The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, The Knife of Never Letting Go. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Ask and the Answer was written by Patrick Ness and first published in 2009. The novel follows on from exactly where The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008) left off and so you really need to read the series in order to have any idea of what is going on. The Ask and the Answer was awarded the 2009 Costa Children’s Book Award and is followed by Monsters of Men (2010).

Todd came to Haven in search of a cure but has found only more suffering. Mayor Prentiss has managed to take control of the city in a bloodless coup and renamed it New Prentisstown, appointing himself as its sole ruler. Todd finds himself immediately separated from the critically wounded Viola and forced to work alongside his enemies. The only hope he has to cling to is the Mayor’s promise that she will be safe as long as Todd remains obedient.

Meanwhile, Viola wakes up in clinic staffed entirely by women and quickly learns that Haven was not the utopia that it seemed to be. Although the women did not meet the fate of those in Prentisstown, they were still always viewed as second class citizens. Things seem bleaker still as Mayor Prentiss’s men begins to round up the women, passing strict laws regarding when they can be seen in public.

Yet not everyone is eager to subscribe to the Mayor’s new world order. A resistance movement known as the Answer appear in the night, planting bombs in public places in order to disrupt the regime, and a lone Spackle slave begins to plot his violent revenge against those who have wronged him…

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The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first instalment of the hugely successful Chaos Walking Trilogy. First published in 2008, it was Patrick Ness’s first novel for young adults and won the Booktrust Teenage Prize, the Guardian Award and the James Triptree, Jr. Award in the same year. It has since been followed by two sequels:  The Ask and the Answer (2009) and Monsters of Men (2010).

The story is set on a planet known as New World which was settled by religious pilgrims around twenty years prior to the novel. Todd Hewitt is twelve years old and is only one month away from becoming a man. He lives in the isolated community of Prentisstown – a place where all the women have been killed by a deadly plague. As a side effect of this disease, all animals have also been granted the ability to talk (though most do not have much to say) and the men have been made unable to hide their thoughts from each other. The sound of their inner-most thoughts, called the Noise, is heard endlessly throughout the town and so there are no secrets between them.

One day, while exploring the swamps around his home, Todd comes across something impossible – a patch of silence within the Noise. Fleeing home in a panic, Todd’s Noise inadvertently reveals what he has discovered to the rest of the town. This is a problem. The Mayor and Aaron, the town’s preacher, have always sworn that there is no silence anywhere. Now Todd has uncovered their lie.

When he reaches home, Todd discovers that his guardians have been preparing for him to escape the town for a long time. The sudden danger that has befallen him serves to speed their hand. As the Mayor’s men ransack his home, Todd is forced to escape into the wilderness with only his dog, Manchee, for company. Although he does not understand what is going on, he is given a map to the next town and a simple instruction: You must warn them.

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