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The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One    by Patrick Ness order for
Knife of Never Letting Go
by Patrick Ness
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2009 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Twelve-year-old Todd Hewitt is the youngest (the last to come of age) of a group of settlers on an alien planet - men only since all the women died from a germ (apparently a weapon of the indigenous Spackle) that also exposed the men to Noise (a constant telepathic din from their fellows and from animals).

One day, Todd is out seeking swamp apples with his dog Manchee when they encounter a moving silence. When he tells his foster parents (Ben and Cillian) they insist that he flee their settlement of Prentisstown (population 147), giving him his mother's journal (which he can barely read) and a map. En route he encounters the silence again and discovers a young woman, Viola, whose scout ship (from a new arrival of settlers in orbit) crash landed and whose parents died. They flee together, pursued by Prentisstown's preacher Aaron and a small, growing army led by the settlement's crazed Mayor.

Todd soon discovers that he has been lied to all his life, that women were not wiped out everywhere on the planet, and that Prentisstown men are barred from the other settlements - why, he wonders? They have several brutal encounters with Aaron, and Todd has opportunities to kill the maddened preacher, but cannot bring himself to do it. The story continues with flight, pursuit, regular small adventures - and the burning question of the true history of what's behind Prentisstown's violence. Todd loses loved ones as he journeys, but he and Viola grow in understanding despite his Noise and her lack of it.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, first in a new Chaos Walking series, is about the monstrosity of war and what it does to those who revel in it. This first episode ends on a shocking cliffhanger which will leave readers anxious for more in book two, The Ask and the Answer.

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