Tournament of Books Round 1: The Red Queen vs. The Scorpion Rules

The Scorpion Rules is set in a world where climate change has nations warring over water. Talis, the keeper of the “peace” turns to an ancient method for forcing nations to be civil to each other. Sons and daughters of world leaders are raised scorpion rulestogether in Prefectures, where they go to school, farm the land, and live with the constant knowledge that if their parent declares war on another country they will be killed.

Greta is the Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederation, a “child of peace” held hostage in the Prefecture. Greta is dignified and restrained. She is a leader amongst her peers and knows the importance of following rules. Enter Elias. Due to a newly declared war in the former United States, Elias becomes a child of peace as a rebellious teen. Elias ignores the rules, endures punishment for breaking those rules and continually pushes the boundaries in the Prefecture. This fractures Greta’s world a little bit. She begins to question her role in this elaborate system and discovers truths about herself and her world that change everything and lead her to make a startling sacrifice.

The Red Queen is set in Norta, a kingdom where society is divided by blood type. Silvers are on top. They rule the world and everyone else in it. Their silver blood gives them super powers that they use to control water and fire and even get inside other people’s heads. Reds are born either to serve the Silvers, or to fight their wars.

Mare Barrow is a Red. She is a skilled pickpocket who ends up working inside the king’s castle where she unlocks a power she did not know she had. Mare has the power to control lightening even though her blood runs red. If one drop of her blood is seen it could topple the Silver Empire. To cover up the truth, the king forces Mare to play the role of a long lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his sons. Mare takes this opportunity to work as an insider with the Red rebel group, the Scarlet Guard, and learns that she has more enemies and more allies than she thought she did in her fight for justice.

The verdict…..So, let’s red queenstart with full disclosure. Of all the books I could have been given to review, The Scorpion Rules had me excited in a way that no other book ever has. Not only am I married to a Canadian, I’m married to a Canadian who is from Halifax, and I spent two wonderful (albeit broke and chilly) years living there. Each time Halifax was mentioned it added a little spark of excitement to the story. I read those passages aloud to my husband and had fun talks with my daughters (who spend their summers in Halifax with their grandparents) about where the castle would be located (Citadel Hill is what we decided, in case you are wondering). I LOVED that. But I promise, it didn’t sway my verdict, just added to the fun.

While The Red Queen seems more familiar, with themes that have been played out before, it was done so well that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Red Queen was a bit of a slow burn that started quiet and then ramped up, didn’t stop and then ended with a wonderfully wicked twist. The Scorpion Rules had me engrossed at the start. Erin Bow’s storytelling and world building are outstanding, but the story got a bit buried in the details and it couldn’t quite hold my attention at the end. I think that, in this dystopian death match, the best way to pick a winner is to consider which sequel I will be more compelled to read, and that book hands down is The Red Queen.


Reviewed by Joanie Sebastian, Des Plaines Public Library


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