Review: Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness

Dear heavenly God. This book. Listen, everyone: Monsters of Men is being released in America on the 28th. That gives you just about enough time to go get the first two books in the series, The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, and read them before Monsters of Men comes out. I strongly advise this course of action if you have not already read the series. Do it now. You will thank me later.

I started writing this post during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and that feels fitting because if there is any set of books for which I am grateful to book bloggers, it is the Chaos Walking series. I wouldn’t have read this series, or probably even looked twice at it, without the blogosphere’s ardent recommendations, and that would have been terrible because it’s quickly become one of my most favorite series in all the land, surpassing books by authors I have loved for much longer. Like, I asked myself which could I more easily live without, the Chronicles of Chrestomanci or the Chaos Walking books? If one of them were going to be lost forever to human history, and I had to pick which one got to survive, I’d pick Chaos Walking. And y’all know how I love Diana Wynne Jones.

I shall continue to honor spoiler-free September for this book, but I really can’t talk about it at all without spoiling the first two books to some extent (as in: who survives the first two books). If you haven’t read The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, please return to the first paragraph and follow its instructions before continuing reading this post. You will be happier in your life.

Where to begin? There were so many good things about Monsters of Men that naming just one, or even naming a few, feels completely inadequate. When the book opens, Todd has just freed the Mayor to command the human armies against the Spackle; Viola has gone to meet a scouting party from her colonization ship. The war against the Spackle proceeds along predictably horrifying lines, and even though you know the Spackle are justified, and the Mayor is evil sauce, you can’t help aligning yourself with the humans. Given your pick of humans and aliens, you’ll pick humans. Meanwhile, back at the scouting party, there is a different kind of awesome as Viola is reunited with two of the people who raised her on the colonization ship. Ness absolutely nails this: Viola has been through so much since she saw these people last, but in their minds she’s still the girl they’ve known all her life, and they are responsible for taking care of her.

Ness basically nails everything. There is not a false note in this whole damn book. Monsters of Men introduces a third narrator, the Spackle 1017 whom Todd let go in The Ask and the Answer. I was afraid this was going to feel put on, but that fear was, of course, unfounded. The Spackle’s narration gives us the aliens as they see themselves, complicating (of course) the war between humans and Spackle; and it also gives us his side of the events of The Ask and the Answer, which are even sadder than we knew at the time, and more heartbreaking than I would have anticipated. And, y’all, I anticipated a fair amount of heartbreak.

From the utter bleakness that was The Ask and the Answer, I thought Monsters of Men was going to be unmerciful, and it wasn’t that. Terrible things happened to major characters, but there were also moments of pure joy. I am thinking of one specific scene about two-thirds of the way through that filled my heart with happiness. If you’ve read it you probably know what I mean. Something happened that I desperately wanted to happen but did not think Patrick Ness would allow to happen, and I cried like a baby and read that scene over and over again. It is one of the greatest strengths of these books that Patrick Ness never ever fails to get the emotion he’s aiming for. I want to read these books a million times. Monsters of Men is a perfect conclusion to the Chaos Walking series. I have no complains whatsoever and will now go and reread that one scene again because it makes me cry just thinking about it. WITH JOY.

So many thanks to Heather at Candlewick Press for the review copy she sent me of this book. I was going insane waiting for it to come out in America and would have perished if I’d had to wait until September. Also, my family and friends were impressed that I got an advance reader’s copy, and I believe it was as a result of this that my mother, my friend, my sister, and my sister’s boyfriend all agreed to read this trilogy, and they loved it. Of course. How could they not? (Well, Captain Hammer has only read the first book so far, but he liked it and will assuredly like the subsequent books even more.)

Other reviews, probably including some spoilery ones, proliferate. Go ye to the Book Blogs Search Engine. And once again I would like to extend my strong and heartfelt thanks to Ana, who convinced me to read this series in the first place, kindly told me in April whether Todd and Viola were going to survive, and encouraged me to ask Candlewick Press for an ARC when I was shy.

62 thoughts on “Review: Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness

  1. I have this series on my list but haven’t read them yet. Maybe I need to see if the library has them. Everyone seems to love these books.

    • I know I know I know! It was the perfect conclusion to this series, and everything that happened in it made me – well, not happy, because a lot of it was so grim. But I enjoyed reading it so, so much.

  2. If you haven’t read The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, please return to the first paragraph and follow its instructions before continuing reading this post. You will be happier in your life.

    LOL! Perfect instructions there! :)

    There is little doubt that I agree 100% with this review, ;) all three Chaos Walking books are among my favourite books ever.

  3. I hate to be a spoil sport, but I didn’t see anything special about the first book. It was just sort of meh to me and I never bothered to read the others. Kelly from The Written World told me all about the second book, spoiling it all because I asked her to, and it definitely sounds like I’d really dislike that one…

    • Welllll…I think describing the second one would make it sound like a less amazing read than it really was. But no books are good for every reader who reads them. With this series, I think Ness gets progressively better in each book, with the plotline and the emotional beats.

    • Jill! Poor you! I didn’t realize you hadn’t got it yet, and you with a Team Boy Colt button in your sidebar! I would have sent you my ARC! By now if I mailed it to you, the book would be out properly by the time my package reached you. :( But, you know, hooray that it will be out soon for your delectation and delight.

  4. I stopped reading after the first paragraph. The first two books I already asked my sister (based in the States) to get for me. It’s on its way (hopefully). In six to eight weeks. Hopefully. Unless of course she forgot to have my box of books and stuff shipped my way again. In which case I’ll hold off reading any other blog posts on Ness’ trilogy until I get my hands on the books (even if uh, by now I technically only requested for the first two books considering that eh, the last one has yet to be released).

    Hahaha :)

  5. I haven’t read these books, but have heard a heck of a lot about them. You have me all excited to try them now, so I am going to go order the first in the series. Then, after I have read the three of them, I will be back to check out this review!

    • Sounds like a plan! They are truly wonderful books, but very fast-paced and they pack a hell of a punch, so, you know. Be prepared for that. They are intense reads.

  6. I read the first 3 paragraphs of your review then went to the library to pick up The Knife Of Letting Go. I am the president of the Folds To Peer Pressure Club. At some point in the near future I will be able to read your review in its entirety.

  7. I know all about the scene you’re talking about 2/3rds of the way through the book <3's!!!! So glad you loved it too, Jenny…I'm just so damn sad that the series is over…I'd love it if it was just still going on.

    • Yes! That scene! I really thought Todd was going to die and not allow that scene to ever happen, because Patrick Ness, man, he’s ruthless. So it was even happier when it really did take place.

      Yeah, Patrick Ness could write ten more books in that series for all of me. It’s superb.

  8. This is the first I have heard of them… which confirms my opinion that there are just huge acres of blogworld out there that I don’t seem to know about! But I do love it when you are enthusiastic about books – it’s always delightful!

    • Oh, aren’t you sweet. That’s nice to hear, because I had a hell of a hard time writing this rave-y review while mostly avoiding spoilers. It’s such a good book, I wanted to do it justice.

  9. I had no idea this wasn’t yet out in North America. And here I was, reading my NZ copy eaaarrrlllly, when I thought I was behind everyone else! Blah!

    The things in the water scared me. A lot.

    • One particular thing in the water scared me. So I was glad when that one particular thing was no longer an issue. If you know what I mean. (Seriously, all the time that was happening, I was like, WHAT IS YOUR ANGLE, DUDE?)

  10. You just made my day. This review was just…well, I don’t know how to say other than just say it…this review was just perfect! Oh, how I love these books…

    • Soon, dude, soon. It comes out next Tuesday. Plus if you go to your local Barnes & Noble, they frequently put books out early because they can’t be bothered waiting. So there’s always that.

  11. OK. I stopped reading and am now a bit disgruntled because I have way too many books I want to read right now and then you heap this SERIES on top while I’m still wondering if I can escape the urge to run and get Hunger Games because I haven’t yet read that, either.
    sigh…
    I’m going to go mow the lawn now.

    • Out of guilt, I should say, don’t read the Chaos Walking books and the Hunger Games books at the same time. They are not at all the same, but I read them at the same time and they are both dystopian books so I compared them in my head, and as a result I didn’t end up caring that much about the Hunger Games ones because they didn’t measure up to the amazingness of the Chaos Walking series. And it’s so silly to compare them at all!

  12. You are far more patient than I was. I ordered the UK version from The Book Depository in May because I couldn’t stand the wait for the US version. :)

    I absolutely loved the series and the last book up to a point. The way that the book ended (what happens to Todd) seemed like an easy out to me. That being said, the series is spectacular and I’m so glad I didn’t miss it.

    • Well, I thought of using the Book Depository, but then my books wouldn’t have matched, and that would have made me so sad. But I was on the verge of giving in when Candlewick agreed to send me the ARC, so it’s lucky they were around. :p

      I liked the ending, but I like a slightly ambiguous ending in general. You thought it was an easy out because it let Ness get away with not showing the aftermath of the war? I can kind of see that…

      • I don’t want to give anything away about the plot to anyone who hasn’t read it yet, so I don’t know quite how to say it. I didn’t like the ending with Todd and the Spackle (what happens to him in the very end) I thought it would have been more powerful had it ended about twenty pages before that. The more distance I have from the reading experience though, the more I can appreciate why he made the choice to end it that way, because it really does effect the overall outcome for the society.

  13. I’m putting your review on the back burner for now because I will be reading this one as soon as it comes out and I don’t want any preconceived notions of the plot or what I’ll think of it. But I’m glad you loved it so much and REALLY hoping I will too!

  14. OK, I finished it yesterday and OH MY GOODNESS JENNY YOU WERE RIGHT. Monsters of Men was freaking awesome, I’m actually at a loss for words because I did love it so much. I don’t even know how I’m going to review it…. it will probably sound something like “blah blah read this book OR DIE”. LOL.

    I also started reading these books because of Ana. She influences so many of us!

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  19. I just finished Monsters of Men this evening.

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    For about 10 minutes after, I just sat here, trying to catch my breath. This is me thanking you later for strongly advising to read this series.

    “I hate it that I can’t talk about one of the coolest things Patrick Ness does in this book because it would be too spoilery”

    Can you tell me now what that thing was? Or are you talking about the things 2/3 in, which was completely wonderful?

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