The Swan Riders is the second book in Erin Bow’s Prisoners of Peace series, picking up where The Scorpion Rules concluded – with Greta struggling to adapt to being AI, and the Pan Polar state on the brink of full blown rebellion. Released on September 20th, 2016, The Swan Riders promised to be an action-packed sequel, laced with secrets and rebellion.
Greta Stuart has become AI. New transmitters have silvered her fingerprints. New receptors have transformed her vision. And the whole of her memory has become one book in a vast library of instant knowledge. Greta is ready to rule the world. But the new technology is also killing her. Greta is only sixteen years old, but her new enhancements are burning through her mortal body at an alarming rate. Of course the leader of the AIs, an ancient and compelling artificial intelligence named Talis, has a plan. Greta can simply do what he’s done when the time comes, and take over the body of one of the Swan Riders, the utterly loyal humans who serve the AIs as part army, part cult. First though, Greta will have to find a way to stay sane inside her new self. Talis’s plan for that involves a road trip. Escorted by Swan Riders, Greta and Talis set out on a horseback journey across the strange and not-quite-deserted landscape of Saskatchewan. But there are other people interested in Greta, people who want to change the world…and the Swan Riders might not be as loyal as they appear… (Chapters.Indigo.ca)
What I Liked:
I’ll be brutally honest here – I didn’t like much about this book. I was expecting a whole lot, having been disappointed by The Scorpion Rules as well, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up on this series quite yet. What I did like were the small things – Frances Xavier’s character, and his humanity, which was a stark comparison to Talis, and even Greta herself. The eventual conclusion of the novel was also somewhat rewarding (and not only because the book was finally over) – it felt like a solid ending, with the main characters (namely Talis, Greta, Elian and FX) each finding their own peace with the struggles they encountered in the novel.
What I Disliked:
I pretty much disliked everything else. The writing style was goofy, and jarring in comparison to the supposed-to-be serious nature of the plot. For a book about rebellion, human extinction and finding one’s humanity, it certainly felt more like a bunch of rowdy teenagers on a road trip, instead of a journey to better the world. Greta’s character was infuriating to me – still so oblivious, despite now being an all-powerful AI, and still completely useless. The plot also made no sense – like Greta, I’m still confused about what, exactly, The Swan Riders were trying to achieve, and how the hell (sorry) they achieved their goal, through what must have been the most overly complicated drawn-out, ridiculous plan I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading.
The Swan Riders, like its predecessor, fell short of what little promise it offered. The plot was overly complicated a thoroughly confusing, leaving the reader more confused than Greta (who was arguably very confused) and disengaged from the plot (because they’re so busy trying to figure out what the heck is going on. The characters were (mostly) impossible to relate to, and in some cases, utterly deplorable. Overall, The Swan Riders is, sadly, not a book I could recommend (1.5/5).