Audio Review: Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

May Contain Spoilers

I saw the audio book for Scorpion Rules at the library, so I clicked the borrow button. This book did not work for me for a number of reasons. I still think the premise is fantastic, but I found the execution excruciating.

Greta is a hostage. Her mother is a queen, Greta is a princess, and to ensure that there will be no more destructive wars, the AI in charge of the world has devised a system to keep the warring kingdoms at peace. In order to rule, the ruler must have a child, and that child has to be turned over to Preceptures, schools for the children of the rulers of the planet. If two kingdoms go to war, their children go to the Gray Room, and they are sacrificed in punishment. With Earth suffering from climate devastation, there is a constant lack of resources, so even though it’s been made clear that war equals death for the hostages, the skirmishes continue.

I love the premise. Earth is a big ball of warring factions, short on food and water, and the desperation of the people force rulers to strike against their neighbors with more resources, even knowing that it will result in the deaths of young princes and princesses. I didn’t like the wooden narration, or the hopelessly weak protagonist. Greta follows all of the rules, until she sees Elián brought to the Precepture in chains, screaming his displeasure. Elian’s grandmother is the ruler of a kingdom neighboring Greta’s homeland, and his people have nothing. War is inevitable, but when it comes, it arrives at the Precepture, when Elian’s people attack and then take charge of the institution, bringing the wrath of the AI in charge of the world down on their heads.

Listening to the entire book was a struggle. I don’t know if the story would have worked better for me if I had read it instead of listening to it. The romance was the most compelling aspect of Scorpion Rules, but it was such a small part of the overall narrative that it was almost treated like an afterthought. Will I read the next book in the series? I don’t know. The library has the eBook, and if I get a gap in my reading schedule, I might give it a go.

Grade: 2.5 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

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.