Tag Archives: CanLit

Book Recommendation: Scorpion Rules, by Erin Bow

Scorpion Rules

“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.

WHOOOOOOO GOOD GRIEF THIS BOOK. THIS BOOK IS A FREIGHT TRAIN AND YOU ARE SO UNPREPARED. AHHHHHHHHHHH.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way.

*takes a moment to breathe into a paper bag*

Okay. Right. Make the review make sense. I can do that. I can take a stab at that.

*deep breath*

This is a book about a lot of things. It’s about mutually assured destruction, and about no-win situations, and about friendship, and about the things we do to survive, and the things that we do so that other people can survive. It’s about how love will not save you, and about how in the end love will be the only things that saves you. But for me, the thing that stands out the most is just how strongly, how vividly this book serves as an argument against suicide.

Cause everyone within this book is trapped, you see. Everyone is trapped between scarce resources and orbital weapons; between warring states; between their vows and their morals; between the need to keep control and the need to be kind; between scarce resources and growing population; and in some places very literally trapped between a rock and a hard place. There is only one person in this entire book who is not trapped in some way, and they are utterly reprehensible.

One of the things that is hard to express about living with a mental illness is how much it traps you. Your mind presents you a series of terrible options, and this continues on and on, and you end up feeling more and more powerless. You are caught in a vice.

So you have these characters, trapped. Trapped to the point of death, many of them. And then the book explores what that does to you. How you come through it, or don’t. It doesn’t shame its subjects for what they do to survive, but it shows their survival mechanisms for what they are— survival, not living. And it looks steadily at death, and then it embraces life.

This is not an easy book. It took a good five days after reading it before I could think of it without a physical stress response. But oh my word it is a really good book.