The Scion Chronicles is a YA dystopian fantasy about a bunch of orphans known as Scions who live at a school on an island in the Caribbean. They are told that the world outside the island is a wasteland and that they are being groomed to be the new hope of mankind, that when they graduate at 18 yrs old they will take major positions of responsibility.
School life is highly regulated. The children wear uniforms and are organised into groups of nines all with their own leaders who run them like a military unit. The boys learn martial arts—but not the girls—and each student has individual proscribed areas of study. They cannot choose their own subjects, and they are not connected to any server in the outside world, so they only learn what the headmaster wants them to learn. The children are also given regular health checks.
They are taught by Socrates, an artificial intelligence who used to be a man called Michael until his mind was uploaded to a server. Socrates appears to each of them at the same time as a small hologram who delivers their individual lessons. As an AI he can be everywhere at once—at least inside limits of the server.
A secondary AI—this one was never a human—handles specialist subjects like dance and, with another face, security in such areas as the medical facility. The nature of an AI’s existence is a continuing thread in the series and it becomes crucial in the final instalment where a mental existence outside of the body takes on an almost mystical quality.
The central character is Jacey, and the bad guy is Dr. Carlhagen, the headmaster of the school, who begins as a creepy old man and develops into an insane, creepy old man in a young man’s body.
Though marketed as young adult, it’s one of the young adult novels that really is suitable for adults. I got rather turned off young adult fiction after I read too many that revolved around schools and love triangles, always with a bad boy stereotype. Though the first couple of books of the Scion Chronicles are set in a school, the plot is unique and thought provoking. The focus of the series is on something much larger than the lives of teens—it’s about the ethical concerns raised by genetic engineering and cloning, and a huge ‘what if’. What if we could upload our mind to a server and live beyond the lifetime of our body? What if we could download our mind into another body? If we could, what would happen to the mind of the body we download into?
It’s a fascinating idea and is deftly executed by Eric Kent Edstrom at a thriller pace. I stayed up late reading it, and got quite excited by the concepts presented.
In Daughter of Nothing (Book 1) the first students in the scheme reach graduation age and are taken to the medical facility for final ‘tests’ before heading out into the world. One of the graduates takes a radio transmitter into the facility and gives the receiver to his seventeen year old friend, Vaughan who asks Jacey to come and listen in as well. Another boy, Humphry also invites himself along. What they hear is not enough to make them understand the truth but it’s enough to make them realise that they have been told lies, and it’s enough to create a mystery that must then be solved.
When Jacey finally works out that they are clones that will be overwritten by their progenitors when they come of age, she vows not to let another one of the scions be overwritten. But how can she do that when she is up against a man with a huge amount of power?
In Child of Lies a progenitor arrives early to overwrite a 15 year old Scion, and Jacey faces an impossible choice—risk everything to save her or sacrifice her for the good of all.
In Sister of Shadows we go beyond the confines of the island that houses the Scion school. A daring escape takes the life of one of the Scions, and another is kidnapped. In order to rescue the young girl, Livy, Jacey ventures alone into the outside world for help, but what she finds is far outside of her experience and expectations. Meanwhile, because one of their enemies has downloaded himself into the body of one of their fellow Scions and they don’t know who has been overwritten, mistrust grows within the rest of the Scions as they travel across the water in an old ship.
The final book, Scions of Sacrifice, Jacey’s attempt to rescue Livy from Dr. Carlhagen becomes more complicated, and enemies surround her, determined to kill her or use her for their personal gain. The plot takes some unexpected twists and turns, but ultimately leads to the final battle.
I loved this series and would love to give each book 5 stars, but I can’t, because they all need a further proofread. It’s such a disappointment to find a book that is excellent in all ways but let down by this one vital and incredibly simply thing.
The errors weren’t enough for me to put down the book, but that was only because the story and prose were so good, and the book didn’t have any other indication of poor editing; in a lesser book I may well have thrown it down in disgust. But they were enough to be quite notable and to pull me out of the story. Some of the errors were very obvious – there instead of their for example—and such errors simply shouldn’t be in a published book. This lack of professionalism means that the books really should only get a 3.
If the author ever has the books proofread, he’s welcome to give me revised copies, and if I find the errors gone, I’ll give them all 5 stars. And I’ll note that in the description of this video review.
Due to the proofreading issue, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend the series, but for those who love a unique sci fi story and who can ignore such issues, then you can get the first book free HERE. The $0 price makes up for the lack of proofreading in book one, and you can get the second book free by signing up for the author’s newsletter, but you pay plenty for the last two, which really doesn’t make up for the fact that he never bothered to pay a proofreader.