Review: The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace #1) by Erin Bow

Happy New Year everyone! Thank you to all you lovely readers and visitors to my site; thank you for stopping by, liking, following or commenting. I am getting right back into the swing of things for 2016 with a review of a recently released young adult title from Erin Bow!

TheScorpionRulesReview: The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace #1) by Erin Bow
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada via Goodreads First Reads. Thank you!
Publication: September 22, 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Verdict: Very Good
Book Description:

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.

Erin Bow has stepped into the YA sci-fi/dystopian scene and pretty much shaken everything up, down and around up with The Scorpion Rules. Normally a genre that I approach with tremendous wariness, I am very happy to say that I found myself engrossed and surprised with the critically-lauded The Scorpion Rules.

At the core of our story we have Greta: teenage hostage, daughter of royalty. She, along with other hostages (heirs of leaders), live an isolated life on the prairies; being lectured and taught to follow the Utterances, toiling in the fields, growing crop, and tending to livestock. It is a life in which almost every single word or action is heard, seen, and closely watched; prisoners that do not follow are dealt with (savagely) by artificially intelligent machines. The concept here in Bow’s strongly imagined novel of keeping global peace via the threat of killing young heirs is one of fascination and horror. The other overarching theme- and one that I was perhaps most taken with- was that of ruling machines and ideas surrounding the scope of artificially intelligent beings. In Greta’s world, there is an overlord named Talis (formerly a human named Michael Talis), who is an advanced AI. We are introduced to Talis through surprising turns in Greta’s story, and readers, get ready: Talis is perhaps one of the strangest, boldest, most diabolical, yet charming and complex characters I have come across in the last year of reading.

Bow presents a story which reads like nothing I have read before in sci-fi teen lit. In prose that is elegant, emotional yet precise and illuminating, Bow has carefully crafted a grand-scale story that is memorable, erudite, and genuinely terrifying. While Greta is perhaps the faintest or most seemingly indistinct of the hostages we come to meet, the story does very well to come from her perspective. With her retention and devotion to the Utterances, to her teachers, to Talis, as well as her readiness to accept how she will meet her death as a hostage, we meet Greta as a quiet, subdued follower, who then slowly, slowly- and very, very carefully- opens her eyes and her heart.

If you have read the book description (unfortunately a bit misleading) and likened this novel to following the more expected directions prevalent in YA sci-fi or are looking for another Divergent-like story and arc, then this may not be up your alley. However, to any interested readers, I definitely recommend giving this novel a go on the strength and uniqueness of story alone; moreover, Bow’s writing is full of depth and exercises such a fascinating range in tone and style. Overall, The Scorpion Rules is very well done, and I would suggest it for readers looking for a novel beyond the norm of the sci-fi and post-apocalyptic offerings in teen fiction. Readers who appreciate the subversive, the uncomfortable, the terrifying, or reading about the possibilities of AI, might especially enjoy this surprising novel.

I received this title courtesy of Goodreads First Reads and Simon & Schuster Canada, in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and comments are my own.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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