Title: The Ask and the Answer
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: Chaos Walking, #2
Publisher: Walker Books
Release Date: May 4th 2009
A new edition of the award-winning second novel in the Chaos Walking trilogy, with a bonus short story, The Wide, Wide Sea.
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 new edition of this tense, shocking and deeply moving novel features a bonus short story, The Wide, Wide Sea. Introducing new characters and set before the events of The Ask and the Answer, it is a story of love and loyalty in a divided world.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
This review may contain spoilers for previous book(s) in the series.
My Thoughts On…
The Ask and the Answer starts off right where The Knife of Never Letting Go ended. Todd and Viola finally made it to Haven only to discover that what they thing is their sanctuary has already been taken over by the Mayor and is now New Prentisstown. They lost. When Todd wakes up again he is imprisoned, questioned by the Mayor, and Viola is nowhere to be seen. After being shot by Davy Prentiss Viola is recovering in one of the houses of healing, with Todd forced to live in the clock tower neither are allowed to see one another, though they are constantly on the other’s mind.
The Mayor is determined to become Haven’s saviour, to make a new world they can be proud of when the settlers arrive. He offers the people safety, a purpose, he gives them strict rules to follow and promises them the cure for the Noise is they fall into line. However there are some people of Haven, mainly the women who are being treated as second class citizens, who are unhappy with the changes the Mayor is making to their home.
Out of the mistreatment the Answer is reborn. Determined to bring the Mayor down and bring power back to the people they start planting bombs to start a rebellion.
When Todd proves himself devoted to the Mayor, following his new way of life, he is given more freedom. Viola however sees the other side of the town, helping the healers and experiencing the Mayor’s disregard of the women first hand. Soon Viola finds herself on the run with the Answer, leaving Todd alone in New Prentisstown under the influence of the Mayor.
As the Answer start planting more and more bombs, launching deadlier attacks on the town and the soldiers, the Mayor slowly becomes more and more desperate; instituting a curfew, surrounding himself with only his loyalist followers, and branding the women left in New Prentisstown. A war is slowly breaking out in New Prentisstown, between the Mayor and the Answer, with Todd and Viola standing on opposite sides to one another.
Todd has grown up a lot after everything he faced in the first book. He believes, even without having gone through Prentisstown’s initiation ceremony, that he is a man now, and with Aaron dead and Viola safe Todd slowly starts believing New Prentisstown is safe. The Mayor is influencing the people and they are slowly building a new world. Todd is determined to keep Viola safe, even when the only promise he has that she is is the Mayor’s word.
However when Viola runs from New Prentisstown and joins the Answer Todd dies a little inside. The two of them have been through so much together and all they’ve ever done is keep the other safe. They make a promise not to leave without the other but when Viola does the opposite Todd believes there is nothing left for him in New Prentisstown worth fighting for.
Viola has also come a long way, and it was interesting seeing events through her eyes in this book as well. As she heals from the gunshot wound all she cares about is finding Todd again, and she is willing to deal with the Mayor to make that happen. However the more time she spends in the company of the healers, learning from Mistress Coyle, the more she sees a different side to his seemingly kind actions.
Whereas Todd only has the Mayor to guide him in this book Viola has the Answer, and when they start fighting back she is left with no choice but to follow them. Every day the settlers who sent Viola down to the New World are getting closer to landing themselves and whoever contacts them first, be it the Answer of the Mayor, is free to spread their version of the truth.
In a lot of books when two characters are as close together as Viola and Todd were it can be nice to see them separate, to see them grow individually as characters. While I enjoyed reading both Viola’s and Todd’s individual stories in this book I don’t feel the separation was necessary for their character development, both were incredibly strong characters together and while they are just as strong apart it’s when they’re together again that they are really able to face anything.
We are introduced to so many new characters in this book, and a few old ones who are given a lot more development. The army which followed Todd from Prentisstown, led by the Mayor, are given more motivation; they are no longer the faceless bad guys they were in the first book. Likewise the people of Haven are no longer the faceless safety Todd and Viola are looking for. All characters have their good and bad sides and it was interesting reading them all.
The world building of the first book took us all over New World as Todd and Viola raced towards Haven, struggling to stay one step ahead of the Mayor and his army. In this second book we stay in Haven, or New Prentisstown as it has been renamed by the Mayor. The world building that I loved so much in The Knife of Never Letting Go was just as present in The Ask and the Answer but this time it focused more on the history of New World. The secrets that had been kept from Todd all his life were slowly revealed and they painted a much bigger picture of New World, not only seen through Todd’s eyes but Viola’s as they each learn more about Haven, the war and even the Mayor himself. The world that was set up in The Knife of Never Letting Go stayed consistent with this second book it was simply built on.
There was a lot more at stake for both Viola and Todd in The Ask and the Answer, especially when it comes down to the choices they make along the way. This book felt very dark at times, the characters have unclear and sketchy morals, but I thought it was such a brilliant addition to the series. Second books can sometimes suffer from middle book syndrome, luckily that was not the case with The Ask and the Answer.
What did you think of The Ask and the Answer? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.