Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Salon Review: The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go
(Candlewick, 2008 - Science Fiction YA - 496 pgs)

The Ask and the Answer
(Candlewick, 2010 - Science Fiction YA - 528 pgs)

Monsters of Men
(Candlewick, 2011 - Science Fiction YA - 608 pgs)

Have you ever finished a book and then had a hard time picking up another? You just aren't ready to let the last one go. The characters, the story and the world became such a part of your own life that you have trouble moving on. That is the way it has been for me and Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking Trilogy. I didn't rest until I had the entire trilogy under my belt--and the short story "The New World" (Candlewick, 2010 - Science Fiction YA - Short Story) set in the same world. I was glued to every page, unable to tear myself away, not completely, even when I wasn't able to read.

It is hard to discuss any aspect of the trilogy without giving something important away. The trilogy opens with The Knife of Never Letting Go and what a start it is!

From the author's website:
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.

But Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he's going to have to run...

It is impossible not to fall in love with Todd. He is innocent and good. He is compassionate and smart. Even despite the community he grew up in.

As The Knife of Never Letting Go was full of hope even in the worst of times, the second book in the trilogy, The Ask and the Answer, was much more dire, much more horrible. All hope seemed lost. Both of the main characters have to make difficult choices, some of which there is no easy or good answer. I was reminded of Ugwu from Half of a Yellow Sun, who was put into an impossible situation--risk his own life by speaking up or be complicit in the rape of a woman and survive. Likewise, Todd was put into a terrible position, having to do things no man should. It was with a heavy heart that I read the middle book in the trilogy. Todd was no longer innocent. I didn't like some of the things he did, but I still felt for him. I still believed in him.

Monsters of Men is a fitting title for not only the final book in the trilogy but the entire trilogy. Throughout the series, we see the horrors that man can wreck on one another, both in the pursuit of power and survival. Even the most despicable of characters in the books are merely human. Flawed and vulnerable. With fears and doubts, just like everyone else. As much as I hated one particular character, by the end, I had to admit that even he was not entirely a monster.

If you have noticed that I haven't provided a synopsis for more than the first book, it is simply because I can't think of a way to provide one without giving away too much. There is much I would like to mention and discuss--the trilogy cries out for discussion, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone. What I will say is that the trilogy is all at once a coming of age story and a commentary about humanity in all its ugliness as well as beauty. Through his characters, Patrick Ness brings the ambiguity of morality to the forefront.

I vaguely recall complaints about the spelling and slang in the novels when I first heard about the books a couple of years ago. I hardly noticed it, being so immersed in Todd's world. Thinking back on it, I actually think such language choices by the author were quite fitting given Todd's inability to read and his lack of a proper education.

I cried. I held my breath. I found myself praying for a good outcome. When all was said and done, and I reached the final sentence in the trilogy, I wanted more. Not because the book didn't end well, but rather because I wasn't ready to let Todd go. I wasn't ready to leave the New World behind. Not yet.

You can learn more about Patrick Ness and his books at the author's website.

Source: I bought an e-book copies of these books and short story for my own enjoyment.

© 2011, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I was recently shamed that I hadn't read this trilogy yet, so I got the audios for the first and third from the library (they didn't have the second, so I will have to read that one). I've heard nothing really bad about any of these books, except for the slang. You've gotten me excited!

  2. This has become one of my favourite series EVER. So glad you loved it too, Wendy!

  3. I'm on the other end of the spectrum regarding the first book. I forced myself to finish it and knew full well that I would not be continuing with the series. It was incredibly negative, violent and contained way too much swearing. Those characteristics did not make an enjoyable read for me. I'm happy for you and others that did enjoy it, though. :)

  4. I'm with Nymeth - it's also my favorite ever!

  5. I have this entire trilogy and NEED to make the time to read it. The buzz has been incredible on these books, and my kids loved them too. I am so glad that they entranced you and that you loved them. I can't wait to see what I think!

  6. So many people have loved this book but I'm just not convinced it's for me. I do have the first book and need to give it a try to find out. I'm glad it rocked your world!

  7. I'm so glad you love these books as much as I did! I have become a Chaos Walking evangelist, passing the books on to my dad, my husband, and my best friend's husband - and they've all loved them, too. My husband, in particular, couldn't put them down - and that's saying a lot, as he doesn't usually read long books. Or anything but westerns. LOL

  8. I've been wanting to read this series. My son did and really didn't enjoy them, but most of the adults that have read them liked them.

    BTW...every time I click on your blog (past couple weeks) this voice starts up that I won something and my virus detector said that you have something like mastermind attached to your site??? Has anyone else told you that?

  9. I read a lot of rave reviews on this trilogy; and I have them all in my pile. I just need to find the right time and mood to read them! ;)

    I'm glad you enjoyed them all, Wendy!

  10. Wow, the trilogy sounds good! I'll have to read it after my exams. I'm just wondering though, about the language issue (like what @Thoughs of Joy mentioned), exactly how much swearing is inside? And how terrible is it? One of my quirks is that too much foul language just makes me give up on books.

  11. This is a trilogy that I have had on my radar for awhile now. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much!

  12. I enjoyed this trilogy overall. I am glad you did, too!

  13. This was such a great series! I didn't like the first book until I got past the first 50+ pages, and then I was completely absorbed by the story.

  14. I think my husband would really enjoy this trilogy. I have a hard time moving on to another book if I read multiple books in a series at one time. The characters begin to feel like they're a part of you and it's difficult to let the go. Glad you really enjoyed these books!

  15. All right. I can't afford not to read this after reading your review. Sounds every bit the type of books I'd love.

  16. Oh boy! this sounds super good..of course it's going on my wish list.

  17. I love when a books makes me want to rush out and read more by the author and/or finish the series immediately. This one has been on my wish list for ages.

  18. I love when a books makes me want to rush out and read more by the author and/or finish the series immediately. This one has been on my wish list for ages.

  19. I definitely need to add these to my wishlist. Thank you for the review!


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