War. That is all the Mayor, with a gleam in his eye, can say. Stuck in the middle, all Todd can do is watch Mistress Coyle’s terrorist army boom into New Prentisstown, spy the native Spackle soldiers zigzagging down the hill in front, and accompany Mayor Prentiss as his men march to meet them. Somewhere, the scout ship of incoming settlers will be landing in the middle of Mistress Coyle’s army oblivious to the chaos and Viola, ankles broken, galloping away from it all on her horse Acorn. Badly outnumbered and with two sides to fight, Todd and Viola are conflicted as ever. Peace or war, forgiveness or revenge, and hope or despair; if only the decisions were that polar. How much of their moral integrity are they willing to sacrifice to save each other?
Who could wait until September for the concluding book in this trilogy? So much drama, intensity, and unpredictable unknowns? I couldn’t. There was no turning back once I calculated that for only a couple dollars more, I could have it now, and in the spiffy UK edition no less. (Which seriously, if we’re talking about cover art, it has one of the most creative and one-of-a-kind book jackets out there. ) It also has to do with a certain author named Patrick Ness, who is the king of cliffhangers. The Ask and the Answer ended, again, with everything still on the line and a new plot twist. I can’t help thinking: was he trying to kill us with suspense? But I can’t see it written differently. Ness’ signature chapter and ending cliffhangers reflect the entire tone of this series: furious pace, anything-can-happen, action-driven story arc for a futuristic people forced to settle a New World sans technology but with unknown alien natives and uttered thoughts called Noise.
More than the first two books in the Chaos Walking trilogy, Monsters of Men will unfailing hook you so that you can’t put it down. Alternating sometimes as much as every other page between the perspectives of Todd and Viola, each viewpoint usually cut off mid-scene, mid-action, and on the brink of disaster, leaving you saying “what?”. Being honest without a by-your-leave the incredibly fast pacing was almost overwhelming, veering on overstimulation. For those of you able to read each book in the series back-to-back, I don’t think this would be an issue. It took me several pages to find my bearings and get emotionally back into the ambiguity of both the Mayor and Mistress Coyle’s sides and feel invested. But once the third, differing perspective is introduced, my interest piqued and I easily let the brisk plot carry me along. A big light is shined on the Spackle creatures – what they’re like, how they communicate, and how they fight. Frankly it was fascinating and combined with our increasing experience with the people of Prentisstown, the singular abilities of the Mayor, the growing capabilities of Todd, the healers of Mistress Coyle, the pieces began to fall together into a compelling whole. What are the origins of Noise, its capabilities and its true purpose? All of these questions that have been building on each other since The Knife of Never Letting Go are answered compellingly. To say I was completely satisfied with the conclusion after two books that leave you hanging is an understatement. That’s not to say that Patrick Ness keeps you guessing until the final page, or everything is answered, but in the least all the loose end are tied up. Finishing Monsters of Men was a memorable experience for me which admittedly involved some crying. Before my bookpushing gets any worse PLEASE if you like scifi/dystopian YA in the least go out and get this series. You won’t regret it. It was a near perfect series for me and will go on my all-time favorites list.
Reading Order: The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men
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