The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1)
Told in the distinct semi-educated vernacular of the hero Todd, THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO is at once gritty, heartbreaking, compelling, and thought-provoking. At its core, the story is a coming of age tale with some elements of the Chosen One motif. It's also a look at colonization, racism, and what happens when men deviate from a society's accepted moral code and create their own. Readers will find a gold mine of thematic depths to parse, but will be so carried away by the unrelenting conflict and suspense that it may surprise them to find they've also been deeply challenged and unsettled once they turn the last page.
The character of Todd is one of the most unique voices I've come across in YA literature. Semi-educated, loyal, and afraid of the things he discovers about himself and his world, Todd's journey to manhood and the definitions he accepts and rejects about what manhood means, is fascinating and disturbing all at once. It may take readers a few chapters to settle into Todd's voice and into the rules of his world, but once he hooks a reader, he never lets go. Secondary characters are also interesting and add dimension (especially the character of Viola) but only in the sense that they add to Todd's journey of discovery. This is Todd's story--his birth from innocent boy to terrified fugitive to a young man who has gained an understanding of good and evil (his own and others) the hard way.
The world is also fascinating--an colonized planet full of familiar creatures and unfamiliar ones as well. The premise is well executed for the most part, and the pacing is relentless. Readers may need to set the story aside a few times just to take a break from the intensity, but no reader will be able to complain of boredom in a story that turns on its axis within two chapters and refuses to stop throwing curve balls from that point on.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The Chosen One motif, while secondary to the coming of age structure in this story, doesn't quite hold up to logic. While most of the story is rooted firmly in authentic character motivation, the explanation for why Todd alone attracts so much violent focus from the villains in the story strains credulity a bit. I found this didn't take away from the suspense, and there are over-arching motivations that make the plot work, so I suspect for many readers the hyper focus on Todd may not become an issue.
The ending is a tremendous cliffhanger, unusual for book one in a trilogy. Fortunately for readers who hate cliffhangers, books two and three are already available.
A unique voice, a brilliantly compelling narrative, and a gritty, nonstop adventure make THE KNIFE OF LETTING GO a must read for those who enjoy fantasy, sci fi, and coming of age adventures.
I bought the rest of the trilogy straight after reading this, but this one was by far the best of the three in my opinion.
Believable Characters? Yes. I mean, there’s some obvious weird stuff, but you’re reading a sci-fi book set on an alien planet. So you have to just accept some stuff is going to be different.
Insta-love or other annoying tropes? Nope. Thank goodness! There’s some pretty quick attraction, but insta-attraction is fine. Insta-love is NOT.
Info-dumps? Not really. You’re given information that you need, but not more than you want.
Does the author treat the reader as if they are intelligent? Definitely. This is definitely a book that caters to the older end of “young adult”.
Trigger Warnings? Not towards humans.
Is this part of a series? Yes. The Chaos Walking series.
Would I read more from this author? Definitely. Though I’m a bit afraid to read the second book in this series, because a sophmore slump would make me cry.
I wandered over, nose thoroughly stuck into book, and edged my way into a library chair (luckily it was empty). I sat without looking up, and continued to read quickly, and giggle. Soon the giggles, though, changed to a frown as I realized how really twisted of a situation the main character was in.
This is one of those books where if you can’t turn off your inner Grammar and Spelling Nazi…you aren’t going to be able to read it. Its written the way its written for a reason, but the horrible misspellings, the paragraph long run on sentences… It takes you a while to adjust and learn to accept them as part of the story.
Wow, this is one of those books that you can’t stop reading. I’d put it aside for a few minutes to get something done, and find myself drawn back into it. I’d say “I’m done reading for the night” and put it aside, only to pick it up again just minutes later.