Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Review: The Swan Riders

Title: The Swan Riders
Author: Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace Duology
Volume: 2
Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Science Fiction
Release Date: September 20, 2016
eARC recieved through NetGalley

A Quick Introduction: Greta Stuart has become and AI. Following the traumatic operation, she travels with Talis and two Swan Riders to the seat of the AI's power in post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan. However, her fate has triggered a rebellion against the AIs maintain peace through fear- AIs with no compunction about blowing up a few cities to make a  point.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: A funny and stimulating companion to The Scorpion Rules explores humanity against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan.

Review: First of all, let us acknowledge the cover. I liked the cover of The Scorpion Rules, but these new covers? Wow. Beautiful. (I know mid-series cover changes are the worst. But look how beautiful the new covers are!) (I digress.)

I always have a bit of difficult time reviewing Erin Bow's books, and I find this duology especially challenging, because there's something about them that feels like they shouldn't work. Except that they kind of do.

It took me a little while to really get into this book- I found that with The Scorpion Rules as well- Erin Bow's writing is not the sort that you launch right into. It takes time to build. The setting interests me because 1) I'm Canadian, and it takes place in post-apocalypic Saskachewan (which for the most part looks a lot like pre-apocalyptic Saskachewan) (if I can't make fun of Saskachewan, what can I make fun of?), and 2) I'm an enironmental science student, so there are aspects that are frighteningly plausible.

Where The Scorpion Rules stumbled for me, The Swan Riders was stronger. The sense of character was stronger. Greta remains a very internally strong character- having survived the AI upload, she's now basically struggling to hold herself together, and to hold onto the human parts of her. She's got a lot going on, but there's sometimes this strange feeling that, while she's the narrator, she's not always the main character. Even more strangely, that didn't bother me much... she's a character who is both an active participant and a more passive narrator, and it made for an interesting combination.

Talis gets a lot more focus during this book, as do The Swan Riders (who would've guessed that, based on the title?) Talis has always been a challenging character to understand, simply because he's so many things at once, and it was intriguing seeing those parts shift and change, and form more of a cohesive whole. In The Scorpion Rules, he was an interesting character because he's this combination of terrifyingly amoral and charismatically funny, but he didn't change much. In The Swan Riders he actually has a character arc, which was great to explore.

The thing about both The Scorpion Rules and The Swan Riders is that they're very much stories being told, in a way that renders the action not very action-y. It's not that it's terribly written, so much as that the action isn't the focus- the effects are, because these books are, in a lot of ways, ruminations on humanity and human nature that just so happen to contain characters and a plot. It's done in such an interesting way!

The humour in these books really works for me. It's alternatingly clever, morbid, and truly, truly bizarre, which fits my own sense of humour to a T. I do wish there'd been more of it, but that probably would have upset the balance!

Overall, I really enjoy The Swan Riders. It took me a while to get into, but I loved the humour and the thought-provoking aspects, and continued to be intrigued by the setting.. This sequel did a good job of wrapping up the story, in a way that was both fitting and somewhat bittersweet, and I'm really glad I read it!

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