Review: Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness

Posted 21 June, 2012 by Pushy in Blog, Pushy, Pushy Book Review / 9 Comments

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Genre: YA Science Fiction
Publication: May 5th 2008 by Walker
Audiobook borrowed from library
Get your own: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
synopsis from Goodreads
Series Rating:

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

A brave new world where secrets are impossible…or are they?

I Know What You’re Thinking…

Prentisstown is by far one of the strangest places I have ever been to as a reader.  It’s a town populated only by men.  All the women, Todd Hewitt tell us early on, were killed by the same germ that gave the men of Prentisstown the Noise.  And in this dusty, po-dunk town in the middle of nowhere on New World, Todd grows up surrounded by rough, sad, often violent men.

And yet, there are a few spots of light in his world.  He has Ben and Cillian, foster fathers who love him (even if Cillian has the unfortunate duty of playing the “bad-guy” in the parenting roles), he has his dog, Manchee, who also has Noise (which at times was so supremely funny), and his birthday is approaching, which means soon he’ll no longer be the last boy in Prentisstown.

But in what is to become a leitmotif throughout this book and the entire series, Todd soon looses the thing he cherishes most, his father, Ben.

On the Run

Through a series of events, Todd is forced to leave town, leave his fathers behind and flee, with only his dog and a book (written by his mother, saved for him by Ben and which he is unable to read).  He flees the Mayor and his men, for what crime he doesn’t know and the preacher, Aaron, who is most likely simply insane.  But he also flees to help protect a miraculous discovery:  a girl.

Todd barely knows what to think when he meets Viola, he has no memory of any women and only knows of them from the Noise of the men in town.  And yet they must learn to trust one another as they run, desperate to find hope at the end of the road.

The Journey

Todd’s journey in this book is definitely one of awakening.  He must discern which of the truths he grew up with are really true and which are lies.  He must learn how to think for himself and trust his instincts, and he must learn what it truly means to become a man, something of significance within the culture of Prentisstown.

Viola is on a journey too, although we only see it through Todd’s eyes.  Lost on this world full of men who’s every thought comes blazing out at her, chased by a mad preacher who thinks she’s both some sort of sign and perfect sacrifice, she must discover what her place in this new world will be and who it is  that she can trust.

And the hits keep rolling

This book is chock-a-bock full of action, surprises and one cliff-hanger after another, the last of which will make you ETERNALLY glad, as I was, that you’re reading this after all three books in the trilogy are available!  The villains are pure evil and, like all evil things, they’re REALLY, REALLY hard to kill.  You’ll see what I mean when you read the book. *wink*

As I listened to this book, I was sucked into this strange world, peopled with equally strange characters.  They’re so vivid and wild, strange and yet familiar, I quickly found my favorites (both ones I loved and hated) and grew quite emotionally attached to them.

The ending will leave you clutching your heart and quite possibly an emotional wreck, but you’ll love every second of this ride.  You’ve denied yourself too long.  SERIOUSLY, go out and pick this book up TODAY!!!


From this point on there are spoilers if you haven’t read the first book.

The Ask and The Answer

Publication: May 4th 2009 by Walker
Audiobook borrowed from library
Get your own: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
synopsis from Goodreads

We were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her – But there weren’t no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men…

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…

“The Ask and the Answer” is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the “Chaos Walking” trilogy.

If you were Todd, what would YOU do to save the girl you love?

Save her…and I’ll do whatever you want.

The Ask and The Answer is by far the darkest book in this series.  The Mayor has beat Todd and Viola to Haven, overrun it and Viola is near dead.  To save her, Todd must bargain his very soul.

And with that cheery beginning, Todd and Viola embark on a different kind of journey — one that explores the light and dark within every soul and just what a good person will do in the very worst of circumstances.

What doesn’t kill you…

In the kiln of the Mayor’s evil oppression, Todd’s innocence is quickly burned away, forcing him to choose between finding and betraying himself.

But in this tension-filled world the Mayor has created, Viola also is fired into a new, stronger version of herself.  As Todd is forced to work with the Mayor, Viola is trapped with Mistress Coyle, a former resistance leader turned healer.  At her side, Viola learns about the toll of power on a person, what a leader must do to save her people and what the line is between resistance and a war of attrition.

Dark and Lovely

By far, one of the best parts of this book is that we finally get inside Viola’s head.  A beautiful foil to Todd’s voice, Viola gives a fresh and concise perspective on the events of this book.  Together, Todd and Viola’s experiences weave a tale both dark and lovely.  Be prepared for Mr. Ness to break your heart throughout this book.  Be prepared also to be completely incapable of walking away.  You’ve been warned.  Speaking of which….


From this point on there are spoilers if you haven’t read the first or second books.

Monsters of Men

Publication: September 28th 2010 by Candlewick Press
Audiobook borrowed from library
Get your own: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
synopsis from Goodreads

“War,” says the Mayor. “At last.” Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they’re so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await? But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge – the electrifying finale to the award-winning “Chaos Walking” trilogy, Monsters of Men is a heart-stopping novel about power, survival, and the devastating realities of war.

As the world around them dissolves into chaos, can Viola and Todd emerge whole or will they be destroyed as well?

War…at last

As this story begins, the Mayor (or President as he styles himself) gets the thing he has apparently been working toward for the past two books:  war.  And after his Hitler-esque behavior in The Ask and The Answer, believe me when I tell you that’s a pretty scary thing.  But since Mr. Ness seems to delight in having his readers rip their own hearts out and rend them on the pages of his glittering prose, you’ll eat it up, masochistic as this pleasure is.

New book, new voice

In this book we get to hear the voice of one of the Spackle, the indigenous species of New World, one whom Todd has an unpleasant history with, one who brings the perspective of the persecuted acutely to light.  We also get to meet two other members of the crew from Viola’s ship, sent to find her and her parents, who become quickly embroiled in the bitter conflicts of New World.  I was particularly fascinated to watch how they, a man and a woman, dealt with the complication of Noise.  It was an interesting look into what it must have been like for those first settlers of New World, providing some additional depth to the personalities of Mayor Prentiss and Mistress Coyle.

Stop fighting it and submit to the pain

Because this book is the most deliciously painful story ever.  I cried nearly continuously throughout it.  Although by the time I got to the final book, I couldn’t quit it for the world.

As fast paced and filled with twists and turns and the previous two, I devoured this book at lightening speed, looking for my HEA.

Bewitched Rating

Bottom Line

Raw, heart-breaking and an excellent view into the dark heart of humanity, this series is gripping and intense and above all one of the best stories I’ve read in my entire life.  It gets the creepy, super awesome rating above!

Get your own audio copy at
The Knife of Never Letting Go: (unabridged, 11hrs 55 min)
The Ask and The Answer: (unabridged, 12hrs 48 min)
Monsters of Men: (unabridged, 14hrs 27 min)

The audiobook just brings the reader closer to the drama in this series.  The narrators, Nick Podehl, Angela Dawe and MacLeod Andrews, are brilliant, ABSOLUTELY brilliant in their performances.  In particular, I must prostrate myself before the genius of Nick Podehl and his portrayal of the inimitable Wilth, my favorite character in the entire series and a man I just want to hug.  SERIOUSLY.

In my humble opinion, the audio-version is THE ONLY way to experience this series.  Pick it up today!!!!

Additional Notes

Need just a little more evidence of Patrick Ness’s prowess as an author?  How about some awards?  His most recent novel (also YA), A Monster Calls, won both the Carnegie AND the Greenway, prestigious awards for the best in literature in the UK.  And, his latest book is GORGEOUSLY illustrated.  You’ll definitely want to check it out.

Now I’m curious, how much pain will you put up with for the love a fictional character?  What book or series has really put YOU through the wringer the way the Chaos Walking PWNED me? Share your pain in the comments!
Now go and get lost…in a book!
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Lover of words and authors; absolute fan girl of books! Give me a good story, with characters I can love (and hate) and I'll follow you anywhere. Sing me a song of worlds I can dream of, and I'll listen forever.

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9 Responses to “Review: Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness”

  1. Okay, I’ll admit, read the first review and didn’t read the others, because I really want to read Patrick Ness’ books. The Knife of Never Letting Go, just the title makes me want to read it! I know it’s been out for awhile, but I really want to read this series back to back like you did, or hear it. I must say again, this was a powerful review you wrote! If I had been dithering a little about this you definitely would have convinced me to read this series. Excellent review!

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    hrose2931 6/21/2012

    Sorry I didn’t answer your question. I don’t know of any characters that have left me feeling like that. Not in a series. I’ve wanted an HEA for people, but it takes so long for a series to come out that the desire kind of wanes. Oh, looking in my reviews, I cried my eyes out when Logan died seemingly over and over in Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready. It just felt like she was always reminded of losing him. Even into the third book he carries over. That’s two characters I was desperate for an HEA, Aura and Zachary. Especially at the end of Shine. They might be one of my favorite couples of all time.

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  2. So I’m a little confused. This series gets five dolls, but they’re the 1 star and half star dolls. I take it from your review that you like the series. Is the choice of dolls meant to reflect the fact that it’s a dark series? If so, it works well. I got anxious just from looking at the rating. Emanating evil… 🙂
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    Danny 6/21/2012

    Hehe , let me answer for Pushy! I created this “creepy dark 5 start” rating a while ago for darker awesome series because I felt that those shiny happy dolls didn’t got well with a creepy series:)) I actually created them for The Hunt!

    So yes, Pushy gave this series 5 stars and took the creepy rating for the edgy darkness :)))
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  3. Omg I’ve had this series on my Kobo for over a year and it sounds so much like a series I would love. Intense and heart pounding. I definitely plan on reading them sooner rather than later >.< But you reminded me why I bought them on the frst place! (and I rarely buy a whole series without knowing if I'll like the first book). Great review!!

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  4. Haha YES! I always love seeing your 5 creepy dolls for a book — does that make me weird? :’) (Dark books always get me!) When I went to a library presentation thing last month, the librarian basically said the same thing to my class: That this series is so bizarre but so amazing at the exact same time! I will definitely be happy that the series is already finished — no awful wait between books! x)

    Amazing review, Pushy! I know that A Monster Calls was a book that touched my heart, but I’m looking forward to this one even more! <3 (Please let there be a HEA!!)
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  5. I NEED TO READ THIS ENTIRE SERIES!! Your review made me want to get out my Kindle and buy it RIGHT NOW. But I’ll hold off…for now. Maybe until I can get to an actual bookstore, instead of perpetuating the Evil Empire (hehe). I’ve heard amazing things about the first and second books but never read all the reviews together, which makes me want to read even more. PLUS, your reviews are awesome. *hugs*
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