In the book summary, the blurb promises that Monsters of Men is a ‘heart-stopping novel about power, survival, and the devastating realities of war.‘ And wow, did it keep its promise.
The series is imaginative, thought-provoking, insightful and sophisticated in writing, even if it is aimed at a young audience. As I’ve said before in my reviews for The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, Ness makes heavy themes of politics, power, revolution, war and justice accessible without minimizing (too much) the complexities and intricacies of such topics. As a standalone book, however, though I liked The Ask and the Answer marginally better (and that’s because The Ask and the Answer delves into topics that interest me more), Monsters of Men is a satisfying conclusion that offers a thoughtful and whole-feeling ending.
Something I loved about Monsters of Men was how Ness explores the personal and social implications war has on people. We see its effects on individuals – namely our protagonists Viola and Todd – as well as the innocents caught in the middle. However, what Monsters of Men does that sets it apart from typical novels about war is that it explores the perspective of the Other (namely, the Spackle). Such narratives are so important, because more often than not the Other is dehumanized and objectified with rhetoric and ideology to justify war and conflicts. So I truly loved the fact that Ness gave readers an opportunity to see and understand the perspective of the Spackle – on that note, the Spackle’s perspective is incredibly interesting and I do detect some individualism vs. collectivism undertones. Perhaps Ness is offering subtle social commentary.
There are many things that can be discussed about in Monsters of Men, so I will cut it short and say: read it. It’s a truly fantastic novel that asks the important questions, and it explores difficult but necessary themes that are written with so much simplicity and sophistication. The characters grow so much (and you come to love them despite their flaws), and the trilogy builds with such intensity that it’s so difficult to put down. Honestly, I loved this book, I loved this series – probably one of my all-time favourites – and I am now a proud owner of the trilogy (my bookshelf and I are happy). The ending is something of contest (some may argue it as anti-climatic), but how it wraps together in its final moments, I believe, really underpins an important message of this trilogy: violence and war blind us to reality.
Book Name: Monsters of Men
Book Series: Chaos Walking #3
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker & Company