Review and Giveaway: The Swan Riders by Erin Bow


I’m today’s stop on the Swan Riders Blog Tour with Irish Banana Blog Tours. Yay! Check out my review of The Swan Riders, learn about author Erin Bow and stick around for the giveaway information so you can enter to win one of three copies of the book!

the-swan-riders-9781481442749_hrThe Swan Riders
Erin Bow
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Available September 20,2016

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About The Swan Riders

Greta Stuart had always known her future: die young. She was her country’s crown princess, and also its hostage, destined to be the first casualty in an inevitable war. But when the war came it broke all the rules, and Greta forged a different path.

She is no longer princess. No longer hostage. No longer human. Greta Stuart has become an AI.

If she can survive the transition, Greta will earn a place alongside Talis, the AI who rules the world. Talis is a big believer in peace through superior firepower. But some problems are too personal to obliterate from orbit, and for those there are the Swan Riders: a small band of humans who serve the AIs as part army, part cult.

Now two of the Swan Riders are escorting Talis and Greta across post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan. But Greta’s fate has stirred her nation into open rebellion, and the dry grassland may hide insurgents who want to rescue her – or see her killed. Including Elian, the boy she saved—the boy who wants to change the world, with a knife if necessary. Even the infinitely loyal Swan Riders may not be everything they seem.

Greta’s fate—and the fate of her world—are balanced on the edge of a knife in this smart, sly, electrifying adventure.


My Review

As soon as I finished The Scorpion Rules (book one in the series) I wanted to read this book. I loved the sweeping view of the world and its complex politics and advanced science. Totally different spin on what-if-AI-ruled-the-world? I loved it.

In the first book, the Swan Riders are these terrifying warriors-slash-messengers. Now that Greta has become AI, the Swan Riders are her soldiers, too. The fact that she had such a complex past with them made her journey with them really intense, too. This is definitely one of those books with lots of layers, and with such tight storytelling that every time I thought I knew how things were going to go, some new conflict entered the picture, ratcheting the stakes up even higher.

Just as in the first book, the writing is deep and often poetic. Love is often star-crossed at best. The story explores the question of what makes us human, and are those qualities assets or liabilities? As one character faces death, others rally to show love and support. It’s such a powerful, human moment. What is more human than to gather with a loved one and do what you can to ease their transition into death and grieve for them? Powerful stuff, and well-incorporated into the story.

The technology elements are well-developed, too, and play an important role in the story. I wouldn’t call this light sci-fi. But it has vibrant characters and a lot of action as well, so I’d venture to say even readers who aren’t super keen on sci-fi would still find plenty about it to enjoy.

If you haven’t read the first book, you’ll want to start there. So much is already in play by the beginning of the second story, I think it’d be hard to catch up. You can find my review of The Scorpion Rules with my notes on content here.


Cultural Elements
Characters represent diverse backgrounds. Greta herself is white. Her lover, Xie, is Asian. Greta and her lover are lesbians. She has African and Asian companions.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild, used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Greta dreams about her experiences with Xie, a girl she left behind in her old life. The dreams are vague but sexual. It’s clear she’s still in love with her. There’s a girl/girl kiss later in the story. Two of the Swan Riders have been in a relationship. One, a girl named Rachel, spends the bulk of the story being controlled by Talis, an AI who was once a man. So some of the pronouns get a little confusing there. Usually the pronoun represents who’s speaking, without regard to the gender of the vessel or body that the AI is using.

Spiritual Content
Xie is considered a goddess by her people.

Violent Content
Brief battle scenes. A boy stabs a Swan Rider. Greta remembers being tortured with an apple press. There are other threats of torture. At one point, a Rider who is terminally ill asks another Rider to end her life in a ceremonial way.

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

erin-bow-credit-jay-parsonAbout Erin Bow

Web Site | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr

Hi! My name is Erin Bow — physicist turned poet turned author of young adult novels that will make you cry on the bus. I’m a white girl, forty-something, feminist, geeky enough to do the Vulcan salute with both hands — in public. I live in Canada. I love to cook, hate to clean, and yes, I do own a cat.

In the beginning, I was a city girl from farm country—born in Des Moines and raised in Omaha—where I was fond of tromping through wood lots and reading books by flashlight. In high school I captained the debate team, founded the math club, and didn’t date much.

In university I studied particle physics, and worked briefly at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, Switzerland. Physics was awesome, but graduate school kind of sucked, and at some point I remembered that I wanted to write books.

Books: I have six of them — three novels, and two volumes of poetry and a memoir (the poetry under my maiden name, Erin Noteboom). My poetry has won the CBC Canadian Literary Award, and several other awards. My two novels, Plain Kate and Sorrow’s Knot, also have a fistful of awards, including Canada’s top award for children’s literature, the TD. The third novel, The Scorpion Rules, still faces its award season. No one read the memoir.

Right now I’m looking forward to the publication of my fourth novel, a companion piece to The Scorpion Rules called The Swan Riders, which will be out September 20 from Simon & Schuster. I’m at work on an new an entirely different novel, and a book of poetry about science.

Did you notice I got to Canada in there somewhere? Yeah, that was true love. I’m married to a Canadian boy, James Bow, who also writes young adult novels. We have two small daughters, both of whom want to be scientists.

Visit the Other Stops on the Swan Riders Tour

Week 1:

9/12: Fangs and Fur Fantasy Book Review – Review
9/13: The Cover Contessa – Guest Post
9/14: Live to Read – Review
9/15: Such A Novel Idea – Q&A
9/16: Intellectual Recreation – Review

Week 2:

9/19: Novel Ink – Q&A
9/20: The Story Sanctuary – Review – You are here!
9/21: Book Stacks Amber – Playlist
9/22: Lisa Loves Literature – Review
9/23: A Backwards Story – Q&A

The Swan Riders Giveaway (US only)

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

9 Responses to Review and Giveaway: The Swan Riders by Erin Bow

  1. Hey, I found you via this blog tour, and I’m really glad I did! I love how you give detailed content info. As the mom of a twelve- and thirteen-year-old, that sort of info can really help me decide about a book!

  2. Lynne Welch says:

    My son has been wanting the second book, I have to get it for him. He really seems to enjoy it. He is reading Silencing Sharks which has been so good for him as he’s entered Middle School and the different world that can be. The author is John Hope, is his site. Thanks for the great review!

  3. Kara says:

    Great review, I have heard mixed reviews on The Scorpion Rules so I look forward to reading the series and finding out for myself someday!

    • Hi Kara! Thanks. I think with any book that has a steep stylized telling like The Scorpion Rules you’ll see very mixed reviews. Not everyone likes that sort of dense, poetic telling. I often love those kinds of books, but there are some exceptions even for me. Hope you enjoy the books!

  4. danielle hammelef says:

    thanks for your review today. I love that you wanted to read this book right after the first one. finding exciting series like this is the best! I appreciate how you break out the content at the end of your reviews–I find this, like the movie reviews I read, helps me choose whether or not to read a book or see a film.

    • Thanks, Danielle. 🙂 I like the movie sites that list content, too. A lot of times I remember that I really liked a particular movie, but I can’t remember if there was any worrisome content in it. Sometimes this blog serves as notes to me so that later on I can recommend books and be sure I know what’s in them without having to remember. If that makes sense. 🙂

  5. Colleen says:

    Hey there!! I won’t enter the giveaway because I know no one sends International, but the author sounds so dang interesting that in itself makes me want to read her work!!! Thank you for your review and this blurb about the book’s writer. You’re the best!