Erin BowThe Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace Book 1) by Erin Bow

I read The Scorpion Rules about 2 weeks ago. I immediately wrote my review but hadn’t quite got it ready for publication. Between then and now the terrorist attacks in Paris happened. It’s not until I sat down today to finalize this review that I started to think about The Scorpion Rules in the context of what is actually happening in the world today. Erin Bow’s glimpse into what a future run by an Artificial Intelligence who assassinates children in an effort to maintain world peace poses the question of whether the ends justify the means even if we lose our humanity along the way.

From the Back Flap

The world is at peace, said the utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask? 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 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.

Overall: Any book that starts with the musing of a megalomaniac A.I. who rules the world and the assassination of a child definitely gets my attention. The Scorpion Rules is  Model UN meets War Games with a bit of HAL thrown in for good measure.  Expect this unexpected in this unconventional book.

Prose Style: There are two distinct narrative voices: Greta-human princess/hostage and Talis-all knowing Artificial Intelligence who rules the world.

Talis is not human. He has one job, keep humans from warring themselves into extinction and if he has to wipe out half the map to keep humans for annihilating themselves, so be it. He is not sentimental. Talis is like Doctor who with a mean streak. Some of the best dialogue is from Talis and his “Utterances” are laugh out loud dark humor funny.

Greta is quite the opposite. She is human. She is compassionate. She is prim, regal, earnest. She is not laugh out loud funny. But she can be endearing. Sometimes.

Audiobook Narration: Let’s just say Southern accents are hard to do. And if you can’t do one well, maybe you shouldn’t do one at all.

Body Count: You do know the premise of the book is child hostages, right? People die. Lots of people.

Bizarre Love Triangle: Without giving too much away, this love triangle is far more interesting than your average ‘1 hot girl + 2 hot boys’ formula. This is the future after all.

Favorite Quote: “Yeah, thing is, I invented this system of killing kids for bigger causes. I’m playing the long game here. You really think shooting a few five-year-olds is gonna slow me down?” See, I told you Talis had the best lines.

Don’t Believe the Hype: There’s been a lot of buzz for The Scorpion Rules and it is well deserved. Read it before book 2 comes out!

Open tab/Last call: The Scorpion Rules turns a lot of conventions on their head. For that Ms. Bow get a YAW open tab. Cheers!