Book review: The Swan Riders by Erin Bow (audiobook)

The Swan Riders  

This review might contain spoilers as it is book 2 in the duology.

I listened to the first book in the series, The Scorpion Rules, in audio and intended to pick up The Swan Riders in audio format too. The first book dragged a lot in the beginning, and I briefly considered reading the sequel in paper as I felt I could skip over boring parts. I checked out The Swan Riders from the library. I tried reading it but it was even less exciting, so I switched back to an audiobook.

I had a lot of reservations before starting The Swan Riders, but I wanted to finish the story, so I persevered.



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.



I knew what I was getting into when I picked up The Swan Riders. I knew that I would once again have issues with narration (the narrator is Madeleine Maby and I did not like the way she chose to voice the characters) and the plot, and even though I was not too much invested into Greta’s fate, I was curious enough to give it a go.

Talis (or Michael) remained my favourite over the course of the books. I think his character is multifaceted and goes through the most development. It was good to see Elian too, but this book is more about the swan riders and Talis than it is even about Greta. I liked the glimpses into the lives of swan riders and their struggles. I did find that a lot of things about the plot and the world were still convoluted and not explained adequately.

Whatever LGBTQ+ representation we had in the first book diminished even more in The Swan Riders. My hopes were crushed. Greta chose Elian over and over again, even though she kept remembering her best friend and lover, Xia, with a lot of longing.

I had an impression that The Swan Riders was more fast-paced than The Scorpion Rules, but all the issues that I had with glossing over the plot holes with existential statements about love and life remained the same. I was used to it by then, but I kept rolling my eyes, thinking that if I had to summarize the book, it would sound less grand and apocalyptic than the official blurb made it seem.

The book finishes in the way that it can potentially have a sequel. I do not know if it should though. I am curious about the fates of my favourite characters, but I am okay with this being just a duology. I think the idea behind the books was more appealing to me than the actual final product.

A shame.

Just like The Scorpion Rules paperback, The Swan Riders has a gorgeous cover. I am saddened that I didn’t like the books enough to keep them on my shelf.


Rating: 3 stars


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