Author: Malorie Blackman
Genre: Young Adult, Alternate Reality
Crossfire is the fifth novel in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series, published 11 years after the fourth entry in 2019. I have reviewed the previous entries in the series, starting with the first novel here.
NB: As this series is a continuation, the review may contain spoilers for the first three novels in the series.
After the fourth entry this novel takes another time jump, approximately 18 years into the future from the conclusion of the fourth novel though events aren’t presented to us in a linear sequence.
In a prologue Callie, who is now in her mid-thirties and a famous barrister, is on her way to meet her friend Tobias Durbridge, who is now Albion’s first Nought Prime Minister as he needs her to do him a favour. He has been charged with the murder of Dan Jeavons, who was his friend in the fourth entry and during the eighteen years in the interim rose up to become a criminal mastermind in Meadowview. He wants Callie to defend him which she agrees to do.
After this the novel moves to the Now timeline, where we meet two new characters. Troy Ealing is Sephy’s son with her husband Nathan Ealing who appeared in the first two novels and is Callie’s half brother. Libby Jackman is Tobey’s daughter. Both have been kidnapped off the street and are locked up in a basement somewhere. In a series of flashbacks to “Then” from the perspective of both characters we read about the events that lead up to their kidnapping and why they might have been kidnapped.
We also learn later on in the novel what caused Tobey and Callie’s relationship to fail, how Tobey rose to power with the help of Dan and also what happened on the fateful night of Dan Jeavons’ murder. For the first time in the series the book ends on a cliff hanger with events concluding in the sixth novel (and to date final novel), Endgame.
Just like the previous entries in the series, Malorie Blackman delivers a riveting page-turner of a story. The book hooks you in with the first prologue chapter where we learn Tobey is now Prime Minister and not only that ahs murdered someone before immediately going into the basement with Libby and Troy and I found myself reading the book in great hungry chunks.
By making another time jump, Blackman has allowed her characters to grow and also to reflect the changes in society that happened since 2008.
We no longer know Callie and Tobey due to the length of time we have seen them and in particular what viewpoints Tobey has picked up and has used to get into power. He frequently uses the policies of fear and division which we saw frequently in the Brexit and US election campaigns in 2016. Tobey is told by an advisor to ‘pick a fight with the media and win it.’ Also in a parallel his daughter to a lesser extent does the same thing as she is running for Head Girl and tells people to vote for her as she will listen, unlike the Crosses who “only look after their own”. This is highlighted in Blackman’s foreword to the novel and is a theme that is explored really well in this novel.
The book also explores issues such as mental health, domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy and relationships and anxiety which arguably has become more of an open topic in the last decade (especially mental health issues).
My only real critique with the story is the jumping around of the timeline. Though this isn’t a new narrative device from Blackman as she has done this in both of the previous entries and it doesn’t help to create ambiguity around the story. I do personally feel it jumps around a little too much and perhaps the story detailing what happened to Tobey and Callie could’ve been presented earlier and it does make the second half a bit more jumbled as it moves between quite a few different timelines at once. There was also a stage in the chapter with the party where I wasn’t sure if it took place before Tobey was Prime Minister or after.
However it is still an engrossing read and as it ended on a cliff-hanger I can’t wait to read the next entry, Endgame which as mentioned at the beginning is currently the final entry in the series.
If you have read Crossfire, I would love to hear your thoughts so let me know what you think in the comments down below.