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The Lord of Opium Hardcover – September 3, 2013

144 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Matteo Alacran Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

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, ILα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*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). Grades 7-10. --Suanne Roush

Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 700L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442482540
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442482548
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nancy Farmer has written three Newbery Honor Books: The Ear the Eye and the Arm; A Girl Named Disaster; and The House of the Scorpion, which, in 2002, also won the National Book Award. Other books include Do You Know Me, The Warm Place, the Trolls trilogy, three picture books for young children and an adult novel, A New Year's Tale. Nancy Farmer grew up on the Arizona-Mexico border and lives with her family in Arizona.

The Lord of Opium, sequel to The House of the Scorpion, will be published in Fall 2013.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Unity Dienes TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a wonderful book, but I can understand why some readers feel it falls short of The House of Scorpion. In the first book, Matt's very survival is at stake, and the plot is driven by his discovery of who he is, and there are substantial mysteries that are not revealed until the end of the book. This second book is fundamentally different. Matt is not in particular danger throughout most of this book, and while he does make discoveries about his world, there's no moment of shock when the precariousness of his existence is revealed. Instead, this book revolves around his efforts to fix his native land, a project that turns out to be a lot more complicated than he thought it would be when he first set out to do so. The themes are more political and ethical , and less survival-based, than those in the first novel. For the original fans of the first novel, who are now adults, the increased sophistication and complication of Matt's world will likely parallel the changes that have gone through their lives as they have transitioned from adolescence to adulthood, and it is fair to say that this book continues the "coming of age" theme. However, for the readers who loved the first for its nail-biting story of a harrowing adventure of an underdog, this book will disappoint. For readers who fell in love with the world of Opium and compulsively want to see how Matt manages to (or fails to) fix some of its problems, the book will be every bit as interesting (if not quite as exciting) as the first.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Eric Stout on September 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It's been awhile since I read House of the Scorpions, but it all came back to me right away when I delved into The Lord of Opium. Nancy Farmer continues the story of Matt, the clone of the nearly 150-year-old drug lord, El Patròn. When El Patròn dies, Matt becomes the new lord of Opium. He struggles to undo the regime and rescue the enslaved eejits but he's only 14 and embattled on all sides by a rival drug lord, UN forces led by a fanatic and general anti-clone prejudice. Even Matt's own right-hand man, Cienfuegos, may not be all that he appears to be. There are also a lot of interesting twists about clones, as he appears haunted by the old drug lord's ghostly presence in his mind.

Farmer's characters are distinct and life-like. In spite of his heroism Matt is a believable teenager, not a junior super-hero, and he has a teenager's problems. He loves a girl who is far away but he's also confused by his feelings for the beautiful eejit servant girl, who will do whatever he commands. He has trouble, too, in staying friends with the boys from the orphanage now that he's rich and powerful.

Matt's world comes to life in every detail--you can practically smell the desert air and hear the hum of the flying machines. But there is nothing stereotypical about this dystopia. Although Opium is a social disaster, it is also an ecological paradise and offers hope to the rest of the planet. In a way, the same is true of Matt. At first he is a despised clone, manufactured rather than born, but with the help of his allies, he becomes a true leader. The novel is poignant, startling and inspiring. I loved it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By KVB99 on September 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The House of Scorpion (THOS) was a fabulous, break through book, and so it was like opening a bottle of fine wine when I sat down to read this book. The book picks up pretty much where THOS left off--Matt, the new El Patron. Most of the story is consumed with Matt trying to live up to the new responsibilities thrust on him and undo the evil that the old El Patron did. In particular, Matt is determined to cure the eejits and find a way to be with Maria. On the plus side, the writing is excellent and the characters are generally terrific and the overall plot is engaging. Also, some new characters are introduced that are very engaging--eg, Cienfuegos. And, there are some very poignant story arcs. Fans of THOS will want to read this book and they will enjoy it.'s not as compelling as THOS. Some of the magic of THOS is still present, but much of it is gone, IMO. That was probably unavoidable...Matt is now lord, not lowly clone, and so we don't have that same dystopian atmosphere as THOS, where Matt struggles to find out if he's human or not in a world where most everyone despises him. Also, one of the most compelling characters in THOS for me was Maria. Sadly, until the last few pages of the book, she mostly just puts in a few cameo appearances in this book. What a waste of a great character. I will say that the ending is nicely done and, like THOS, the curtain comes down on a nice note of hope.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First of all, the age range (grades 7-10) listed in the Booklist review is ridiculous. A bright 10 year old to a 101 year old will enjoy this book. Although it is touted as YA, the topics explored are of interest to adults and there are NO vampires (but one could argue there are sort of zombies) in this book, which in the YA genre is an automatic plus.

My daughter read House of the Scorpion at age 11, and adored it so I was happy to get this sequel. She is now fourteen and devoured the Lord of Opium. I read it as well and we have difference of opinion as to which book was better, she leans toward the sequel while I liked House of the Scorpion better. I think this may be due to the fact that I really enjoy the world building that occurred in the first book, while she prefers the struggles Matt faces (moral, emotional and practical) in Lord of Opium. I have to agree with her that the Lord of Opium is more actually more complex because the delineation between who is “right” and “wrong” is less clear. Regardless, both books are dystopian literature, dark and thought provoking.

The book sparked many interesting discussions on:
What characteristics make us human?
Are internal or external struggles more difficult?
What is the basis of morality?
Is it acceptable to do evil, if your ultimate outcome is to create good?

Both books are excellent, I suggest you read them in order, but it is possible to read the Lord of Opium without having read the House of the Scorpion. Even though the main protagonist remains the same, these are actually fairly different books, the first is about external struggle and the second is more about internal struggle. This may mean that readers have a strong preference for one or the other.
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