Author: Erin Bow
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not affect my review**
When global war nearly annihilates the world’s population, those left are desperate to find a solution. They look to Talis, an artificial intelligence, tasked with ending conflict for good. But the leaders of the world did not foresee Talis taking over, making himself the ultimate power. In this new world, rulers are forced to give up their children, who are then raised in Preceptures. If a state decides to declare war on another, their children’s lives are sacrificed. Greta, along with other children of royalty, has been raised knowing her death could come any day. When a new and hostile hostage is brought in, one from a territory rumored to be on the brink of war with Greta’s Confederacy, she and the others must decide if they are willing to stand up against an unrivaled power in order to live.
Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules has been on the receiving end of a lot of hype as of late and as is the case sometimes with hype, this one failed to impress me. Highly original and inventive, the story takes place in a future where war comes with a terrible price. The AI, Talis, has created a clever system in which the children of world leaders are kept hostage in order to deter them from bloodshed. There are moments when the Abbot, the AI in charge of the children, is truly frightening, using its intimate knowledge of the children to discourage them from rebellious behavior. Talis himself, though his speech is more colloquial than formal, is terrifying in his mercilessness and intelligence. Together, they have taught the children to obey and nations to bow down to their will.
As interesting as this setting is, the human characters in the novel are not particularly compelling. Raised in a controlled environment where modern technology is limited, their lives have become rather simple. They tend to the goats and the garden and are schooled in history and philosophy by the Abbot. These characters remain passive throughout most of the novel and while one can accept this as the result of their upbringing, it made for a rather uneventful beginning. I never felt moved by any of the characters despite the unfortunate circumstances they were in and struggled to feel engaged throughout most of the novel. It isn’t until players outside the Precepture made an appearance that the story got interesting.
The Scorpion Rules has a great premise, but a lackluster ensemble. The action is limited to the Precepture where the children are kept hostage, and I believe the novel would have been better if we got to explore how the rest of the world operated under Talis’ rule.