Chaos Walking – Books 2 and 3

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After hugely enjoying The Knife of Never Letting go, I decided to go ahead and read the rest of the books in the trilogy at one go.

Is reading all three books back to back a good idea? Truth is, I don’t know. I struggled a bit with The Ask and the Answer (second book), but was able to fully get into Monsters of Men (the third and final book).

So, is this series worth binging? Well, it is and isn’t, and I”ll go into the details in my individual book reviews, and you can decide how you want to read these books. Overall though, I wouldn’t suggest binge-reading it.

The Ask and the Answer

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode.

~ Synopsis from goodreads

I don’t know why I had a problem with this book. Plot-wise, it’s amazing. The two characters Todd and Viola have a great character arc. This book introduces new characters, and expands on the world in a wholly believable way.

Why then did I dislike? Well, three reasons:

  • The whole Ask and Answer thing – This may be a bit of a spoiler, but the Answer is a terrorist group, the Ask is the office of the President (against whom the terrorists are rebelling). Minor point, but I just couldn’t take a terrorist group with a name like Answer seriously. Similarly, the Ask. It was such a ridiculous naming convention that the book lost whatever credibility it had built in book 1.
  • Both Todd and Viola got to have their own viewpoints in this book – one chapter related by Todd, and another one by Viola, and so on. Normally, I love multiple voices in a book, but somehow here it seemed a bit too much. There also wasn’t much of a mystery, because both parties relate everything that happens, and both are reliable narrators.
  • The language. I did mention in book 1 that it took time for me to get into the writing style. By the end of book 2, I was heartily tired of it.

In general, The Ask and the Answer suffered a bit from middle book syndrome. It felt a little too long and baggy. It also ends on the most ridiculous (not in a good way) cliff-hanger ever.

Monsters of Men

Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they’re so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await?

~ Synopsis from goodreads

This book rights a lot of the things that went awry for me with The Ask and the Answer. The introduction of the Spackle as a formidable adversary, and the interesting battle tactics at the beginning of book 3 were a welcome respite from the tedious back and forth between the Ask and the Answer.

The action was really good, and the book was free-flowing just like the first book. Still there were some problematic areas.

One dealt with the motivations of the main villain – President Prentiss. Ness gave him some interesting layers, but overall I found his affection (don’t really know what to call that emotion) for Todd puzzling. He is all the time trying to cultivate Todd’s friendship. There are many reasons suggested for that in the book, but none are convincing, and even worse, no reason is taken forward by the author himself.

Another disappointing aspect was that a main plot point from the first book – Todd’s mother’s diary fizzles out into nothing. It seems a little ridiculous that something that gets such prominent play in book 1 is so completely sidelined in books 2 and 3.

In spite of these disappoints, I still really liked (not loved) this book. There is an amazing moral standoff in the end that ended the book and the series on a high note.

Overall, I recommend this trilogy. If you like action-packed YA dystopia, this series is a must-read. One thing though, it is a YA, and it reads like a YA. In certain places, I felt the language and the emotions were a bit too young for me, but I think I may be an exception, as overall, these books are really well-accepted and loved.

How about you? Have you read these books? Enjoyed them? Let me know in the comments.

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