18 August 2013

Checkmate (Noughts and Crosses, Book 4)

Synopsis: Callie Rose has a Cross mother and a nought father in a society where the pale-skinned noughts are treated as inferiors and those with dual heritage face a life-long battle against deep-rooted prejudices.

Sephy, her mother, has told Rose virtually nothing about her father, but when Rose unexpectedly discovers the truth about her parentage, she finds herself drawn into a dangerous, deadly game – a game of very high stakes than can have only one winner.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Corgi Books, Random House Children's Books, 2007; 511 pages; purchased from Amazon.

My thoughts: This is the fourth book in a series of six, and before you read this book, you must start with the first book and read them in order. I read the first book, NOUGHTS AND CROSSES, in October 2006, long before I began this blog. It was a gripping and mesmerizing book, which should be required reading for all students. Then I read AN EYE FOR AN EYE, a much shorter novella, and KNIFE EDGE, both in May 2011. As I started the second book, I had to look up a synopsis of the first book to familiarize myself with the story. As with the first book, I loved the second and third books.

I definitely should not have waited so long to read CHECKMATE. I often had to pause and remember what had happened in previous books in order to not be confused. And while I liked the book, I did not love it as much as the previous books, but I think if I'd read it while the others were still fresh in my mind I would have gotten a lot more out of it.

This books takes us through Callie Rose's life from age seven to age sixteen. As in the previous books, the short chapters are all told in first person, alternating between characters – Callie Rose, her mother, Sephy, her grandmothers, Jasmine and Meggie, and her father's brother, Jude. In the early years, all Callie Rose knows about her father is that he was a gardener and died in a car accident while her mum was pregnant with her. But as she grows older, and particularly after Jude first makes contact with her, she begins to learn more about who her father really was, and finds herself drawn into the Liberation Militia and training to be a soldier under her uncle's command.

I think my biggest issue was that I found Sephy to now be a very unsympathetic character. She loves her daughter, but she cannot bring herself to show her daughter real affection. For example:

I was about to give Callie a hug, but I caught myself in time. I gave her a pat on the head and a kiss on the forehead instead.
'Mum, I'm not a dog who just retrieved a bone, thank you very much,” Callie complained. (pg 237)
And she constantly thinks to herself that now is the time to tell her daughter the truth about her father, and then she lets the moment pass and doesn't do so. Of course, she has her reasons for both of these issues, misguided though they may be, but for most of the book I was angry and disappointed at her.

The last third of the book took me back into that mesmerized didn’t want to put it down state, but for a 500 page book it took a while to get that drawn in.

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