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The Lord of Opium

The Lord of Opium

4.7 23
by Nancy Farmer

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As the teenage ruler of his own country, Matt must cope with clones and cartels in this “electric blend of horrors and beauty” (Publishers Weekly), the riveting sequel to the modern classic House of the Scorpion, winner of the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor, and a Printz Honor.

Matt has always been nothing but a clone—grown from


As the teenage ruler of his own country, Matt must cope with clones and cartels in this “electric blend of horrors and beauty” (Publishers Weekly), the riveting sequel to the modern classic House of the Scorpion, winner of the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor, and a Printz Honor.

Matt has always been nothing but a clone—grown from a strip of old El Patron’s skin. Now, at age fourteen, he finds himself suddenly thrust into the position of ruling over his own country. The Land of Opium is the largest territory of the Dope Confederacy, which ranges on the map like an intestine from the ruins of San Diego to the ruins of Matamoros. But while Opium thrives, the rest of the world has been devastated by ecological disaster—and hidden in Opium is the cure.

And that isn’t all that awaits within the depths of Opium. Matt is haunted by the ubiquitous army of eejits, zombielike workers harnessed to the old El Patron’s sinister system of drug growing—people stripped of the very qualities that once made them human.

Matt wants to use his newfound power to help, to stop the suffering, but he can’t even find a way to smuggle his childhood love, Maria, across the border and into Opium. Instead, his every move hits a roadblock, some from the enemies that surround him…and some from a voice within himself. For who is Matt really, but the clone of an evil, murderous dictator? Is his true destiny already predetermined by his genes?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This highly anticipated sequel to Farmer’s National Book Award–winning The House of the Scorpion (2002) begins soon after the funeral of the drug lord El Patrón and the murder of nearly everyone who attended the event. Fourteen-year-old Matt, the dead drug lord’s clone, was originally created to provide spare parts for El Patrón, but is now the Lord of Opium. Surrounded by people who have been surgically conditioned to satisfy his every whim, many of them mindless and virtually helpless eejits, Matt must come to terms with the deep immorality upon which his wealth is based, while fending off another drug lord, the rapacious Glass Eye Dabengwa, and a fanatical U.N. representative, Esperanza Mendoza. Complicating matters further are Matt’s involvement with the beautiful eejit Waitress; his lifelong relationship with Mendoza’s strong-willed daughter María; and the machinations of the mad physician, Dr. Rivas, who created Matt. Once again, Farmer’s near-future world offers an electric blend of horrors and beauty. Lyrically written and filled with well-rounded, sometimes thorny characters, this superb novel is well worth the wait. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
* "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…. A stellar sequel worth the wait.”
VOYA - Kathleen Beck
In the 22nd century, the US and Aztlan (Mexico) have ceded control of the border to powerful drug lords. When El Patron, ruthless ruler of the Land of Opium, dies at age 147, his only survivor is his fourteen-year-old clone, Matteo. Thrust suddenly into leadership, Matt is determined to unravel the drug empire and neutralize the microchips with which El Patron made zombie-like "eejit" slaves of thousands of illegal immigrants. He will open the border, restore the environment, and, not least, impress his childhood love, Maria. But Opium is a complex system where moral choices are unclear, people do bad things for good reasons, and decisions are rife with unintended consequences. Worse, Matt wonders whether his conscience is any match for the genes he has inherited from his brutal progenitor. How much choice does he really have as Lord of Opium? This sequel to the award-winning House Of The Scorpion (Simon & Schuster, 2002/Voya October 2002) is both science fiction and a reflection of contemporary issues. Politically savvy teens will recognize the dilemma of leaders caught in an intricate web of choices and consequences (Guantanamo, anyone?). Cloning, legalization of drugs, environmental degradation, runaway technology—all make an unsettling appearance. Matt's bewilderment and naive missteps are convincingly portrayed. Action abounds and the characters, while not deep, will interest readers and enlist their sympathy. The story is stronger and more cohesive, the moral questions more subtle than in House Of The Scorpion. Encourage students to read the two in order, and prepare for a rousing book discussion. Reviewer: Kathleen Beck
Children's Literature - Remy Dou
Ecological disasters have left the world smoldering. One country, run by the clone of a drug lord named El Patrón, thrives with plants and animals that could restore the planet. At fourteen years old, Matt becomes the new patron and finds himself with power beyond his wildest imagination. As a clone, people treated him like the scum of the earth, but now that the old chief has died, an entire country and its army of mind-controlled servants is at his comment. Yet Matt hates the evil empire created by his predecessor. Unfortunately, it seems that in order to free the mind-controlled army and bring peace to the land of Opium, Matt must continue the drug trade and allow evil things to occur. Farmer does a marvelous job of depicting Matt’s struggle as he wrestles with the age-old debate: Does the mean justify the end? The book picks up where its bestselling, award-winning predecessor, House of the Scorpion, left off. Farmer provides enough backstory for readers to keep up with the plot, and her narrative flows at an attractive pace. Although some of the content may require parental guidance (e.g., references to drug use, the occasional act of violence), the story stays within “cable television” rating-boundaries and avoids the use of expletives. Readers soon learn that Matt must use his position to save the people he cares about, including his girlfriend Maria and Cienfuegos, his mind-controlled bodyguard. He must also decide what to do with the enemies threatening his life, including a younger clone of El Patrón that the suspicious scientist, Dr. Rivas, had kept a secret. Reviewer: Remy Dou; Ages 13 up.
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, IL
Kirkus Reviews
In the much-anticipated sequel to The House of the Scorpion (2002), 14-year-old Matteo Alacrán returns home as the new Lord of Opium. Matt was a clone of El Patrón, drug lord of Opium, but with El Patrón dead, Matt is now considered by international law to be fully human and El Patrón's rightful heir. But it's a corrupt land, now part of a larger Dope Confederacy carved out of the southeastern United States and northern Mexico, ruled over by drug lords and worked by armies of Illegals turned into "eejits," or zombies. Matt wants to bring reform: cure the eejits, disband the evil Farm Patrol, uproot the opium, shut down the drug distribution network, plant new crops and, if that's not enough, heal the planet, since the outside world is in the midst of an ecological disaster. But how can an innocent 14-year-old do all of this and keep warring drug lords at bay? If this volume lacks the mystery and deft plotting of its predecessor (and sometimes feels like an extended epilogue to it), it has an imagined world that will keep readers marveling at the sheer weirdness of it all--the zombies and clones, drug lord Glass Eye Dabengwa, a ghost army, the Mushroom Master, biospheres and a space station. A vividly imagined tale of a future world full of fascinating characters and moral themes--a tremendous backdrop for one young man's search for identity. (cast of characters, map, chronology, appendix) (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.40(d)
HL700L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Lord of Opium



Matt woke in darkness to the sound of something moving past him. The air stirred slightly with the smell of warm, musky fur. The boy jumped to his feet, but the sleeping bag entangled him and he fell. His hands collided with sharp thorns. He flailed around for a rock, a knife, any sort of weapon.

Something huffed. The musky odor became stronger. Matt’s hand felt a metal bar, and for an instant he didn’t know what it was. Then he realized it was a flashlight and turned it on.

The beam illuminated a large, doglike face at the other end of the sleeping bag. The boy’s heart almost stopped. He remembered, long ago, a note Tam Lin had written him about the hazards of this place: Ratlesnakes heer. Saw bare under tree.

This was definitely a bare. Matt had only seen them on TV, where they did amusing tricks and begged for treats. The bear’s eyes glinted as it contemplated the treat holding the flashlight. Matt tried to remember what to do. Look bigger? Play dead? Run?

The flashlight! It was a special one used by the Farm Patrol. One button was for ordinary use, the other shone with ten times the brightness of the sun. Flashed into the eyes of an Illegal, it would blind the person for at least half an hour. Matt jammed his thumb on the second button, and the bear’s face turned perfectly white. The animal screamed. It hurled itself away, falling over bushes, moaning with terror, breaking branches as it fled.

Matt struggled to his feet. Where was he? Why was he alone? After a minute he remembered to switch the beam off to save the battery. Darkness enveloped him, and for a few minutes he was as blind as the bear. He sat down again, shivering. Gradually, the night settled back into a normal pattern, and he realized that he was at the oasis. He cradled the flashlight. Tam Lin had given it to him, to protect him from animals when he was camping. You don’t need a gun, lad, the bodyguard had said. You don’t want to kill a poor beastie that’s only walking through its backyard. You’re the one who’s trespassing. Matt could hear Tam Lin’s warm Scottish voice in his mind. The man loved animals and knew a lot about them, even though he’d been poorly educated.

Matt found the campfire he’d banked the night before and blew the coals into life. The flaring light made him feel better. In all the years of camping here, he’d never seen a bear, though there had been many raccoons, chipmunks, and coyotes. A skunk had once burrowed into Matt’s sleeping bag in the middle of the night to steal a candy bar. Tam Lin had burned the sleeping bag and scolded the boy for foolishness. Leave food about and you might as well put a sign on yourself saying “Eat me.” Matt had been scrubbed head to toe with tomato juice when they got back to the hacienda.

Matt heaped the fire with dry wood from the supply Tam Lin had always maintained. He could see the familiar outlines of an old cabin and a collapsed grapevine.

Tam Lin wasn’t with him. He would never come here again. He was lying in a tomb beneath the mountain with El Patrón and all of El Patrón’s family and friends, if you could say the old drug lord had friends. The funeral, three months before, had been attended by fifty bodyguards dressed in black suits, with guns hidden under their arms and strapped to their legs. The floor of the tomb had been covered with drifts of gold coins. The bodyguards had filled their pockets with gold, probably thinking their fortunes were made, but that was before they drank the poisoned wine. Now they would lie at their master’s feet for all eternity, to guard him at whatever fiestas were conducted by the dead. Matt drew the sleeping bag around himself, trembling with grief and nerves.

He would not sleep again. To distract himself, he looked for the constellations Tam Lin had shown him. It was early spring, and Orion the Hunter was still in the sky. Heed the stars of his belt, said Tam Lin. Where they set is true west. Remember that, lad. You never know when you’ll need it. They had been roasting hot dogs over a fire and drinking cider from a bottle Tam Lin had cooled by submerging it in the lake.

What a grand existence it must be, mused the bodyguard, turning his battered face to the sky, to roam the heavens like Orion with his faithful dogs at heel. The dogs, Sirius and Procyon, were two of the brightest stars in the summer sky. Pinning Orion’s tunic to his shoulder was ruby-red Betelgeuse. As fine a jewel as you’ll find anywhere, Tam Lin had declared.

Matt hoped Tam Lin was roaming now in whatever afterlife he inhabited. The dead in Aztlán came home once a year to celebrate the Day of the Dead with their relatives. They must be somewhere the rest of the time, Matt reasoned. Why shouldn’t they do what made them happiest on earth, and why shouldn’t Tam Lin?

Matt found Polaris, around which the other stars circled, and the Scorpion Star (but that was so easy even an eejit could do it). The Scorpion Star was always in the south and, like Polaris, never moved. Its real name was Alacrán. Matt was proud of this, for it was his name too. The Alacráns were so important, they could lay claim to an actual star.

Matt didn’t think he could fall asleep again, and so he was surprised when he woke up in the sleeping bag just before dawn. A breeze was stirring, and a pale rosy border outlined the eastern mountains. Gray-green juniper trees darkened valleys high up in the rocks, and the oasis was dull silver under a gray sky. A crow called, making Matt jump at the sudden noise.

After breakfast and a short, sharp swim in the lake, Matt hiked along the trail to the boulder that blocked the entrance to the valley. In this rock, if you looked at just the right angle, was a shadow that turned out to be a smooth, round opening like the hole in a donut. Beyond was a steep path covered with dry pebbles that slid beneath your feet. The air changed from the fresh breeze of the mountain to something slightly sweet, with a hint of corruption. The scent of opium poppies.

Meet 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 also won the National Book Award and the Printz Honor. Other books include The Lord of Opium, The Sea of Trolls, The Land of the Silver Apples, The Islands of the Blessed, Do You Know Me, The Warm Place, and three picture books for young children. She grew up on the Arizona-Mexico border and now lives with her family in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona.

Brief Biography

Menlo Park, California
Date of Birth:
July 9, 1941
Place of Birth:
Phoenix, Arizona
B.A., Reed College, 1963

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The Lord of Opium 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The most perfect mix of drama, and sci-fi. There are parts that will make you cry your heart out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is so amazing i cant stop reading it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is truly amazing. The writing is flawless and truly does this book capture the reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent sequel to the first book. Matteo struggles to be his own person while surrounded by the enemies of an old vampire's legacy. I wasn't sure if a second book would be possible, and was thoroughly impressed with the second book. It is definetely worth a read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
gotticketsjr More than 1 year ago
The lord of Opium was a great sequel and picked up where the last book left off and answered all the questions first book left. This is one of the only sequels that is better than the first book. I give it a 5 star rating because it is one of the only books that is good enough to keep my attention and making me want more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Honestly, this series is the best. I also recommend that you read The House of the Scorpion before you read this book cause you'll understad better and its a great book too. THIS IS THE BEST NANCY FARMER IS THE BEST OMG SO GOOD HOLY EVERYTHING NANCY FARMER IS THE BESTTTTTTT!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While reading this novel i am forgetting that i am not a part of the story. This is one of the greatest books i have read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Even though the begining was boring it got intense fast. If you are thinking of reading this book/series, you have too. It will have you on the edge of you seat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The beginning is slower than the first book but it is still great. There is amazing description and vibrant emotions. There are many things that go wrong when ruling an empire which makes the story interesting. At the end there is good action.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love nancy farmer books. This did not disappoint at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tottaly going to add this to my wishlist.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didnt read this book. :3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JUST PREORDERED!! Can't wait!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CANT WAIT!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't finish. It didn'