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Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking, #3)Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warning: no spoilers for Monsters of Men, but there are some mild spoilers for the earlier books in the series. If you haven’t already, go read The Knife of Never Letting Go and come back later.

I can’t imagine reading The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer and not being anxious to read the conclusion to the trilogy. Anxious is really the right word, since Ness has shown that he isn’t afraid to do the heart-breaking thing (“Ow, Todd?”) or leave friends on opposite sides of a war, or have them come face to face with their own faults and failures. But I also didn’t think that the ending would be hopeless – I knew it would be pretty grim, but I didn’t think he’d leave us in despair.

Whether or not I was overly optimistic wasn’t settled until almost the end, but despite the anxiety, this was a much faster read than The Ask and the Answer. The Knife was so fast-paced that The Ask felt glacial in comparison, and now things pick up a little bit. Part of it is that end-of-a-trilogy feeling, where you know there will be at least a little resolution. Everything was being set up in The Ask, and now we see the results. We see what war does to Todd and Viola, and it’s no spoiler to say that it brings out both the best and the worst in them.

The first book had one narrator, Todd. The second book added Viola’s point of view. And here, we get a completely different third perspective. Ness does a great job of making each voice distinct – Todd has particular speech patterns, Viola’s narrative is a little smoother, and that third narrator could never be mistaken for anyone else. The three perspectives work amazingly well, and of course they manage to create plenty of tension as we switch back and forth at an often rapid pace.

It’s a war story, and a story about growing up, and a science fiction story, and a story about family and friendships and first love and enemies and choices and cultural identity. It manages to be both entertaining and thoughtful, and although the series isn’t necessarily an easy read, it’s pretty damn compelling.

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October 2010

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