Todd and Viola have finally reached Haven, but it wasn’t nearly what they’d expected. Before stepping more than a few feet into the town, they’re being separated – Viola to the woman’s houses of healing and Todd to the Mayor’s headquarters. As Viola is struggling to conform to her new life as a healer and Todd is forced to tend to the enslaved Spackle, two factions are forming, and they won’t end up on the same side. With both of them under the tight manipulative thumb of the new Mayor, will Todd and Viola be able to find each other? Will Viola be able to warn the rest of the incoming settlers in time? And of the Ask and the Answer, who are the good guys? The second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy is somehow even more chaotic as everything and everyone is at stake and Todd and Viola continue to make the difficult choices that define them and affect all those around them.
Since The Knife of Never Letting Go offered little closure, I haven’t been much more eager to read a sequel. Admittedly it’s difficult for me to refrain from comparison, but The Ask and the Answer keeps up the running pace, anything-goes plot twists, excellent characterizations and moral questioning of it’s predecessor while providing a new, fresh story which is told from the alternating perspectives of Todd and Viola. Though it’s definitely hard to see them apart, it’s harder to see their situations go from bad to worse – and when you can’t think it could get even worse – it does. Appeasement, totalitarianism, terrorism, genocide, torture, you name it, it probably occurs somewhere in the narrative. While unsurprisingly dark and grim, this book isn’t all despair and continues to challenge the answers to the hard questions and in doing so touch upon universal themes such as morality, love, and loyalty. I was continually stumped by how frequently I expected straight black and white, good and bad choices for the characters when there just isn’t, Todd and Viola no exception. Discovering that your heroes are flawed and the villains capable of redemption however just makes you love them all the more. Again, Patrick Ness’ up-in-the-air-ending, tight plotting, brisk pace, and exquisite character development has left me clamoring for the third book. Unfortunately this time around I have to wait a year.