Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss.
Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order.
But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer?
And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode ...
Picking up immediately after the cliff hanger ending to THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO, Mayor Prentiss and his men have taken control not just of Haven, but of the whole planet and Todd has no choice but to trust the critically wounded Viola to his care. Locked up with Haven’s former mayor, Todd is desperate for news of Viola but the Mayor is more interested in Todd’s control over his Noise and his inability to kill. Despite himself, Todd is drawn into the Mayor’s plans - plans that involve keeping the women segregated from the men and darker plans for the hapless Spackle who are being kept in awful conditions - and is forced to team up with Davy Prentiss.
Meanwhile Viola is being looked after by Mistress Coyle and a group of Haven’s female healers. But Mistress Coyle has other plans – plans that involve bombs ... As Haven spins into insurgency and counter-insurgency, Todd and Viola face a struggle not only to find each other again, but to remain true to themselves in the madness.
The second in the Chaos Walking Trilogy is a satisfying read, essentially an examination of the difference between terrorism and justifiable armed resistance. It’s interesting that neither side of the divide is portrayed in sympathetic terms. In fact, Mistress Coyle is shown as a mirror image to Mayor Prentiss, matching his cunning and ruthlessness and prepared to up the stakes and use anyone as it suits her cause.
Todd and Viola each struggle to deal with the situation that they’re faced with and each forced into compromises that they never thought they’d have to make. Todd in particular is portrayed unsentimentally with Ness doing a wonderful job of showing the compromises that he makes (often for good reasons) until he finds himself performing terrible acts.
There are many dark scenes in the books – the most disturbing for me being a torture scene involving Viola, but a scene where the Spackle are forced to wear cattle bands that permanently cut them had me shuddering as well.
My only nitpick is the way in which Todd deliberately doesn’t try to read (or have someone read for him) his mother’s diary – a book that would give him the truth to resist the Mayor’s plans. For me, this failure became very artificial very quickly. Other than this, it’s a stunning sequel that doesn’t disappoint.
A stunning book that makes you think about terrorism and justified resistance, this is an emotionally satisfying, fascinating, intelligent and exciting read. Todd and Viola are great characters, the scope of the story huge and it’s a book that deserves the many awards that it’s won (including the Costa Children’s Book Award).