After our mixed thoughts on the first of the Chaos Walking books, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Mum and I finished our buddy read of the series last month. I wanted to share some quick thoughts with you, though this could easily turn into a ranting review if I had the energy.
To avoid spoilers, I’m just going to say that these books directly follow the events of the books prior, rather than try to blurb them. In the same vein, I’m not going to say much of anything about the plots either.
The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
My Edition: Paperback – 553 pages – 2009 – Candlewick Press – IBSN: 9780763676179
Mum*: The development of more characters made this book easier to read than the first, and having another character’s point of view gave me some respite from still annoying Todd.
I agree – book two now features alternating chapters from Todd and Viola’s points of view. We get to see two different aspects of the world and it was interesting and kept the pace moving. While Mum notes Todd as still annoying, this was the point where he started to become annoying for me.
Mum: Much like the first book, the most interesting and/or sympathetic characters are killed off. While I can tolerate Viola more than Todd, neither of them tug at my heartstrings – the animals are the most endearing characters. Is that purposeful? Maybe I was supposed to take away that humans are so inherently flawed that only animals are deserving of care/sympathy.
I’m not sure that’s the message Ness was going for – that only animals deserve our sympathy. But I will agree, now that I’ve finished the series in its entirety, my favorite characters were the animals. I mean, who wouldn’t like a talking animal? They also seem to learn a lot faster than humans.
As if the scales were lifted from my eyes, I finally began to see how annoying Todd was and I just wanted more time with the animal characters (horses this time). While I gave him a pass for the first book, I expected some growth for him here. He’s learned more about how the world really works, he’s learned the truth about some things, he’s learned some people can’t be trusted. Yet this dink keeps making the same damn mistakes! Fool me once, Todd; fool me once.
I did still enjoy the action in this one, but the addition of some characters just gave me more cause to groan and roll my eyes. As usual though, Ness created something that was incredibly readable and it didn’t take long for me to finish the 500+ pages. Despite my growing frustrations, I had to know how everything ended.
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
My Edition: Paperback – 643 pages – 2010 – Candlewick Press – ISBN: 9780763676193
Mum: This was such a letdown. The switching back and forth between three voices ruined any flow the book might have had – it chopped up and regurgitated all the action.
Agreed! Two characters were fine, but three was too many. Not to mention, rather than chapters that were at least a few pages, sometimes it would flop back and forth between character POVs after as little as half a page. It was so stilted. I really hated it.
Mum: I like characters who learn from their mistakes, so ultimately I couldn’t get behind the main character of this trilogy. He didn’t come across as innocent or having some pure soul, just naive and a little dense.
I’m finally fully on board with this opinion now. After two books of Todd being a complete ass-head, I can’t defend him anymore! I feel like Viola lost a little something in this book too. Not sure what, but she just wasn’t compelling anymore. Maybe it’s because I was just over the series.
Mum: There was a return of a character towards the end, and I really didn’t even care at that point.
Same. It was so obvious this was going to happen too.
Mum: Finally, the ending made no sense; the bad guy acted out of character at the last second. Weird.
The end felt so rushed. The whole book took forever to build up to this final scene and then it was oddly over in old a few pages when the villain decided to act in a way that made zero sense for not only himself, but anyone. What a cop-out!
Also the “twist” – eff that. What another ridiculous grab for feels. It gets even more ridiculous if you read the short story included after the ending. I groaned a lot during this book and even tossed it aside at one point because I was so annoyed with the way things were going.
Mum: The premise of the series was good, the action was almost non-stop, I kept reading to see what would happen next, and yet, the books failed when it came to the characters. I was constantly annoyed or disappointed. Why did Todd love Viola? Why did Viola love Todd? I have no clue!
Me neither Mum, me neither. While Todd and Viola were obviously close throughout the series and had strong feelings for each other, I didn’t see this as a love story. It seems like Ness didn’t either, until the third book, when the two were suddenly obsessed with each other. There’s even a half-assed attempt at a love triangle. But it all seemed so pointless and forced! Why couldn’t Todd and Viola just be really good friends? Does every YA book NEED a friggen romance!?
While the first book felt fun and fresh (for me, at least), as the series progressed, my enjoyment lessened and my annoyance grew. The characters were all terrible, their decisions often made no sense, and the “love story” was so painfully forced. UGH.
And yet, and yet…I kept reading! I’ve never read 1,800-something pages so quickly before! It’s like some sort of witchcraft.
Final thoughts from Mum from our text convo: Weird that it was such an easily readable series with sooo many flaws.
If you couldn’t already tell, this isn’t a series myself (nor Mum) would recommend. While the first book was fun, the feeling was fleeting and the series really let me down. If you love YA fantasy/action/sci-fi/dystopia/whatever this genre-bending series is, maybe you’ll like it. We all know it’s not usually my thing. I’ll never stop giving Ness credit for writing books that are incredibly readable, but I think I’m going to part ways with his work at this point.
*This time I just used the reviews she posted on Goodreads rather than torturing her into writing anymore more about these damn books.