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And here’s my review of The Knife of Never Letting Go from last year, just to keep things all in one place.   And for the record, Manchee is still my favorite fictional animal.

The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One (Chaos Walking) The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One by Patrick Ness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Teensy-tiny mild spoiler at the end – nothing specific.

Here’s a book where form and content are wonderfully matched. Todd’s first person narrative is gripping and suspenseful, and the use of an imagined dialect is perfect for the world he’s coming from. Noise is visually depicted on the page with changes in font and size that never feel gimmicky – the effect of turning the page and seeing the Noise Todd hears as he walks through Prentisstown is much like the shock of turning the page and seeing Octavian Nothing’s scratched out words. Plus, the sometimes choppy sentences give a real sense of immediacy, and this gets turned up a notch for the more tense scenes – and there are plenty of them!

The characters are fantastic and vivid, including all the people Todd and Viola meet along the way, and as someone who’s not an animal person, I have to give special mention to Todd’s dog, Manchee. He was probably my favorite character, and despite his limited abilities with language, he had an incredibly strong “voice.” As Todd tells us in the opening sentence, “The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.” But oh boy does he come alive on the page.

This is a huge page-turner, and despite its length moved along at a nice brisk pace, with plenty of action. There is a fair amount of violence, but it’s a source of anguish for the characters, rather than feeling gratuitous. There’s plenty of moral complexity in the story, and it’s incredibly thoughtful for how action-packed it is. For me, it’s that combo of emotional complexity and fast pace that really make it stand out. Plus, the dystopian elements aren’t too heavy handed, and the dash of sci-fi adds interest without detracting from the story.

Oh, did I mention it’s a cliff-hanger? Plenty is left for the next volume, in terms of Plot, but there are smaller loose ends – like knowing more about the Spackle – that seem just as compelling. But really, by the last few pages, I was so invested in characters surviving that I didn’t care about anything else.

View all my reviews >>

I finally got my copy of The Ask and the Answer, perfectly timed since I’d just finished rereading The Knife of Never Letting Go, but I’m practicing supreme self-discipline and finishing up another book first.  I have way too many books going, stuck in odd places and picked up at random.  The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey is somewhere in my car, The Lincolns is sitting next to my bed – and those are just the most recent ones.

I started Suzanne Crowley’s The Stolen One the other night, in a moment of desperately wanting something girlier than what I’ve been reading.  It’s set during the reign of Elizabeth I, and the cover features a very glam and clean heroine with enormous hair, but I’m halfway through and it’s pretty compelling.  And I don’t want another book on my conscience while I read The Ask and the Answer.  And I needed something without action or chase scenes or moral dilemmas about self-defense.  Embroidery and period costumes and family secrets and several dashing gentlemen?  A refreshing change.

Reading Eragon and The Knife of Never Letting Go one right after the other was an interesting study in contrasts – they both feature a young man on the run dealing with moral dilemmas.  Eragon has no problem killing multiple villainous characters attacking him, by magic or swordfighting – but the second that he’s not in immediate danger, he’s in favor of knocking someone out rather than running them through.  He objects when another character beheads a slavetrader who is in retreat – although they just killed several henchmen.

I got the sense that Paolini was desperately trying to develop a character for Eragon – a man of growing moral principles, etc.  I would have bought into him as a character much more if he’d also experienced pangs over killing people in the fight scenes – sort of an “I did what I had to do, but I wish it hadn’t been necessary” type of thing.

Todd, in The Knife of Never Letting Go, experiences much more complex questions.  He wants to kill the character who threatens his life, and he has several opportunities, knife in hand.  But he’s reluctant to kill – a reluctance that becomes more poignant and more complex as the story progresses.  It causes problems but it also defines his character.  When he does kill, he suffers, reliving the moment over and over.  Even when killing is an act of self-defense, the characters in the story respond in complex ways, feeling both relief and guilt.

Good grief, I feel sorry for Todd just thinking about all the things that will happen to him in the next book – I don’t know what they’ll be, but I’m sure it won’t be easy.

Another reason to put off reading the sequel: once it’s over, I’ll just want the third book.  Sigh.

So I’ve been hearing good things about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains for a while now (and man does it have a fab cover!) but I’ve got this problem – every time I see the book or think about it, I get that song stuck in my head  – “Chains, my baby’s got me locked up in chains…”  Except that’s the only line I can remember.  And it is SO inappropriate for the book.  Anyway, after finishing up The Knife of Never Letting Go last night, it’s next on my list, and I’m resigned to never getting the song out of my head.

I’ve also been getting it stuck in my head whenever I think about chains on my car – which seems like a problem that will not go away since it started snowing again today.  Snow is so much nicer when you don’t have to go to work.  But ice is never nice.  Oh, I crack myself up.  This is weather that demands you curl up with your book and your cup of coffee and only leave the house to frolic in the snow, before coming back in for more book and more coffee.

I kinda went all gushy over The Knife of Never Letting Go, but I think it deserves it.  Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads:

Book One (Chaos Walking) The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One by Patrick Ness


My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Teensy-tiny mild spoiler at the end – nothing specific.

Here’s a book where form and content are wonderfully matched. Todd’s first person narrative is gripping and suspenseful, and the use of an imagined dialect is perfect for the world he’s coming from. Noise is visually depicted on the page with changes in font and size that never feel gimmicky – the effect of turning the page and seeing the Noise Todd hears as he walks through Prentisstown is much like the shock of turning the page and seeing Octavian Nothing’s scratched out words. Plus, the sometimes choppy sentences give a real sense of immediacy, and this gets turned up a notch for the more tense scenes – and there are plenty of them!

The characters are fantastic and vivid, including all the people Todd and Viola meet along the way, and as someone who’s not an animal person, I have to give special mention to Todd’s dog, Manchee. He was probably my favorite character, and despite his limited abilities with language, he had an incredibly strong “voice.” As Todd tells us in the opening sentence, “The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.” But oh boy does he come alive on the page.

This is a huge page-turner, and despite its length moved along at a nice brisk pace, with plenty of action. There is a fair amount of violence, but it’s a source of anguish for the characters, rather than feeling gratuitous. There’s plenty of moral complexity in the story, and it’s incredibly thoughtful for how action-packed it is. For me, it’s that combo of emotional complexity and fast pace that really make it stand out. Plus, the dystopian elements aren’t too heavy handed, and the dash of sci-fi adds interest without detracting from the story.

Oh, did I mention it’s a cliff-hanger? Plenty is left for the next volume, in terms of Plot, but there are smaller loose ends – like knowing more about the Spackle – that seem just as compelling. But really, by the last few pages, I was so invested in characters surviving that I didn’t care about anything else.

View all my reviews.

I ought to be writing Christmas cards, but I’m facing my annual dilemma – I don’t send a lot, and I never use up a whole box in one year, which means that every year, I’m using up at least one or two previous year’s cards – and that I risk sending the same person the same card twice.  Yeah, there are worse things that could happen, especially when they are cards I like.  And most people probably forget, but still.  I feel weird.

I’m reading The Knife of Never Letting Go and just zipping right along.  The language and style really fit the story well, and there’s plenty of suspense – and it just might contain my favorite fictional dog.  I’m not an animal person at all – but Manchee cracks me up.  As the opening sentence tells us, “The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.”  But somehow, Manchee still manages to have a fabulous voice in the story.  And I can’t help but admire a YA book with an epigraph from Middlemarch:  “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”  PERFECT for the book.

I have a new pet peeve, thanks to the snow and cold weather.  The main roads were pretty clear yesterday, but the back streets were still icey, so I put chains on my dinky tin-can car before driving to work.  Which of course meant that I was driving 25 the entire way to work, and back.  Which I can’t help, because I have CHAINS.  Because I don’t want to meet an icey death a block away from my house.  But whenever I was driving down a 2+ lane road, in the slow lane, other drivers felt the need to tailgate me.  Arg.  Today I am chain-free and am hoping against an icey death.  We’ll see.

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