Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

This post will contain spoilers to Chaos Walking Book 1, The Knife of Never Letting Go. Please be warned.

The Knife of Never Letting Go ended on a sad note. After an epic quest to reach Haven and contact Viola's ship, both Viola and Todd ended up captured by Mayor Prentiss. Davy Prentiss, the Mayor's son, shot Viola, and Todd's main concern is that she be saved. They spend the first parts of the book separated, neither knowing whether the other is safe.

The city of Haven surrendered to Mayor Prentiss without a fight. It is now New Prentisstown, and Mayor Prentiss is the President. Todd is assigned to work with Davy. Davy wants nothing more than his father's approval but knows that his father prefers Todd. Hence, this is the root of the majority of Todd and Davy's fighting. Throughout the book, we understand more about Davy and he actually becomes kind of likeable.

Viola wakes up in a house of healing. After she recovers from her wound, she becomes an apprentice healer. The head of the house is Mistress Coyle. She wants to use Viola to get information on the President. The President wants to use her for the same reason. Mistress Coyle was once mayor of Haven. She had to make a lot of tough decisions while in charge. She doesn't agree with putting Prentiss in charge. So she fights.

The reoccurring theme in The Ask and the Answer is that we are the choices we make. Mistress Coyle forms the Answer with her group of rebels. They make themselves known with their bombs and their blue letter As. President Prentiss then retaliates with the Ask. Anyone of interest is "asked," basically tortured until they say anything just to make it stop.

Todd and Viola are both stuck on their opposite sides of the war. Todd numbly follows all of President Prentiss' orders, no matter how horrifying. Viola is resistant to Coyle, but eventually she is helping set explosions herself. Apart, they are affected by the battle. It's not until they meet again that they are themselves and the slate is clean.

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