Read a full summary of The Ask and the Answer, book #2 in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series, right here! This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in The Ask and the Answer, then you are in the right place!
Special thanks to Lindsey Stirling, a BSR contributor, who wrote this great recap! Visit her website to check out the books she’s written and to keep up with news about her new releases. See the end of the recap for links to her Goodreads, Instagram, and Facebook accounts as well as links to the books she’s published.
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in The Ask and the Answer?
Todd is a captive of Mayor Prentiss (now President of New Prentisstown, which was previously the city of Haven). He interrogates Todd, torturing him to reveal Viola’s name. After Todd gives in and reveals Viola’s name, he is imprisoned in a bell tower with the previous Mayor of Haven, Con Ledger. Ledger tells Todd about the Cure for Noise, revealing it is a medicine that must be taken regularly for it to keep working. While in the tower, Todd sees Davy Prentiss arrive and is shocked to see he has Todd’s mother’s journal.
From the bell tower, Todd watches as the army arrives, seeing it has grown considerably on the journey. Mayor Prentiss addresses the crowd. It appears he is going to execute Mayor Ledger, but he lets him go free, giving the people false hope his rule will be good. Despite that, he takes away the Cure from the men of Haven and makes the men and women live separately, with the women not even allowed to leave their homes.
Todd is taken to start his new job, with Davy Prentiss as his supervisor. Their job is to oversee thousands of Spackle (including men, women, and children) who were previously slaves in Haven and are now captives. The Spackle are being used to clear fields on the edge of the city. Todd worries about the Spackle and tries to make their living conditions better, though there is little he can do. Todd thinks constantly about Viola and how he can find her again, but the Mayor uses Viola’s safety as leverage to make Todd comply. Worryingly, the Mayor is also able to put thoughts directly into other people’s heads using his Noise.
Viola wakes in a house of healing being cared for by Mistress Coyle and an apprentice called Maddy. Mayor Prentiss visits her and tells her Todd is safe, but to keep Todd safe, he wants Viola to tell him about the settler ships bringing the rest of her people to the planet. Mistress Coyle drugs Viola before she can tell him too much. Later Mistress Coyle hints to Viola that she means to oppose Mayor Prentiss. She persuades Viola to tell her about the settler ships instead. Viola reveals there are more settlers on the ships than the entire population of the planet. Viola is reluctant to help Mayor Prentiss or spy for Mistress Coyle. All she wants is to find Todd, then find the communications tower so she can warn her people.
Viola slowly recovers from her gunshot wound (given to her by Davy Prentiss at the end of The Knife of Never Letting Go) and begins training as a healer alongside Maddy. She learns the people of Haven used the Cure on the Spackle to make them more docile as slaves. When the women are finally allowed to leave their homes again, Viola and Maddy make a plan to sneak out to the communications tower. One night, they get their chance, but a soldier catches them and shoots Maddy dead. Mayor Prentiss apologizes for Maddy’s death and tries to get Viola on his side. Viola decides to play along to get information.
Meanwhile, Todd and Davy are forced to put metal tags around the Spackle’s arms as if they are livestock. The tags cut into the skin and can never be taken off. Todd tells himself it’s better he does this in the kindest manner possible rather than letting the other men inflict unnecessary cruelty. However, Davy cruelly tags one Spackle around the neck. This causes the Spackle to attack, injuring both Todd and Davy. Todd rushes back to the Mayor’s headquarters for help and, to his surprise, sees Viola embracing Mayor Prentiss.
Viola is overjoyed to see Todd, but the Mayor takes him away before they can talk. That night at Maddy’s funeral, Mistress Coyle drugs Viola so she falls asleep. When she wakes, all the healers have left the city, leaving only Viola and Corinne behind. The note from Mistress Coyle explains they have gone to start a war. It also tells Viola to keep gathering information and wait to be contacted.
The escaped women start using bombs against the city. Viola is almost caught in one bomb, while another explodes when Todd and Davy are with the Spackle. Later, Viola gets a note from Mistress Coyle asking if they can count on her. The note is signed by The Answer. Over the next few weeks, a series of bombs explode across the city, all marked with the bright blue A of The Answer.
Todd eventually sneaks out to find Viola. Viola tells Todd she thinks Mistress Coyle and The Answer are hiding out near the ocean. They both quickly see their mistake because Todd can’t hide the knowledge in his Noise. They decide to run away, but Mayor Prentiss catches them. The Mayor tries to get information from Todd using his strange mind power.
Todd’s punishment is he must work alongside the Spackle. While there, The Answer set off a huge bombing attack on the city. One of the bombs goes astray and hits the Spackle field. Todd saves one of the Spackle, who he calls 1017 based on the number of his tag. During the same attack, Corinne helps Viola escape. Viola finds the communications tower, but before she can send her message, Mistress Coyle stops her. Moments later, a bomb destroys the tower. Mistress Coyle takes Viola away to the hidden camp of The Answer, which is actually in the opposite direction from the ocean.
After the attack, Todd and Davy are put to work overseeing the Spackle on a new project, constructing a building for the Mayor. Davy taunts Todd about his mother’s journal and not being able to read. Todd learns Viola escaped during the attack and is worried she has abandoned him. As the construction progresses, the Spackle 1017 keeps antagonizing Todd. Eventually, Todd gets angry and attacks 1017, but the thought of Viola stops him before he kills the Spackle.
Viola is kept confined to The Answer’s camp, which is hidden in an old mine. She is kept company by Wilf, a refugee who had previously helped her and Todd during their journey to Haven, and Lee, a young man who joined The Answer after Mayor Prentiss imprisoned his mother and sister. The Answer continues bombing and raiding the city. They make another big assault and free many women from the prisons. Everyone is shocked by the injuries and torture evident. Sadly, Lee’s family is not among those saved, and though they find Corinne, her injuries are too great, and they are unable to save her.
After the prison breakout, Todd returns to find all the Spackle have been killed. Only 1017 survives the attack. The blue A on the wall suggests The Answer was responsible. In his despair, Todd agrees to join the Mayor’s side of the war. Soon after, Mayor Prentiss opens the new building: the Office of the Ask. He makes Todd and Davy officers. Davy is pleased because he thinks he has finally gained his father’s approval. He begins to see Todd as a brother, and the Mayor tells Todd he is like a second son to him. Davy gives back Todd’s mother’s book.
Todd soon learns the Office of the Ask is a torture facility. Todd and Davy are forced to watch as men torture women for information. They are given a new job of tagging the prisoners like they did with the Spackle. The Mayor soon extends the tagging to include all women, regardless of whether they are prisoners or not. Todd struggles to come to terms with the awful things he has seen and done. He copes by retreating into himself and trying not to feel or think about anything. He starts repeating a phrase the Mayor taught him: I am the Circle and the Circle is me.
In the camp of The Answer, Viola is trained to be a covert fighter. They hear rumors from the city about the lies Mayor Prentiss is telling to make the Answer look bad, including that they killed the Spackle. As The Answer prepare for their biggest attack yet, Viola decides it is time to save Todd. She gets a livestock tag put on her arm so she can blend in.
Viola comes to rescue Todd before the attack, but Todd doesn’t want to go because he thinks he’s beyond saving. They argue and are discovered by Con Ledger, who reveals he has been a spy for Mayor Prentiss for several weeks now, learning information from the Noise of Todd’s dreams. Ledger rummages through Viola’s bag, searching for food, but instead finds a bomb Viola didn’t know was there. The bomb kills Ledger, and Viola realizes Mistress Coyle must have set her up in an attempt to kill Todd and Mayor Prentiss. Mayor Prentiss takes Viola to the Office of the Ask and tortures her to find out when and how The Answer will attack. Viola refuses to tell, but Todd, who is forced to watch, reveals all so Viola’s torture will stop. Mayor Prentiss leaves Todd and Viola alone in the shame of their defeat and sends his army out to attack The Answer.
How did The Ask and the Answer end?
Todd and Viola regroup and decide to make a desperate attempt to stop the Mayor. They recruit a small group of disgruntled soldiers (enticing them with promises of the Cure) and go to find the Mayor. However, they soon discover the Cure is all gone, somehow destroyed by the Mayor. They find Mayor Prentiss, but he has learned to use his Noise as a weapon, and he takes out the soldiers who were helping Todd.
The Mayor tries to persuade Todd to join him, but they are interrupted by the arrival of Davy. Davy brings news of the battle, saying they were tricked by The Answer and their army went to the wrong place. Mayor Prentiss tells Davy to tie up Todd and Viola, but Davy is reluctant because he no longer sees Todd as an enemy.
They are all interrupted again by the sight of something strange in the sky, which they eventually recognize as the arrival of a scout ship from Viola’s people. Todd and the Mayor enter into a desperate battle of wills, both trying to persuade Davy to join their side. Eventually, the Mayor breaks the stalemate by shooting Davy himself. As Davy dies, he reveals he was the one who killed Ben (Todd’s guardian) by accident. He tells Todd he is sorry for everything and that Todd has become his only friend.
After Davy’s death, it comes down to a final battle of minds between Todd and the Mayor. Todd figures out how to use his Noise as a weapon against the Mayor by using Viola’s name. With Viola’s help, Todd manages to overpower him, though he doesn’t kill him. Viola then rides out to find the scout ship, hoping to reach them before the army. Todd stays to watch over the Mayor.
Yet, just when Todd sees a glimmer of hope for the future, a new army arrives: an army of Spackle, probably summoned by 1017. Todd is terrified because 1017 will have shown his face to the rest of the Spackle, branding him a murderer and torturer. Mayor Prentiss persuades Todd he is the only one who can help defeat this new enemy. Todd makes the Mayor promise to save Viola, then he releases him to lead their people into war.
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