Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness- As good as Tolkein’s or Pullman’s trilogies?



People dismiss Young Adult books to the teenagers of this world, but you are missing out on some of the best books around if you do.The Chaos Walking Trilogy is a series of books by American born British writer Patrick Ness. I think this trilogy will get the recognition it deserves. After a period of time, I believe it can sit proudly on the same shelf as J.R.R Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings and Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials. Now I know readers, especially fans of Tolkein would say that nothing can compare to the Lord of the Rings but I believe the Chaos Walking series is similar in the way the protagonist goes on a physical and spiritual journey to save the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the series. It is made up of three books- The Knife of Never Letting Go, the Ask and the Answer and the final book Monsters of Men. 

The first book of the trilogy is the best in my opinion, it centres on a boy called Todd Hewitt who grows up in a world where no females exist, and everyone can hear each others thoughts. Even the animals thoughts can be heard. Todd lives in a dystopia of fear and suppression under the rule of the ‘Mayor’ who is the arch enemy. An incident forces Todd to go on the run from the government and the adventure begins. The fact that everyone can hear each other was a brilliant idea. I felt this was the author suggesting that we are all connected nowadays, that we have no privacy with social media and therefore we ‘hear’ each others thought. I loved the relationship that existed between Todd and his loyal dog Manchee. I also thought one of the many evil characters in the story, Aaron was a supremely complex and complicated person.

The Ask and the Answer is a very different book. Todd is situated in a town where he must decide which side he must join in the middle of the war. Ness once again makes it very hard for the reader to distinguish what might be the ‘good’ side and what might be the side to oppose. I enjoyed this feature as you could easily empathize with one army and make an argument for their cause. The ambiguity of empathy creates an uneasiness to the book, leaving the reader constantly torn between the opposing factions. I felt this book however lost the cutting edge and fast pace of the first. The plot meanders along and it is very unclear what the end point might be. The book is merely a prelude to the concluding book where all the questions are answered.

Monster of Men is the final book in the trilogy, it is a continuation of the second book as the war rumbles on, Todd begins to become a man and is forced to make huge decisions as both a leader and as an individual. Todd begins to hone his own mental strength in order to use it against people. He is faced with many moral decisions. The ending is brilliant to the trilogy and brought great closure to the story.

Because all the males of the planet can hear each other, the book is written in a very unusual style where one must adjust. The narrative is a running commentary on what Todd is thinking so nothing is left out. We also get to hear what the other characters are thinking which makes the book clear and focussed. The most interesting aspect of the book is it is laden with bad grammar and spelling mistakes when Todd is thinking. This was done to remind the reader that we are reading Todds mind, it plays on his accent it also also that he was illiterate in the story and couldn’t spell. This made me empathize with Todd straight away but I know other readers find it frustrating and wish to correct the mistakes as they are reading the story.The trilogy is full of love, misery, cruelty and above all suspense.

These three books are some of the best pieces of writing I have read. I encourage you to read the first book and get started. I think they will go down as modern classics. I would argue they are as good as anything Pullman or Tolkein has written. Do you agree? If you don’t, even better! Please leave a comment.

17 thoughts on “Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness- As good as Tolkein’s or Pullman’s trilogies?

  1. I absolutely loved the first book in this series. I have yet to read the next two, but I am keen to. Have you read ‘More Than This’ by Ness? I’m reading it the moment and struggle to put it down.


    • Yes I did, it’s brilliant. The best thing about the book is the main character is gay and that is only a subplot. I thought the ending wasn’t great though(sorry). Tell me what you think when you finish, I’d love to know. Thanks for commenting.


  2. Hmmm I must admit as a Tolkien/fantasy fan in general I am intrigued. I am always looking for books worthy of sitting on the shelf beside fantasy classics! Thanks for the excellent recommendation!


      • Hmmm well The Earthsea Chronicals by Ursula Leguine are oldies but goodies.. Along that line The Hero & the Crown by Robin McKinnley is amazing. More recently (in the last 20 years) was a series that began with The Innocent Mage that I truly enjoyed.


  3. This is one series I still need to finish. I loved the first book, but when the 2nd was published, I decided I needed to reread the 1st before moving on to 2 and 3, and I just haven’t done it. My husband got very tired of me saying “Poo Todd?” as I was reading the first book. That one scene–you know the one I mean–made me want to throw the book across the room. But I didn’t. More Than This is sitting on my shelf–hoping to get to it this summer. I think Ness is brilliant.


  4. I read this trilogy a while ago and absolutely loved it, I am hopping to reread it soon as I now have more experience of reading more books in general and want to know how it compares. I love Manchee too!


  5. I adore Patrick Ness but have yet to finish the trilogy. Reason being I want to be able to read them uninterrupted, since I can’t put them down once I start! He’s an ace writer and as I have mentioned in my reviews of his books, he’s also gold on Twitter. Check him out.


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