Title: The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)
Author: Patrick Ness
I picked up the sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go because I was curious about the story, not because I was hooked. I was expecting more of the same, but this book was much better. I found that I connected more deeply with the characters, and with the scenario, than I had in Book 1. This is partly thanks to the alternating Point of View chapters, allowing the action to be seen through the eyes of both leading characters, and partly because the setting, and the action, is more interesting.
This is a book about power: how to win it, and how to hold onto it. There’s a ruthless dictator, manipulating people to stay in control, and a guerilla force using bombs and stealth to undermine his position. Todd and Viola, the girl he meets in Book 1, are both drawn into the conflict, and end up working on opposite sides. The tension built up between their individual chapters allows the reader to see what none of the characters can see – something approaching the full story, from both points of view.
There is cruelty and torture, but there is also friendship and kindness and sacrifice. As the hostility between the two factions builds, it is not clear where the plot is heading. The final chapters are an edge-of-the-seat read, and the conclusion is very clever, bringing together all the threads of the story so far into a satisfying cliffhanger.
The big ideas from the first book – the Noise of the men’s thoughts, the death of the women, the alien enemy, the talking animals, and the isolation of life on New World – are developed in The Ask and the Answer, enhancing the reader’s understanding of the setting and deepening the connection with the characters.
This is a more compelling, more complex story than the road-trip plot of The Knife of Never Letting Go, and as more of the secrets and lies are uncovered, the characters and the readers are left with more questions than answers. The main characters are deeply involved in their opposing sides in the conflict, and any moral outrage has to be pushed aside with the realisation that everyone is taking part in the fighting. Where The Knife of Never Letting Go was a black-and-white story, The Ask and the Answer sees the world in shades of grey.
Bring on Book 3, and hopefully some answers!
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Review cross-posted to GoodReads.
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