Friday, November 8, 2013

tara recommends The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer

The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer, was released in 2002 - but I just recently picked it up to prepare for its sequel, The Lord of Opium.  If you haven't read The House of the Scorpion, go find a copy before reading any reviews (including this one) about book #2.  It is an engaging book that should be enjoyed without spoilers.

The House of the Scorpion sets up an interesting world with a powerful drug lord at the helm.  In this first book, Matt is a clone that was created as spare parts for El Patron (a very old man whose life is perpetually extended by utilizing his many clones).  At any given moment, Matt could be wheeled into the hospital and his story could be over and because of this uncertainty, there is a healthy amount of suspense and action as he navigates his relationships.

The Lord of Opium begins with a much more powerful Matt as he takes over The Land of Opium, becoming the new drug lord.  He is the only one with power to open the border and allow opium to be distributed to the other drug lords.  In fact, because of El Patron's tight-fisted control, Matt is the only one with power to make any changes or communicate with the outside world.

He is also faced with the high moral responsibility of fixing the eejits (most of the people in the land have injected microchips in their brains - turning them into virtual robots).  A 14-year-old Matt must now decide whether he will take over as a powerful, ruthless dictator, or find a way to make things right - and every choice is made harder because he is forced to trust dangerous people with questionable motives.

Because of the slightly different dynamic of this book, it was not quite as spellbinding as the first.  The pacing was a little slow at times, as Matt navigates the politics and mechanics of his new life and explores his kingdom.  That being said, this is a worthy sequel to The House of the Scorpion with new, compelling characters, old friends and a neatly wrapped up ending to Matt's story.

The Lord of Opium
by Nancy Farmer
published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
September 2013
Recommended for ages 14 and up

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