Name: Knife Edge

Author: Malorie Blackman

Year: 2005

Genre: Young Adult, Alternate Reality

Checkmate is the third novel in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series, released in 2005. You can check out my review of the first novel here, the short story An Eye For An Eye which details events which occur between the first novel and the second and my review of the second novel, Knife Edge.

NB: As this series is a continuation, the review may contain spoilers for the first two novels in the series.

Checkmate begins 16 years after the conclusion of the second novel and starts in a Liberation Militia meeting. In the meeting the General discusses a plan that he has in store for the upcoming General Election, something which will set the Liberation Militia agenda at the forefront of people’s minds and make sure they won’t be forgotten and will involve a child. We also learn that the General is Jude, Callum;s borther.

In the meantime we meet Callie Rose, Callum and Sephy’s daughter as she is celebrating her birthday and also telling us it is her last day on Earth. She goes to visit her Nana Jasmine in the afternoon, who suspects Callie is in the Liberation Militia and has been talking to Jude, she also discovers Callie has manufactured a bomb out of a windcheater and intends to be a suicide bomber. Jasmine pretends not to react and asks Callie to help her get some drink from the cellar, once she is inside she locks her in to face the woman she hates the most, her mother Sephy.

Finally Jasmine, takes the bomb and discovers from Meggie where Jude has been hiding out so puts it on and goes to see him. In the rest of the book there is a game of wits involving Jasmine and Jude in the hotel room, Sephy and her daughter in the cellar and flashbacks to Callie’s upbringing and the various mistakes which lead to the opening chapters. Can Jasmine stop Jude? Can Sephy rescue her daughter from his clutches before she does something terrible?

Overall this is a really exciting and engaging third entry in the series. The book opens with quite a significant time jump from the ending of the second book as we are left to wonder how Sephy’s daughter has got into this position and how her innocence and naivety has been manipulated by Jude for his own evil ends. 

Blackman quickly sets up the main conflicts in the novel within these first few chapters and it is the tension between them which really helps pull you through the novel. I also really like that these parts of the book are split into Jude vs Jasmine, Sephy vs Callie which really keeps reminding you of the central conflicts and fits in with the novels title that it is about a game of wits between these characters.

It is also interesting and it’s mentioned in the foreword of this novel how much art imitated life when this book was published as it was published just a week before the London 7/7 bombings and Black man actually mentions in the foreword how the launch party was booked for that day in London and that she was there at the time of the bombings. From that perspective Blackman does offer a realistic interpretation of how a vulnerable young person can easily be corrupted to carry out someone else’s evil agenda and it is heartbreaking as Callie gets increasingly drawn into Jude’s battles.

There are also plenty of interesting themes at play for the other characters – both Sephy and Meggie for different reasons go through a parallel journey of whether to protect their loved ones or to risk hurting. Sephy spends much of the novel trying to decide whether to tell Callie the truth about her father’s death which is one of the reasons Callie is drawn to Jude as she feels he is the only one being honest with her, though Sephy doesn’t want to hurt her child. Likewise Meggie has to decide whether to protect Jude or Callie as she loves them both but realises the need to protect one may cost the other their life.

My only slight negative is a structural thing. As mentioned I did like how the parts of the novel are split into Jude vs Jasmine, Sephy vs Callie but towards the end this structure is a little lost as the action starts to move between the time frames which does sometimes make it a bit hard to follow what’s going on (though the chapters do reference Callie’s age as a point to know when something occurs) but when the perspective switches to one of the other characters it can initially be hard to realise whether the plot has gone back to the present or is continuing the flashback.

This third entry is still fantastic and I would highly recommend anyone to read these three books. I would love to know what you think about these books, let me know in the comments down below!

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