Ohmygodohmygodohmygod that book was amazing! I admit that at first I was skeptical because the book was a little slow at the beginning, but the last 100 pages were brilliant and powerful and suspenseful. I can't think of enough adjectives that capture the essence of this series, but I think brilliant, powerful, and suspenseful do a pretty good job.
Ness is a tactical genius. He reminds me a lot of Orson Scott Card
- he blurs the lines between good and bad, and creates such intelligent, frightening villains while also making some part of them human enough for the reader to empathize. All the characters are so complex and multi-layered, and even the protagonists don't get away being purely good human beings. They are shown as what they are - a mix of good and bad and everything in between. I think that takes an insane amount of skill on the author's part.
I loved getting to listen to Viola's side of the story. It was refreshing to hear from her, especially since she is a major character that you hardly hear from in the first book. Todd and Viola's voices were so distinct that even if the fonts weren't different, I could easily have told them apart. Their perspectives and thoughts about each other and their roles in the great tangle of events made the book very multi-layered.
The plot of this book, while a little slow at first, really picked up the pace in the second half. The give and take between The Answer and The Ask was frightening, because you didn't know which side to root for. You didn't know who did what, and who to believe. With Todd on one side and Viola on the other, the conflict was very intense and well-thought out. Both Mistress Coyle and the Mayor (or President, as he likes to be called) had their good and evil sides, and I really can't decide who the "good guys" are. I really liked that about this series - there's so much gray area between good and evil, right and wrong. You can do incredibly cruel things (view spoiler)[ banding the Spackle and the women, watching people be Asked (hide spoiler)]
and suffer for them (and subsequently, remain innocent and whole), like Todd; you can manipulate people through mind and body, lead people into and through a crisis, and somehow strive for the most good for the most people (utilitarianism, anyone?), like the Mayor; you can resort to the ways of war and brutality in the name of peace, betray those who trust you for the greater good of your people, and save lives with the same hand that kills them like Mistress Coyle. I also liked the minor characters, especially Lee and Wilf. Wilf was a surprising pillar of strength, as was Corinne. I really liked Lee as well - I felt so sad for him...not only did he lose his mother and sister, his one strong relationship was broken.
The rawness, the blood, and the fear of the first book was very much a component of this book as well. There is just as much death and violence and torture and conflict as before, more so even. The tactics of both the Ask and the Answer are brutal, and I feel so terrible for those who had to die. Especially cruel were the deaths of (view spoiler)[ Maddy, who did nothing but help and heal people, and Davy. Oh, Davy. He was such a brat at the beginning: a selfish, demeaning, stupid little brat. And yet he managed to grow into a kind young man, one who was betrayed by the only people he ever cared about: Todd and his own father, the Mayor. Somehow I knew Todd wouldn't be the one to kill Davy. The Mayor's words were so true to character, yet so chilling: "Never love something so much it can be used to control you." (hide spoiler)]
And the end! I loved how everything seems to be on the verge of skyrocketing out of control, but hasn't quite gotten there. Two new forces of unimaginable importance and magnitude have been introduced to the delicate equation of the New World, and I can't wait to find out what happens next.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>