Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

This sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go takes readers deeper into Patrick Ness's treacherous New World.

Todd and Viola reached Haven only to find that it was not the place of safety they expected. They've been separated, and they're being manipulated by opposing sides in an oncoming war. Todd and Viola will each have to do unspeakable things in order to survive, and to find one another again.

The Knife of Never Letting Go was the story of two young people running for their lives. As such, it was a fast-paced thriller full of action and danger. The Ask and the Answer, however, is more political intrigue than action story. The danger and suspense are still present on every page, but the narrative moves a little more slowly than its predecessor. Possibly the most brilliant decision Mr. Ness made in writing this novel was the addition of Viola's first person narrative. Books written in first person tend to make the reader certain that the character doing the narration will survive. In splitting the story between two narrators, Ness upped the danger quotient, and had me convinced that no character was safe.

The Ask and the Answer is book 2 in the Chaos Walking series. If you're a fan of suspense novels, this series is for you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fire by Kristin Cashore

In a land called The Dells there are creatures called monsters. These monsters look exactly like normal creatures (cats, insects, birds of prey), except for their bright colors and exceptional beauty. Fire, the last human shaped monster in The Dells, also possesses the power of mind control. In a time of political upheaval, Fire must find a way to use her powers to assist her king and bring balance to the kingdom.

This book reminded me forcefully of Christopher Paolini’s Eldest, and not in a good way. First, the almost painfully slow pace made it difficult for me to keep reading until the plot actually started moving about two-thirds of the way through. If it had not been for the fact that the publisher sent me an advanced copy and I felt obliged to finish and review, I would have given up three chapters in. The other striking similarity to Eragon’s unfortunate sequel is a protagonist who possesses great power and accompanying respect, yet still fills the story with whining and self pity. I find it difficult to spend so much of my time with a character that self-centered.

At 480 pages, I feel that much of this book could have been edited out, and never missed at all. There are entire characters and back stories that do nothing whatsoever to further the plot. Without them, I might have enjoyed this book. As it stands, I just feel like I’ve wasted quite a bit of my time.

If you liked Eragon and the accompanying sequels, you might want to give this one a try. Otherwise, you’re probably better off with something like The Hunger Games, or The Knife of Never Letting Go.