Sunday, February 6, 2011

Monsters of Men

by Patrick Ness
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, c2010.

**Spoiler warnings for The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer.**

"War makes monsters of men," Ben warns Todd in The Knife of Never Letting Go. Right from the start, we see this play out in the war between the Mayor's people and the Spackle, the indigenous population of New World. Meanwhile, Mistress Coyle tries to get the upper hand by meeting with the newly arrived ship carrying Viola's people to resettle the land. All Todd and Viola want is peace, but at what price will it come?

Carrying on from the questions of motives, choice, and character that The Ask and the Answer put forth, Monsters of Men focuses more exclusively on war and what kind of people desire war over peace. I struggled more with the story because the themes appear to me to have more of an agenda than in the earlier books. While I hesitate to take universals out of a particular story, in science fiction and fantasy especially its hard not to see these as more "universal" ideas and ideals that can be - and sometimes are meant to be - applied to the real world. I don't mean that the author specifically had an agenda in writing this story, just that it was hard for me not to read it that way, and I wasn't sure I always agreed with the conclusions. Once again, the plot generally hums along, keeping you caught up in events and wondering what's going to happen next even while causing you to grapple with the larger themes. A few times, I wasn't sure if I would end up mad with the author's designs for his characters, but all in all I was happy with the way the series wraps up.

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