“The Lord of Opium”: A Letdown

The Lord of Opium, published in 2013, is a science-fiction sequel to Nancy Farmer’s previous award-winning novel, The House of Scorpion. The House of Scorpion was published in 2002 and connects to today’s world by touching upon issues of drugs, money, and class. This story is set in a society in which drug lords rule countries, and mindless slaves called “eejits” work the drug fields. Eejits do not have minds of their own and do the sole bidding of their masters. These people were originally injected with a chemical fluid that converts them to this state. Matteo Alacran, the clone of drug lord El Patron, became the Lord of Opium when El Patron died in The House of Scorpion. Matteo must now gain the respect of the surrounding countries and prevent them from attacking his home. Matteo embarks on a journey throughout the land of opium to find the cure to free the eejits from their inflicted revery, using his newfound power to free the people he rules.

This novel reflects our current society deeply. It shows corruption and drugs ruling over the powerless and a crumbling government, useless to its helpless people. These two themes overshadow many other ideas, only to be restored by Matteo. Some of these themes consist of love, hope, and freedom of thought. Matteo fears he has lost himself to the memory of El Patron in the mayhem but realizes that he can still love, much unlike the previous lord of opium. Maria, Matteo’s love interest, was brought to despair and lost hope multiple times throughout the novel, succumbing to the horror of reality. The eejits, stripped of many mental capabilities, cannot think or act freely. Deprived of these faculties, they do not even realize they are being repressed. Matteo reestablishes these suppressed ideals and restores peace throughout the land of opium.

Though it deserves merit, the plot was entirely unsatisfactory in comparison to other novels also written by Nancy Farmer. I was not fond of the characters in this book, as it tells about their past and does not show it. I also did not feel a connection to Matteo like I had previously. In The Lord of Opium, Matteo is struggling with himself, altering between being a kind and compassionate human being to screaming and yelling like a dictatorial monster. I slogged through this book over a period of five whole days, when I had read the previous novel in less than two. I was not invested in any of the characters and reading about what happened to them was a painful bore. While the concept was interesting, my excitement level in the beginning of the novel alternated between low and very low. Overall, this book was a huge disappointment after The House of Scorpion.

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Anjali Gupta

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