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Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 06/01/2013 *Starred Review* Matteo Alacrán was created to be an organ donor for El Patrón, but he is spared this fate thanks to El Patrón’s death and his assisted escape from Opium, a country between the U.S. and what was once Mexico. Matt has now returned to his nation and taken the reins of power as the new Lord of Opium. With its borders closed, the country’s drug supply is piling up and imported resources are running low. Global nations are growing aggressive waiting for their drugs, while others want the natural resources only Opium can supply them—flora, fungi, animals, and other denizens of the preserved ecosystem that thrive there but are destroyed elsewhere. Matt is also trying to achieve his personal goals of stopping the drug trade, growing crops for food, and returning the eejits, Opium’s preserved labor force, from their current state as microchipped mindless robots to fully functioning humans, all while making Opium self-sustaining. Most young readers who loved The House of the Scorpion (2002) when it was first released are now adults, and today’s teen audience will need to read the first title in order to fully understand Farmer’s brilliantly realized world. The satisfying ending is left open enough to allow for further stories, and Farmer includes an appendix that links real people and places to the book. A stellar sequel worth the wait. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: International best-seller The House of the Scorpion took home all the big prizes: the National Book Award, the Newbery Honor, and the Printz Honor. Expect a big national marketing campaign for the sequel (not that it needs one). - Copyright 2013 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 09/01/2013 Gr 8 Up—Fourteen-year-old Matteo Alacrán has outlived El Patrón, the drug lord for whom Matt was cloned for parts. The young man steps into the position dominated for decades by El Patrón and attempts to right wrongs long tolerated by the computer-chip-controlled underlings. His mission involves establishing and maintaining order over a drug kingdom he wishes to reform while corralling the genetics experiments that made him possible; subplots, such as a pro forma romance and a newly discovered solution to ecological disaster, diffuse the momentum but expand the moral universe. Complex parallel plotlines come loosely together in a positive conclusion, and while character motivations are sometimes convenient, the identification of friend and foe adds clarity. This sequel to The House of the Scorpion (S & S, 2002) does not have the tense pace that distinguished the first title, but the ethical dilemmas that shape the internal action serve to move the plot forward. Matt discovers that good and evil are not always clear-cut as he struggles to gain control over an empire long ago corrupted. Readers of the first book will be able to fill in the background on all that Farmer implies, and will appreciate the continuing stories of familiar characters.—Janice M. Del Negro, GSLIS Dominican University, River Forest, IL - Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 01/01/2014 El Patrón, the ruthless ruler of Opium (in The House of the Scorpion, BCCB 2/02), is dead, and suddenly fourteen-year-old Matteo Alacrán, once a disposable clone of El Patrón good only for spare organs, is expected to rule in his place. With few allies at home, Matt must rely on the reluctant Cienfuegos, who only wants Matt to become another El Patrón, while on the borders, foreign armies wait anxiously for their chance to end Opium’s drug trade and raid its lush lands to replenish their own ravaged ecologies. Matt, meanwhile, wants nothing more than to free the workers from their zombie-like servitude and reunite with his beloved Maria. He knows that his only hope to save himself and his nation is to explore El Patrón’s dark scientific achievements, but visits to various secret laboratories reveal yet more dangers: power-mad scientists, violent, mentally damaged clones, and a biosphere full of workers with no knowledge of the outside world. Frustrated by his limited choices, Matt eventually teams up with Cienfuegos and a young girl named Listen to overthrow Opium’s dark past and prove himself a leader for its future. Picking up only moments after its predecessor, this narrative offers an intriguing sequel that unfortunately doesn’t reach the level of the previous title. Farmer succeeds in providing just enough detail to allow unfamiliar readers to follow the plot, but any emotional connection to Matt as a character remains grounded in the initial story. While Matt continues the worthy thematic struggle of figuring out who he is under the shadow of what others want him to be, he eventually becomes little more than a vessel by which to explore El Patrón’s vicious legacy, a focus that diffuses energy and slows pacing. New characters are compelling, though, and readers who wonder how Matt survives the aftermath of El Patrón’s death will likely be relieved by the success he finds in the end. AM - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.