“Monsters of Men” is a wonderful ending to the Chaos Walking trilogy, depicting the horrors of war and political manipulation while having Todd, Viola, and Spackle 1017/The Return all as viewpoint characters in the work. Even reading it a second time, the ending still gets to me with its remarkable twist, and overarching thematic. Patrick Ness’s writing is evocative and the story is a solid read from beginning to end.
I don’t want to spoil the experience of the third book in this trilogy too much, but it does pick up shortly after the events of the last book, with Todd and Viola caught in the crossfire between not two but three different factions. Todd and Viola are just as strong of protagonists as I’ve followed them from the beginning, but I think they have their time to come of age with the events in this work. Especially Todd, because there have been many points where he’s been the subject in the center of the chaos. I think he and Viola both have a coming of terms in how they were manipulated in this world There are many times that Todd nearly loses himself, but has Viola to bring him back to speed – I appreciated the insight on the character relations here. Viola has her own feet to stand on in the measure of manipulation, and she almost loses herself, but realizes ultimately her part to play – and I appreciated seeing her internal and external struggles and how she deals with them. Ness shows the very real manipulations going with Mayor Prentiss being a puppetmaster who moves and manipulates whatever faculties he can to get what he wants. It isn’t always clear what he wants, but Prentiss is an interesting figure to watch in his own right. The themes of war and political manipulation are very strong in this book, and Ness does it with wonderful intrigue towards the characters and their respective conflicts. I was particularly impressed with the third perspective eye in this work: Number 1017/The Return, the Spackle that Todd had come across in the previous book. 1017’s bent on vengeance against Todd (whom he calls “the Knife”) and actually has a very interesting, sympathetic viewpoint to carry his part of the story, but ultimately finds that he’s also manipulated by the terms of war and has to come to an understanding/revelation about the costs of it.
And goodness the twist in this book. I did not see it coming the first time when I read this. You know you’re invested with the characters of a work when you read a line that completely throws you off-balance and has you shouting at the book (or in the case of my first read of this – the audiobook). I found it heartbreaking. Even in the second read of the work, it still has an impact because it says so much about the repercussions of war and getting caught in the crossfire of impulse.
I’ve said this of the previous books, but the audiobook narration in this series is top notch. I loved Nick Podehl, Angela Dawe, and McLeod Andrews’s (in this particular book) narrations of the tale – wonderfully delivered in emotional resonance and conviction.
I would definitely recommend this book (and the collective series as a whole) for those who like well paced, strong yet plausibly flawed characterization in a YA dystopia setting with war and political thematics. It’s one that I wouldn’t hesitate to return to in the future.
Overall score: 4.5/5