Name: Knife Edge
Author: Malorie Blackman
Genre: Young Adult, Alternate Reality
Knife Edge is the second novel in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series, released in 2004. You can check out my review of the first novel here and the short story An Eye For An Eye which details events which occur between the first novel and this one.
Unlike the first novel I hadn’t read this one at school so this is my first time reading this novel. Note this review does contain spoilers for the first novel and short story in the series.
The story picks up nine months after the first novel and three months after the short story. At the end of Noughts and Crosses after the failed kidnapping attempt by Callum and the Liberation Militia of Persephone Hadley (Sephy), Sephy discovered she was pregnant with Callum’s child which lead to his arrest and charged with kidnap which carried the death sentence. Sephy’s father Kamal tried to persuade Persephone to have an abortion but as she refused and he even tried to ask Callum to persuade her to have an abortion, saying he could reduce his sentence which he also refused which ended in Callum’s execution.
Callum’s brother Jude, also a member of the Liberation Militia blamed Sephy for Callum’s execution so in An Eye For An Eye broke into her flat to try to kill her.
The story picks up three months after the events of An Eye For An Eye, Sephy is in hospital shortly after giving birth to her and Callum’s daughter – Callie Rose who is mixed race in a world where there is no place for mixed race children. Sephy makes contact with Callum’s mum Meggie and moves in with her. She develops a bond with Callie but receives a letter Callum wrote before he died from his prison guard Jack, saying he never loved her and thought she was stupid for believing it. Sephy develops postnatal depression and begins to neglect Callie Rose.
In the meantime, she meets Jaxon – a hot-tempered man with a band The Midges whilst she is in hospital with Callie (his sister Rosie is in the bed next to her). They sing together and Jaxon offers her a singing part in their band with the aim of getting more Cross gigs but they face a lot of prejudice. For example in a Cross bar, Sephy is allowed to go through the front door but her bandmates are only allowed through the back whilst in a Nought bar the roles are reversed.
Meanwhile, Jude is in hiding following the kidnapping attempt which went awry. Sephy recognized one of the men in the Liberation Militia as working for her father, Andrew Dawn and now Jude is looking for a way to get him found out and avenge his brother. He befriends a Cross salon owner, Cara Imega with the aim of trying to gain access to her money but as his violent and hateful nature takes over, what will be the consequences and what difficult decision will Sephy have to make?
Overall I really enjoyed this novel and it is a fantastic second entry in the series.
What I liked in particular about this second novel is Blackman isn’t afraid to move the timeline on from the first novel and actually the characters have grown up from where they were in Noughts and Crosses. In many other young adult series such as The Hunger Games and Harry Potter etc. most of the events take place in a relatively short window of the characters lives but this novel has already jumped from Sephy being a young girl at school to a young single mother and this allows her to introduce different themes but it also means she doesn’t treat her audience as children who need characters the same age to relate to them.
The book also introduces some very interesting new themes and some that are quite grown up including mental illness, grief and post-natal depression. Sephy’s involvement in the band in particular I also liked as it introduces comments on the music industry, including racism and how image plays a large part of success.
For example, in Blackman’s world Nought music is seen as offensive and all about sex, in much the same way as black music is treated by some people today. Further, when Sephy and the band visit the Cross bar and Sephy is allowed to go through the front door but the Nought members of the band have to go through the back it also makes a comment on racial segregation in society.
It also actually reminded me of a TV show that I watched in the UK on ITV2 called The Big Reunion – the premise of the show were six groups from the 90’s and 00’s talk about their history and why they split up before reuniting for a reunion concert.
One of the groups on the second series was the girl group Eternal who in their first lineup had three black women, Kéllé Bryan and sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett and one white woman, Louise Redknapp (though she left the band early on and the three remaining members continued as a trio with only the three reuniting on the show).
However in the series the trio talk about their early days as a four piece and the varying degrees of racism they experienced, from not being featured as often on magazine covers in the UK as “black women don’t sell magazines” from being actually separated in South Africa, where apartheid was still in place in the early days of the group.
Blackman also shows the depths of racial hatred in the character of Jude and how blinkered people can become through this hatred. She also allows him a potential saving grace in the character of Cara Imega but the pull of hatred is too strong for him to actually rise up against it and be better which does and an element of tragedy to his character even though he is obviously very evil.
I also find it interesting Blackman calls this book “The book of hate” in her introduction and in interviews about the book (note the ending of this article also contains spoilers for this book but the first part doesn’t) but says the book had to go to a more darker place than the first one to allow for it to rise again in the conclusion of the trilogy which I feel this book does accomplish and does leave you wanting to read the next book in the series.
I would highly recommend reading this novel as a continuation of the Noughts and Crosses series.