The Knife of Never Letting Go Book summary

Patrick Ness




The Knife of Never Letting Go is a young adult science fiction novel written by Patrick Ness. It was published in 2008 by Walker Books. It is the first book of the Chaos Walking trilogy and has already been adapted into a film. The film titled Chaos Walking was released in 2021 and was based on the plot of this book. The Knife of Never Letting Go was Patrick Ness’s first novel in the young adult genre, and it received great critical success. The book was awarded the Booktrust Teenage Prize, the Guardian Award, and the Otherwise Award.


Plot Summary


Todd Hewitt lives in Prentisstown, with 146 men, and his dog, Manchee. Todd is going to be thirteen in one month, which makes him the last boy in the town. Prentisstown is the last human settlement in New World, a consequence of the war with the Spackle, the alien natives of New World. The Spackle had released the Noise germ during the war, which killed all the women, and half the men. Those that remained were affected by the Noise, which allowed them to read the thoughts of everyone around them including animals. Todd’s life takes a sudden turn when he finds something that seems to be a hole in the noise while he is walking through the swamps next to Prentisstown.

Todd’s foster parents hurry Todd away with a packed bag and tell him to escape from Prentisstown just as Mayor Prentiss sends his son, Davy Jr, to find Todd. A confused Todd hurries into the swamp in search of the noise that had upturned his life and finds it to be a girl. The town priest, Aaron, tries to harm the girl but Todd severely injures him but he is unable to bring himself to kill the man. The girl doesn’t talk to him, and she doesn’t seem to have any noise either. Todd is unable to understand how the girl could exist given what he had been taught about their history. The girl turns out to be a part of a new wave of settlers that had left Old World shortly after Todd’s people had left. The two of them travel in silence together, following the map that Ben had given Todd along with his mother’s journal. They soon realize that they are being chased by a large posse of horsemen led by Mayor Prentiss. Viola, the girl, saves them by burning the only bridge over a river crossing with an advanced fire apparatus. Todd and Viola encounter other people across the river, both women and men. Todd slowly begins to uncover the true history of the planet as he learns that most of the things that he had been taught in Prentisstown were lies.

Todd and Viola have a difficult time finding shelter as Todd learns that Prentisstown had a dark history that inspired hate in almost all other men of the New World. Those that do shelter them eventually find themselves facing an army of Prentisstown men, who now pursue Todd and Viola. The pair of them aim to reach Haven, the first settlement in the area since they believe it would be able to stand up to the army. Aaron continues to pursue them without the army, as does Davy Jr. In these confrontations, Todd begins to realize that he is unable to bring himself to kill anyone. However, he accidentally kills a weak Spackle, and the knowledge of it haunts him through the rest of the journey. He loses Manchee, his dog, in a confrontation with Aaron, and learns the true history of Prentisstown from a fleeing Ben. He learns that the Noise had always been a part of the New World and that it had driven men insane. The men had first killed off all the Spackle, and then the men of Prentisstown had murdered all the women because their thoughts were not projected in Noise. Prentisstown men learned of this truth on their 13th birthday when they were forced to murder another man. Mayor Prentiss wanted to take over the world with an army of men, and Todd was the last innocent boy in Prentisstown. This is why Todd had become a symbol for Mayor Prentiss, and he would stop at nothing to convert Todd.

Todd learns that Aaron has been dogging them not to kill them, but rather to be killed at Todd’s hands. In a final standoff, Viola ends up killing Aaron to prevent Todd from becoming a killer, but she is shot by Davy Jr. Todd carries Viola to Haven, expecting to be saved, only to find that Mayor Prentiss has already taken over the town, and declared himself to be the President of the country.

  • Author(s)

    Patrick Ness
  • Publication date

    5th May 2008

  • Language


  • Classification

    Science Fiction

  • Pages



Young Adult


Walker Books

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