Chapters 1–7

Nancy Farmer's award-winning dystopian novel tells the story of Matt, clone and captive of a powerful feudal lord. Follow Matt as he tries to escape the sinister forces at work in the country of Opium.

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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. embryo
    an animal organism in the early stages of growth
    The day came when he implanted the tiny embryos in the brood cows.
  2. intact
    undamaged in any way
    “It’s a Matteo Alacran. They’re always left intact.”
  3. desolation
    sadness resulting from being forsaken or abandoned
    Matt was swept with such an intense feeling of desolation, he thought he would die.
  4. loan
    give temporarily; let have for a limited time
    “I love you more than anything in the world,” the woman said quickly. “Never forget that. But you were only loaned to me, mi vida.”
    Matt had trouble understanding the word loaned. It seemed to mean something you gave away for a little while—which meant that whoever loaned him would want him back.
  5. determined
    characterized by great firmness of purpose
    He didn’t know what he would say to the strange children if they appeared again, but he was determined to try to talk to them.
  6. consternation
    sudden shock or dismay that causes confusion
    Matt stared at the scene with consternation. That wasn’t the result he wanted at all. Maria was crying, Emilia looked angry, and Steven had turned his back on both of them.
  7. property
    something owned
    “Wait! I can just make it out ' Property of'—the writing is so tiny!—' Property of the Alacran Estate.'”
  8. beast
    a living organism characterized by voluntary movement
    “You idiot! You need a vet for this little beast!” the man roared.
  9. defile
    spot, stain, or pollute
    “How dare you defile this house?”
  10. situation
    a complex or critical or unusual difficulty
    I should have known what he—it—was the minute I saw it. No servant would be allowed to keep a child or live away from the others. Benito told me about the situation, only I thought it was living somewhere else. In a zoo, maybe. Wherever those things are kept.
  11. clone
    a genetically identical organism derived from a single cell
    “Matt’s a clone,” said Steven.
    Emilia gasped. “He can’t be! He doesn’t—I’ve seen clones. They’re horrible! They drool and mess their pants. They make animal noises.”
  12. technician
    someone who is trained in a specific process
    “This one’s different. Benito told me. Technicians are supposed to destroy the minds at birth—it’s the law. But El Patron wanted his to grow up like a real boy. He’s so rich, he can break any law he wants.”
  13. filthy
    disgustingly dirty
    "It’s a filthy clone,” the woman objected.
  14. indignantly
    in a manner showing anger at something unjust or wrong
    Matt indignantly said he never bit people.
  15. vicious
    able or disposed to inflict pain or suffering
    Emilia says clones are as vicious as werewolves.
  16. tattoo
    stain with indelible color
    It had something to do with being a clone and also, perhaps, with the writing on his foot. Matt had once asked Celia about the words on his foot, and she said it was something they put on babies to keep them from getting lost. He’d assumed everyone was tattooed. From Steven’s reaction, it seemed everyone wasn’t.
  17. brute
    a living organism characterized by voluntary movement
    “So you aren’t housebroken, you little brute,” she snarled, kicking aside the sodden newspapers.
  18. disconsolate
    sad beyond comforting; incapable of being soothed
    He pulled on the window bars. They were as firmly attached as ever. He sat disconsolately on the floor.
  19. ashamed
    feeling guilt or embarrassment or remorse
    When he had to use the newspapers in the corner, he felt dirty and ashamed.
  20. utensil
    an implement for practical use
    Matt was given no utensils and had to put his face in the bowl like a dog.
  21. appalling
    causing shock, dismay, or horror
    Meanwhile the smell in the room became appalling.
  22. stench
    a distinctive odor that is offensively unpleasant
    Rosa cleaned the corner every day, but the stench clung to the cement.
  23. barrier
    a structure or object that impedes free movement
    They built a low barrier across the door. Matt watched with interest. The barrier was as high as his waist—not tall enough to keep him in, but high enough to slow him down if he tried to escape.
  24. condition
    the state of health
    You’re a very strange woman, Rosa, but I have to admit the beast’s in good condition.
  25. sullen
    showing a brooding ill humor
    “It’s a sullen, evil-tempered animal,” she said.
  26. solitude
    a state of social isolation
    Long days of solitude in Celia’s house had taught him how to be quiet, and any attention from Willum or Rosa could result in pain.
  27. agonize
    suffer anguish
    The days passed with agonizing slowness, followed by nights of misery.
  28. cache
    a secret store of valuables or money
    He hid caches of food under the sawdust, not to eat later, but to attract bugs.
  29. clad
    wearing or provided with clothing
    Matt was clad only in a pair of shorts, so the peas landed on his bare skin.
  30. scour
    clean with hard rubbing
    She scoured him until he was pink, dried him with a big, fluffy towel, and tried to get a comb through his tangled hair.
  31. dire
    causing fear or dread or terror
    It was so bright and cheerful, it raised his spirits in spite of Rosa’s dire threats.
  32. malnutrition
    a state of poor nourishment
    “He’s suffering from mild malnutrition,” the doctor said.
  33. appeal
    be attractive to
    El Patron’s face seemed oddly familiar, and his hands—thin and blue-veined—had a shape that appealed to Matt in some deep way.
  34. scurry
    move about or proceed hurriedly
    “People from Durango are called alacranes—scorpions—because there are so many of them scurrying around. When I made my first million, I took that as my name: Matteo Alacran. It’s your name too.”
  35. recover
    get over an illness or shock
    “Furball was gone only two days. Matt was trapped for six months. It takes time to recover.”
  36. loathing
    hate coupled with disgust
    Mr. Alacran looked at Matt with undisguised loathing.
  37. severe
    unsparing and uncompromising in discipline or judgment
    “Anyone—anyone—who harms Matt will be dealt with severely. Do I make myself clear?”
  38. reassure
    give or restore confidence in
    Sometimes Matt really did have trouble breathing, but sometimes he only wanted to reassure himself that someone cared for him.
  39. vulture
    a large diurnal bird of prey feeding chiefly on carrion
    I don’t know much about this clone business—I was twelve the last time I darkened a schoolroom door—but I know you’re a copy of him. It’s like the old vulture was being given a second chance.
  40. regain
    get or find back; recover the use of
    “My name is Matteo Alacran,” Matt said, testing his newly regained voice.
Created on June 28, 2017 (updated August 16, 2018)

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