Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review: The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)
By Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press 2009
519 pages
From the library

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking, #2)

Spoiler Alert: There will be spoilers for The Knife of Never Letting Go,the first book in this seriesNew to Chaos Walking? Check out my review of The Knife of Never Letting Go here.

Todd and Viola finally make it to Haven after a long and dangerous journey only to discover that its citizens have peacefully surrendered to Mayor Prentiss and his men. They are separated and Todd is forced to work with Davy, who is Prentiss's son and the man who tried to kill Viola. She is taken to a House of Healing and gets to know the women who work there, specifically the stern and mysterious Mistress Coyle. Viola discovers that some residents are not as compliant as they seem and becomes a part of the resistance movement.

Patrick Ness keeps writing incredible stuff in the second book in this trilogy. One of the things that impressed me the most was his character development. In this book in particular, we see both Viola and Todd make decisions that they (and we) know are wrong although they seem like the best choice at that moment. We also meet characters who are not easily categorized as good or bad. In two instances in particular, I was floored by the humanity that we see in one "bad guy" and the ruthlessness of one of the "good guys."

The second book in this series is much more insular than its predecessor. While The Knife of Never Letting Go saw Todd and Viola traveling over great distances and encountering a lot of people, this book takes place within and around Haven. While it might seem less thrilling to not have them on the run, Ness actualy manages to elevate the level of tension. There is nowhere for them to go and, at times, they wonder if they really want to get away from Haven and its enigmatic ruler. Todd and Viola are never sure who can be trusted. Perhaps they can't even trust each other.

Much of this book is about a town living under occupation. The residents of Haven, now known as  New Prentisstown, have surrendered voluntarily. They believed that surviving and living under the rule of President Prentiss would be preferable to the slaughter that Prentiss wrought on other towns that resisted. And for a time, it seemed like it might be so. Prenitss spares the life of town's former mayor and even bandages Todd's wounds when he first comes to town. But the President's plans are not for good - men and women are separated, people are tortured for information, and his promises to keep Todd and Viola safe as long as they cooperate are not to be trusted.

Patrick Ness manages to avoid the second book slump with The Ask and the Answer. The tension stays high, the characters continue to evolve, and the Ness writes a science fiction story with situations that have terrible and insightful relevance to real life. I can't wait to see how the story of Todd and Viola concludes in Monsters of Men. 


  1. You're right--this series sounds quite good! Maybe I'll pick up the first one and pack it with me on my upcoming trip.

    1. I think it would be a great choice! But I would advise you to have the second one on hand when you get home. It's hard to wait to read the next one!

  2. I just commented on Brooke's (Blog of the Litwits) post on The Knife of Never Letting Go. I was saying I hoped the literal running and whiplash pace slowed down just a touch in The Ask and the Answer. It looks like that is the case, and I'm excited to have them a bit more encapsulated but still with plenty of tension. I have this book already on my Nook, I just needed an emotional break after the first book. Whew!

    1. I completely understand that! I've finished the series now and I really want to read A Monster Calls, but I think I need some time to recover.

    2. Definitely! A Monster Calls rung me out.