The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)
by Patrick Ness
If you haven't read Book 1 and hate spoilers, do not read this review!
There is absolutely no way to review Book 2 without mentioning the events and characters in Book 1.
If you really want to know:
“We are the choices we make. And have to make. We aren’t anything else.”
The Ask and the Answer is a little bit different than The Knife of Never Letting Go...The story pretty much starts where The Knife's cliffy lets us hanging... Viola's life hanging in the balance and Todd facing down evil Mayor Prentiss with no hope in sight. But in part 2 of Chaos Walking, Viola and Todd become separated, and so the story is told from two perspectives. His and hers.
Through Todd we learn Haven surrendered to Mayor Prentiss, who then changed Haven's name to New Prentisstown and declared himself President of the New World. Mayor Prentiss is a sick twist, no doubt about it, and he didn't waste time learning that the best way to keep Todd in line is by holding Viola hostage. Todd is sent to work, under Davy Prentiss Jr's supervision, as a slave-driver, keeping the Spackle prisoners clearing the land.
Through Viola, we meet the healers, and a new character by the name of Mistress Coyle. Mistress Coyle tries to develop a relationship with Viola, asking her questions about the new settlers coming in, and pumping for information about the invading army, and trying to get Viola to understand that the decision to surrender was not a unanimous one. Unfortunately for Viola, it takes her too long to figure out Mistress Coyle isn't the beacon of hope she promises to be.
As a cold war turns red hot, Chaos Walking dives deeper into darker themes. Men and Women are separated by thought in book 1, but in book 2 they're separated by opinion, by walls, by curfews. And as President Prentiss's dictatorship thrives, he takes the Spackle servants of Haven and turns them into chattel. As President Prentiss begins to settle into his new role, revolutionaries flee, organize, and fight back; people get caught in the cross fire and terror spreads... Bringing the thin line that separates terrorism and revolution under stress.
I loved getting a closer look at Davy Prentiss Jr,. In book 1, he depicted as being as awful as his father and in book 2 we get to see why that is. First he's raised by a sociopath, then he's cast in the role of forever trying and failing to achieve his father's love... And as the new president tries to keep his new government together, the more it becomes blatantly obvious that blood's got little to do with family.
Todd and Viola are put under increasing pressure to conform and behave, so the other may live, so they might someday reunite... Even as they hold their survival first, they begin to recognize the cost of choosing sides in a war... The cost of lives of those stuck in the middle.
And just as the story is becomes overloaded with moral and emotional dilemmas, just as a full scale war for possession of the New World begins-- Another cliffhanger ending.
The only reason this story missed out on another five star rating: I felt the author became inconsistent with Todd's narration. he only remembered once in awhile that Todd couldn't spell big words...Although that may have been an attempt at removing the last of the humor and evolving the story into more serious material... I was also a little peeved at another cliffhanger.