As a world-ending war surges around them, Todd and Viola face monstrous decisions. The indigenous Spackle, thinking and acting as one, have mobilized to avenge their murdered people. Ruthless human leaders prepare to defend their factions at all costs, even as a convoy of new settlers approaches. And as the ceaseless Noise lays all thoughts bare, the projected will of the few threatens to overwhelm the desperate desire of the many. The consequences of each action, each word, are unspeakably vast: To follow a tyrant or a terrorist? To save the life of the one you love most, or thousands of strangers? To believe in redemption, or assume it is lost? Becoming adults amid the turmoil, Todd and Viola question all they have known, racing through horror and outrage toward a shocking finale.
ALL OF THE SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE TRILOGY
Oh my god. This book ripped my heart out of my body and put back inside only half-healed. I thought the other books were running me ragged, and in the middle of this book there were moments where it was almost peaceful and quiet. WRONG. Todd and Viola proved how wrong I was, and how much more this book would hurt me over the other two.
Again, the use of Noise as a weapon of war, a controlling agent, and a means of communication and knowledge was excellent. In the previous books, we saw how men struggled with their Noise and eradicating the voices in their heads and we got glimpses of how Prentiss had used it to forge an army. Now, we learn more about the Spackle and see how they use it as a means of uniting everyone under one Noise such that everyone is open to everyone and that is how they are one people. Communication. Knowledge. What does it mean for individuals to be part of a collective consciousness? What does it feel like to know everyone and be known by everyone? Can you have control over the entirety of information, or does it control you? It can bring people closer together and know each other better than ever and it can drive others to the brink of insanity. And then when someone, like Todd, learns to hide his Noise like Prentiss, and hides everything atrocity he’s seen and done, everything he’s scared and ashamed of, he not only shuts off Viola, he shuts off himself. The connection is twofold, the knowing of another and the knowing of yourself.
Todd and Viola. Viola and Todd. These two single-handedly made me fall in love with this entire series. Both of them fight so hard for freedom and for peace, but they’re also fighting to save each other, and sometimes those two fights are thrown into conflict. Multiple characters say this over and over – you shouldn’t make war personal. But it’s tricky. Because in some instances making it personal means you have someone to fight for in order to achieve a better future. But in other cases, making war personal means using it solely to exact revenge without a care to anyone else. But these two… wow. It’s funny because even though they fight like hell to find each other and keep each other alive, their individual approaches are very different. No matter what happens to Todd, he’s still Todd and incapable of killing another person, even taking into account the spackle in The Knife of Never Letting Go. Viola’s the one who’s killed for Todd before and she’s the one who’d kill millions just to keep Todd alive. Yes, romance stuff occurs between the two of them in this book. But I don’t fucking care. You know why? Because their relationship is so much more than that, that that kiss doesn’t even mean much. The way these two know each other, the dependence, the trust, the knowledge that they both want the same future – that’s what makes these two the wonderful people they are. They achieve good things individually, but together, they have the ability to change the world.
Not only do we get those two, but we get the POV of 1017, the spackle Todd imprisoned, brutalized, and whose life he neded up saving. Known as the Return to the rest of the spackle (or the Land, as they call themselves), his situation largely mirror’s Todd’s. Both are being groomed by their respective leaders in their image. But unlike the Speaker, the “leader” of the spackle, the Return has his heart set on revenge of all humans for what they’ve done, especially Todd, and he vows to kill him no matter what. He finds himself in the same situation Todd found himself with Aaron – can he really kill another person? What choices is he going to make and what are those choices going to do to him?
And then there’s the war. The war is as horrific and destructive as any war should be. All of the needless killing, all the posturing and edging ahead, just to prove that one side’s right and the other’s wrong the point that the original reasons why the war is being fought doesn’t matter. It gets to the point that Prentiss and Mistress Coyle are more hilarious than they are threatening because all they care about is beating the other and coming out on top – they’re like little children. There’s this scene where the two of them are “allies” and each are trying to give an inspiring speech to the crowd at the exact same time, causing them to outdo each the other by speaking over the other person and saying the same exact things, just worded differently. It’s so depressing, it’s funny.
All along, it’s been clear that Prentiss isn’t an ordinary, black-and-white villain, and that he believes he’s doing what’s right or what’s inevitable, that war is what men do. But when he starts keeping Todd by his side, there’s the possibility that he can be redeemed. Even though I never fully trusted him to actually change, part of me really wanted to believe Prentiss when he said that Todd was the one making him good again. And that was beautiful. He’s committed so many crimes and maimed and killed so many people, but he’s formed a relationship with Todd. He’s found someone to love. But knowledge can heal or destroy, and in this case it rips him apart. This world was never meant for him, and he was willing to kill to gain control over himself and others, just to make it a more bearable place for him to exist.
I don’t want to give away the ending because it deserves to be read and experienced without being spoiled – it is probably one of the best endings I’ve read. It has everything that makes the entire trilogy so great – Noise, communication, knowledge, choices, connection, and plain old love. And this time (unlike the other two endings), there’s a little bit of hope. I can say, without any hesitation, that this is one of the best trilogies I have read in my life. Viola and Todd will continue to be in my life and in my heart from here on out and I plan on buying copies of these books as soon as I can and loving them forever and ever.
Disclosure – library