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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Review: The Ask and the Answer, Patrick Ness

After a long and traumatic journey, Todd and Viola have made it to Haven, the very first settlement on New World. But they have not received the welcome they wanted.

Mayor Prentiss, the clear villain so far, has cleared the town so he can talk to Todd especially. He tries to break Todd early on with a clever mixture of cruelty and kindness, even more piercing with the surprise of the kindness. Mayor Prentiss is on a mission to know everything, it seems. Knowledge is power.

Viola, meanwhile, is elsewhere, healing up in one of the Healing Houses run solely by women. Mistress Coyle, the head of one of the houses, quickly gets a measure of both Viola and the mayor and plans accordingly. Her plan, as it turns out, is to resurrect 'The Answer', a insurgent group (or terrorist, depending on your lens) that helped to defeat the Spackle years ago, in order to defeat the Mayor and rid Haven (now New Prentisstown) of him.

What I enjoyed most about this second installment was all the questions of right and wrong it posed. For example, the Answer's methods are violent, but are they the right means to the end? Is Mistress Coyle the saviour she is purported to be, or just Mayor Prentiss with a different leaning? Is Todd's joining in with the enslavement of the Spackle cowardly or practical, a way of biding his time until he can help them? Carrying on despite finding out that the Mayor killed all the Spackle (but one, who he knows Todd will help escape) and blaming it on the Answer?

Todd and Viola are separate for most of this book so the reader's perimeters get wider. We see both more of New World, and more new characters, including people who have just landed in a scout ship ahead of a new settlement ship.

There is more focussed action in this book, the goal being for Mayor Prentiss to rid the town of the Answer, and for Mistress Coyle to get rid of the Mayor.

But at the end, this all comes to a halt. And what happens now signals the start of a bloody and savage battle for the right to claim New World.  

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