I received this book for free from Margaret K. McElderry Books. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Scorpion Rules
Prisoners of Peace #1

Written by: Erin Bow
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release date: September 22nd 2015
Genres: Dystopian, LGBTQ, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Source: BookExpo America 2015
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads

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… something. And when I say ‘something,’ I mean a few things.

  1. It has substance.
  2. It was absolutely not what I was expecting.
  3. It’s a little odd — in a good way.

This is one of those books where the blurb cannot go into the actual details of the story because holy freaking spoilers, Batman!!! That blurb (and I) cannot mention half of the awesome stuff that is present in this book because it would absolutely spoil huge elements of the plot.

That being said, I do want to talk about the three points above.

1. This book has substance.

I absolutely loved the worldbuilding in The Scorpion Rules, becuase it dealt with things that I found incredibly thought-provoking. First off, the entire government and keeping of the peace is based around world leaders giving up their children as hostages — if one world leader starts a war, their child will be killed. This system influences relationships so deeply — the relationships of parents with children; the relationships among those hostages, who all live in the same compound; and the relationships of the hostages — the heirs to their respective countries — with their own feelings of responsibility and duty to their countries, if that makes sense. It was all seriously interesting.

The other amazing thing that The Scorpion Rules deals with is the idea of AI’s, or artificial intelligence. The only reason the system above is in place, and the reason it can’t be changed, is Talis — the AI who took it upon himself to essentially take over the world, and to create and uphold this system. I can’t say too much for fear of spoiling things, but rest assured, if you like books where artificial intelligences are main characters, and that deal with all the implications and complexities of AI’s, you need to pick up this book. Talis is at once super terrifying and super freaking awesome, and I adored him, and I’m not gonna lie — I kind of want to be BFF’s with him, as weird as that sounds. (Note: You do have to make it about halfway through before Talis really shows up to the party, but it is worth it.)

And finally, the (human) characters themselves. Greta, the main character, took me a while to like. By 25% through the book, I was convinced I would not like her, ever. She’s emotionally pretty flat, at first, and I couldn’t get a handle on her for quite a while. But as the book progressed, I found myself glued to her story, and I ended up loving her character arc.

And while Greta is the main character, there are so many other Children of Peace who wormed their way into my heart. I was really impressed with how Bow was able to take them from (what I thought were) minor side-character roles, to becoming fully fleshed-out characters whom I loved by the end. Every single one of these characters will surprise you in more ways than one. They might even make you cry. (Spoiler: they totally made me cry.)

And of course, I really loved that The Scorpion Rules focused so much on the character arc’s — there’s a lot in the beginning that feels very political and confusing, stuff that might turn a reader off (I’m usually not one who likes a lot of names/dates/countries’ alliances/etc to pay attention to) — but that stuff doesn’t need to bog you down, trust me. The whole point, for me, is the character arcs, and they are worth it.

2. This book was not what I was expecting.

If you make assumptions about this book based on the blurb, I can almost guarantee that you will be 90% wrong. As I mentioned earlier, the blurb cannot mention stuff that happens becuase massive spoilers, but trust me when I say, that blurb is pretty darn misleading. For one, it doesn’t mention Talis, which, woah hello huge selling-point right there. It also seems to imply that a large part of the book is likely focused on a romance between Greta and Elián. I mean… sort of… not really… a little bit… alskdjfspoilers. I mean, if you’re looking for a ship… there is one. That’s all I’ll say.

2. This book is a little odd — in a good way.

First of all, there’s the pacing — which is slow. Very. Slow. At least in the beginning. The Scorpion Rules is sort of divided into two parts — there’s the first half, which works up to what I thought would be the entire book’s end-game, but which happened halfway through — and threw me for a loop, because from then on out I had no idea what was gonna be thrown at me.

And then the second half of the book was intense and insanely spoilery for me to talk about anything so I have to shut up now. It was REALLY good, though. And you absolutely need to get to that halfway point for the rest of the book to have such a big impact. It’s worth it.


In conclusion…

Because of the strange pacing, I think The Scorpion Rules definitely benefited from the fact that I read most of it in a day. Honestly, if you don’t do that, and instead you read a little bit at a time — especially in the beginning — you may be inclined to DNF, depending on your tastes. This is a mistake. If you pick up this book, please for the love of all that is holy keep reading.

I powered through the slower beginning and let myself sink into the interesting world-building and the introduction of all the characters; and then once I hit the halfway point, there was no turning back. I was totally invested, and I finished the second half of the book in one sitting. The Scorpion Rules may be a little odd in its pacing, but the characters are so good, and it kept surprising me right up until the end.

Finally, a bit of a note: I was completely unaware that this book is the start of a series when I read it. That being said, I think that it does a very good job of standing on its own. Not everything is tied up, and the ending isn’t all kittens and rainbows, but the story is complete, which I really loved.

11 thoughts on “ARC Review: THE SCORPION RULES by Erin Bow

  1. I have read mostly rave reviews for this book, but a few bloggers didn’t like it. But I love books with twists that go in different directions that you expect. I’m all about being surprised, so I’m pretty sure I’ll love this. Awesome review!

  2. I confess that I have been waiting to see what you thought before deciding to purchase! I’ve seen an array of opinions for this one, but I trust your taste in books so this will be read soon ;-) Thanks for reviewing this!

  3. I’ve been feeling ambivalent about this one, particularly since I tried reading Sorrow’s Knot (which so many people looooove) and I didn’t finish it. The premise of Scorpion Rules sounds like it could be really interesting, or could be another canned dystopian scenario. Your review convinces me that it might be the former. And thanks for the warning about pacing (I may have put Sorrow’s Knot down too soon, just because I was reading it in bits and pieces while being distracted by other stuff).

    • I haven’t read Sorrow’s Knot, so I can’t speak to that, but Scorpion Rules is most definitely NOT a canned dystopian scenario. Like, AT ALL. I loved that about it, since I’m sort of tired of normal dystopians.

  4. Great review. I read this one and I agree about the pacing. I was bored for the first 20% of it. But then it picked up and I really enjoyed it. Greta’s love interest was a surprise. I will say that I loved Talis and thought he was one of the best characters. I kind of wish the book had been told from his POV instead of Greta’s.

  5. Clearly this is one that I need to give a try for sure, adding it to the list of books to check for my next splurge with what’s left of my birthday giftcard!
    I’m very much intrigued about the AI, and even more after reading Illuminae, and I’m glad that there’s a ship because well, there usually is but I’m glad that the book is NOT all about that romance! (Romancephobic here…)

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