sound of the queer relationship, but that’s basically all that interests me about this one. :( It’s too bad because I’m pretty dedicated to reading ALL THE BOOKS that have same-sex couples and are also SFF. There are depressingly few out there!

    • I don’t know, I’ve seen some REALLY good reviews of this book (like 5 stars from serious bloggers, not just your average fangirling people who give everything 5 stars). Maybe it’ll be a better fit for you? Though you rarely read dystopias, right?
      And yeah, I get that, a blogger I read often went on a rant about that recently: http://breathesbooks.com/2016/03/04/the-lesbian-dies/ Watch out for SERIOUS The 100 spoilers, so if you’re not up to date with the series and don’t want to be spoiled, you might want to wait before you read it.