Chaos Walking

Tag line: ‘War makes monsters of men.’

Following from my review of The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, I can now review the rest of the series. The second book, The Ask and the Answer picks up right where the first book leaves off. Todd and Viola are in Haven, but neither are they safe. Split apart by Mayor Prentiss,  Todd and Viola both fight to find each other again, both being drawn into a war in which they are on opposite sides. What is the price of freedom? What is the cost of peace? In a novel just as fast-paced and enthralling as the first, Todd and Viola struggle with these questions and with their own part in a world that is much bigger than they are.

The stakes are raised even higher in third novel, Monsters of Men. What was an invasion met with rebellion turns into a full-scale war when the indigenous species of New World, the Spackle, come to avenge the genocide of their people. Not only that, but the convoy of new settlers is only weeks away; another scout ship lands after the first never reported back. In the midst of all this are Viola and Todd, both fighting to stop the war, to create peace — real peace — and most of all, to save each other.

I have to reiterate that I loved the first novel, so I had very high expectations for the second and third of the trilogy. Fortunately, Patrick Ness did not disappoint — I just couldn’t put these books down. There was actually a period where I went into the public library weekly, and for a while daily, asking if the third book had come in. For reasons unknown to me, the public library took a month to bring in Monsters of Men, and all during that month I pined for it. What would happen next? How on earth would Ness bring everything together? How would it end?

What I particularly loved about these books is the characterization of Todd and Viola. They are definitely not your perfect heroes. They get things wrong. They don’t see the big picture. They don’t know how wars work. But deep down, they are good; they regret, they change, they grow. You end up loving them and caring for them because they are flawed. Redemption is a strong theme in this trilogy. No matter how far you fall, how much you fail, what matters is that you get back up again.

Another thing I liked is that Ness is anything but predictable. I never knew what was going to happen next, and I certainly didn’t know how he was going to end it all.

Yes, I do think the third book could have done with some more editing. At times it did feel like Ness was trying to do too much. But the ending brought everything together in a satisfying finale that wasn’t at all sentimental or frayed. I think he hit just the right note for novels of this type, which so often end either overly optimistic or terribly pessimistic. I appreciated that he did neither, and both, striking a balance.

Of course, inevitably, I’m left asking: but what happens next?? If Patrick Ness writes any more about this world, he will definitely have a reader with me.

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