Chaos Walking Trilogy

Chaos Walking Trilogy
Chaos Walking Trilogy
Author Patrick Ness
Cover artist Lynne Condellon (design)
John Picacio (painting)
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Young-adult fiction
Publisher Walker Books
Published 2008 – 2010
Media type Print (Hardcover, paperback)

Chaos Walking is a series of young adult dystopia novels written by award-winning novelist Patrick Ness. "The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking." From this, the title of the trilogy was derived.

The books are centered around Prentisstown boy, Todd Hewitt, and companion Viola Eade, with the first volume beginning a month before Todd’s thirteenth birthday. The story follows his journey through New World, where he searches for answers and opposes the plans of Prentisstown’s Mayor, David Prentiss.

The first novel was narrated entirely by Todd. The second has been told through the viewpoints of both Todd and Viola and the third book has been told through the viewpoints of Todd, Viola and The Return.



The Knife of Never Letting Go

The first book in the trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go premises shortly before Todd Hewitt and Viola Eade first meet. Having been brought up in Old Prentisstown, Todd is unaware of the existence of humans beyond his own town populated by men. When he discovers Viola, who has crash landed on New World, he discovers that his life has been a lie, and is forced on the run as Mayor Prentiss declares war.

The Ask and the Answer

Following on from the events of the first book, The Ask and the Answer starts with the capture of Todd and Viola as the Mayor forces them to lead separated lives. Todd is locked up and forced to work with Spackle while Viola undertakes an apprenticeship from renowned healer Mistress Coyle. However, an organisation, the Answer, forms to retaliate against ‘President’ Prentiss, and soon, Todd and Viola are torn apart but reunited by Viola's braveness to find Todd. Viola is tortured and Todd is forced to watch as the "President" already knows what he needs to know.Viola realizes that a Scout ship has landed she did not know about and goes to it as the war starts with the Spackle attacking the Ask and the Answer attacking as well.

Monsters of Men

The final conclusion to the Chaos Walking series. New World is in chaos as the Spackle and Settlers finally go to war, urged on by Mayor Prentiss and the Return, 1017. Todd and Viola try to bring peace between the two armies, but it proves a hard task as neither side wishes to give up.

The New World

A short prequel to the trilogy available free on Kindle. The story tells of Viola and her parents on the convoy, leading up to the crash landing of their spaceship on New World.

New World

The books are set on the planet New World, which was colonised by a small group of Christian settlers from Old World (possibly Earth) twenty three years prior to the beginning of The Knife of Never Letting Go. New World was originally colonized to make “a new way of life, one clean and simple and honest and good.” In particular, the colonists aimed to establish a Church that would leave behind corruption in favor of purity. However, the germ, present in the planet’s atmosphere, has posed several problems that have halted the development of this vision. A second ship convoy, under the assumption that the first did not make it, arrives at New World at the end of Monsters of Men.


In the beginning, we are under the assumption that Prentisstown, populated only by men, is the sole human settlement on New World, and that all woman were killed during the war against New World's native intelligent species, called the Spackle. However, this is proved false with the revelation of the town's true history. Near the end of book one, we discover that all Prentisstown women had been killed in an act of insanity after the Spackle War, fueled by the town mayor and corrupt priest.

The Prentisstown population originally aimed to take over New World as revenge for being isolated for their crimes, accepting Mayor Prentiss as their absolute leader. As the series concludes countless of Prentiss' followers are killed, effectively cannon fodder in the final apocalyptic war against the Spackles. Countless Spackle, too are killed, though the reader gains far deeper insight into their way of life and organization, mainly thorough the authorial voices of The Sky and The Return. By now war is in Prentiss' hands serving now not so much the aim of revenge for past acts, but the satiation of his megalomaniacal desire for absolute control of the planet. This control, however, comes at the price of absolute knowledge, a Faustian burden that is in the end too great to bear.

Haven/New Prentisstown

Being the largest settlement on New World, Haven was the leading developer of technology and research. They had developed a cure for the Noise, and were the last town to be taken over by Prentisstown, to whom they surrendered. The town was renamed New Prentisstown, and Mayor Prentiss quickly assume the role of President.

Prior to this, the residents of Haven had captured and kept Spackle as servants, The Burden, who have all been killed, aside from 1017. This spurred the war that took place in the final book, Monsters of Men.


A small town which is burned to the ground by the Mayor's army on their way to Haven. Despite this, many of Farbranch's men decide to join the army in their conquest, if only to avoid their own demise.


Todd Hewitt (The Knife)

The protagonist of the series. Todd Hewitt is one month shy of turning thirteen when the trilogy begins. (Note that New World follows a thirteen month calendar, meaning he is actually about fourteen at the beginning of the series.) Brought up by guardians Ben and Cillian, Todd was kept unaware of Prentisstown’s history until the end of the first book.

Mayor Prentiss prevented Todd from gaining an education, and consequently, Todd’s narrative is illiterate and unrestricted. He cannot read or write, a problem that has prevented him from reading his mother’s diary and communicating with Viola from the scout ship in book three.

In 'the Ask and the Answer', Todd commits horrible acts of cruelty against Spackle, women, and becomes colder without Viola to help. He is at first forced to do so because Viola is under the Mayor’s control, but as the novel progresses, Todd starts to lose who he really is. It is only until Mayor Prentiss reveals his plans that Todd sees he must fight him to save Viola, and New Prentisstown.

Throughout the novels, Todd is repeatedly pressured to murder another human being in order to fulfil Mayor Prentiss’ plans. However, his character is labelled unable to kill, until the end of The Ask and The Answer, where his noise reveals that he would kill for Viola. This then leads him to participate in war, and he has since killed many Spackle in self defence, though has not killed any men.

In Monsters of Men, Todd’s character is further challenged. When spending time with the Mayor, the two develop a link (denoted by a small humming in their Noise), and begins to both influence and be influenced by him. Todd also learns to refine his ability to control his Noise, thus allowing him to silence it, use it as a weapon, learn with it, and use it to control other people. However, in the end it is revealed that by silencing one’s Noise, the attack power of the Noise is decreased. Todd does, however, inevitably end up trusting the Mayor again, and saves him unconsciously from death several times. However, when Ben shows up, this filial bond breaks. The skills taught to him ultimately allow Todd to defeat the Mayor in a battle using only his Noise.

The Sky, 1017, mortally wounds Todd near the end of Monsters of Men, mistaking Todd for the Mayor, though he admits that he wasn’t sure when he fired his weapon. Todd’s Noise leaves, returning in small bursts, and he remains in a coma-like state at the end of book three. However, the final chapter hints that he will wake so long as Viola keeps ‘calling’ him.

Viola Eade (The Knife's One In Particular)

Part of a scouting party sent ahead by a group of new settlers. Viola, thirteen (twelve month calendar), crash-landed on New World with her parents, though she was the only one to survive.

She travelled with Todd to Haven in hopes of finding a communication tower, intent on sending a message back to the settlers’ main ship. She was disappointed to learn that New World lacks this technology, and is later averted from this goal by Mayor Prentiss. Joining the Answer, she learns how to heal, set off bombs, and how to negotiate in war.

In the final book, she comes close to death, infected by the virus Mayor Prentiss placed in all the metal bands. She starts the Spackle war for Todd by launching a missile from the scout ship, and realizes that she will kill for Todd, noting that it is a dangerous thing. She and Todd finally kiss towards the end of the novel.

1017 (The Return/The Sky)

Introduced in book two, this is a Spackle who grew up domesticated in Haven. Forced to work for a violent owner, he falls in love with his ‘one in particular’, the other Spackle in the household. However, she is killed while trying to protect him, and 1017 grows angry and vengeful, directing this hate at Todd, because Todd (called the Knife) kills and tortures Spackle, and knows what he is doing and can stop it, but he chooses not to. When all of the Burden are killed, 1017 is left and runs to the Land, and is named the Return. He then urges the Sky to kill all humans, and lets his need for revenge control him. However, the Sky leads him to Ben and he learns that he cannot kill.

When he becomes the new Sky, he almost wages war on all settlers, but stops short because he realises he is not doing what is right for the Land. With the knowledge that only peace can bring calamity, he lets the humans go.

At the end of Monsters of Men, he shoots Todd with acid, though he knew he wasn’t sure if it was Todd or the Mayor in front of him. He offers to be killed by Viola as punishment, because he suffers knowing he killed another person, but Viola refuses to kill him as well as denying him forgiveness, so he will regret his action for the rest of his life.

He shelters Todd and offers Viola medicine, in a gesture of peace.

Mayor Prentiss/President David Prentiss

The antagonist of the books, mastermind behind the take over, and self proclaimed President of New World. He is the one who forced Prentisstown into War, and the one who plotted the start of the next Spackle war.

In the second book, he creates the Ask, an organization dedicated to opposing the Answer and destroying unrest within the population of Haven. He also captures Todd and forces him to work with him. Though he is the father of Davy Prentiss, Jr., Mayor Prentiss dislikes him, and frequently comments on how Todd would make for a better son. At the end of the second book, he kills his Davy with a gun. It is later revealed that he would have sent Davy into war with an empty rifle.

In the third book, Mayor Prentiss continues to try and recruit Todd, but is instead changed by him. He becomes more moral, but cannot ignore the hollow emptiness he feels towards everything in the world. It is revealed that he had surpassed a point in his knowledge of Noise that has left his completely silence and hateful of others’ Noise. In the end, this drives him mad and he walks into the ocean to his death.

Mistress Nicola Coyle

Leader of the Answer. She sets up a camp away from Haven, committed to removing Mayor Prentiss from power. She enlists Viola’s help and shows members of the Answer how to set off homemade bombs, though she is manipulative, and tries to kill the Mayor by setting up Viola with a bomb.

In the end, she kills herself in a final attempt to remove the Mayor from power and to possibly allow Viola to become a leader.

Benison "Ben" Moore

Ben is Todd's adoptive father who was a friend of his mother's. He and Cillian raised Todd and helped him escape when he discovered that it was possible to escape the Noise. He later rejoined him and told him and Viola the truth about Prentisstown, how the men killed all the women because they couldn't read their thoughts. When they were found by Mayor Prentiss's men, Ben was seemingly killed by Davy Prentiss Jr.

He was revealed to be alive in Monsters of Men and was essential in redeeming the Return from his lust for revenge. Ben was changed from his resurrection and could speak the Spackle language which lead him to prefer to speak through his Noise. His return to Todd was the straw that broke the filial bond that the latter had formed with the Mayor and helped bring his Noise back, healing his broken relationship with Viola. Ben, along with Viola and Bradley, negotiated peace with the new Sky when the Mayor ordered his remaining troops to destroy the Answer.

Ben is the origin of the phrase "War makes monsters out of men" which was taken up several times in the trilogy and was the title base of the third book.

It is implied that Ben and Cillian were more than friends when 1017/The Return/The Sky refers to Cillian as Ben's 'One In Particular'.

Davy Prentiss, Jr.

Son of Mayor Prentiss. In 'Old' Prentisstown, Davy was the local sheriff. In book one he is told to bring Todd and Viola to the Mayor, only he shoots Viola instead. Later, in the second book, he is ordered to work with Todd during The Ask and The Answer, carrying out tasks while constantly seeking his father’s approval. While initially he and Todd resent each other, they eventually develop a form of friendship during the Ask and the Answer. He is murdered by the end of The Ask and The Answer by his own father when he starts to turn out to be nice and 'human'.

Bradley Trench

The caretaker of the Beta, one of the ships of the convoy. He lands on New World with Simone in a scout ship to survey for possible town locations, because the convoy is under the assumption that the first ship didn't make it to New World due to a lack of communication. He is very disoriented by the Noise bug, especially when it reveals his love for Simone involuntarily, and blames Todd for her death. He is an unswayable advocate for peace during the negotiations between himself, the Mayor and Mistress Coyle, as well as between the humans and the Spackle.

Simone Watkins

The caretaker of the Gamma, one of the ships of the convoy. She is killed when Mistress Coyle committs suicide in her attempt to kill the Mayor. Todd could have saved her, but he subconciously chose to save the Mayor instead.


A young soldier from the Answer, who falls in love with Viola during her stay with them. He eventually accepts that she will always love Todd, and helps her break him out of his cell during a major raid by the Answer. In the third book, his eyes are irreversibly damaged by a Spackle acid rifle, leaving him blind except for pictures in others' Noise. This does not stop him, however, from helping Todd and Viola during the Second Spackle War. He even leads the remaining soldiers who survived the destruction of New Prentisstown by the Spackle releasing the backed up river.


A strange man who shows up periodically in the books. He has shown himself to be the most peaceful and honest man on New World, incapable of lies, and has been likened to the Sky of the Clearing.


Jane is Wilf's wife, though she does not share her husband's natural charisma. She helps the Mistress's at The Answer's camp.

Mayor Con Ledger

The former mayor of Haven, before Mayor Prentiss took over. He is introduced at the beginning of the second book. He shared Todd's cell with him, and gradually gave him information about the Answer, the Spackle War, and recent events. It is later revealed that Ledger was supplying Mayor Prentiss with all the information Todd gave him in return. He attempts to recapture Todd during his escape attempt with Viola and Lee, but is killed when he takes a Thrace bomb from Viola's bag, placed there by Mistress Coyle in an attempt to kill the Mayor. (A Thrace bomb activates when it is picked up, sensing the holder's body heat or heartbeat, and detonates when they let go, which is the holder's instinctual reaction when they realize they are holding a bomb.)

Ivan Farrow

The former leader of Farbranch, he joins the Mayor's army when his town is destroyed. He later joins the Answer after the Mayor demotes to private and continuously treats him like dirt. He is an ambitious man who "goes wherever the power is", as is said by many characters of the novels.


The seemingly insane priest of Prentisstown. He constantly appears during the first book trying to provoke a fight with Todd, which always ends with Todd injuring him without killing him. At the end of the book, it's revealed that he was selected as the sacrifice for Todd's coming of age which requires him to kill someone in order to become a man, and Aaron has been trying to provoke Todd to kill him so that his aiding of the process will turn him into a saint. The plan ultimately fails, when at the end of the first book, Viola deliberately kills him in Todd's place to prevent Todd from becoming a murderer like Mayor Prentiss wants.

Cillian Boyd

Cillian (kil-i-an) is Todd's other adoptive father. He sacrifices himself to save Todd and to try and hold off a war.


Todd’s dog. Bought by Cillian for Todd’s twelfth birthday, his thoughts are audible because of the Noise germ. He was Todd’s closest friend in Prentisstown, and follows Todd unconditionally until a plan hatched by himself, Todd and Viola goes horribly wrong and Aaron kills him. After his death, Todd finds himself unable to ever intentionally separate himself from any of his allies, as he fears that once again, it might result in tragic consequences that they will all regret.

The Land

The Spackle name for all general Spackle. Being a species that evolved with Noise, the entire population acts as one entity.

The Sky

An appointed head of the Spackle, who has supreme rule over all Spackle affairs. A separate entity to the Land, who is alone, and must do what is right for the Land, not what is right by them. Orders from the Sky are followed unconditionally.

The Burden

The name for those who were left to become domesticated slaves for the humans after the signing of the first treaty. Often regarded with remorse and guilt when remembered among Spackles. The Mayor kills them all to provoke another war with the Spackle.

The Clearing

The Spackle name for humans, due to their destructive nature.


The novels have gained largely positive reviews.

On the overall series, the Costa Prize Judges said that they were “convinced that this is a major achievement in the making,” while the Guardian stated that “I would press Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy urgently on anyone, anyone at all. It is extraordinary.”

The Knife of Never Letting Go was received with near universal praise for its originality and narration from critics such as Ian Chipman from Booklist and Megan Honig from The School Library Journal.[1][2] It went on to win several awards and recognitions, including the Guardian Award, and the 2008 James Tiptree, Jr. Award.[3][4]

The second book was also received well, with praise from Publishers Weekly, Children’s Literature and Kirkus Reviews, all noting the excellent plot and cast.[citation needed] The book won the 2009 Costa children's fiction prize and was recognised widely for its success.[5]

The third book, Monsters of Men, has received greatly positive reviews and won the 2011 Carnegie Medal.

All three books have been shortlisted for the Carnegie Book Award.


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