Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Checkmate: Malorie Blackman, June 9—27, 2012
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
Checkmate begins sixteen years after Knife Edge concluded, with two colossal showdowns taking place. From that point, the book splits into threads – one continuing the showdowns until the book’s climax and the other recounting the intervening sixteen years to demonstrate how they came to be.
The concept works really well. The breakdown of Sephy and Callie-Rose’s relationship, and Jasmine’s increasing desperation, are believably depicted, and each time stream adds a layer of detail to the other. We hear the familiar narrative voice of Blackman through her various narrators (this time including Sephy, Callie-Rose, Jasmine, Meggie, Jude and – in a brief cameo – Callum), but with the added dual timeline twist. It’s a good time to shake things up as we reach the third major volume (fourth overall if you include An Eye for an Eye) and the format change is refreshing. The passing time is marked by giving Callie-Rose’s age before each of her narrative turns from childhood through to sixteen, which is appropriate given her central role in proceedings and makes the timeline easy to follow.
Callie-Rose integrates quickly into the cast and easily becomes a prominent figure. She finds her own voice and is a different lead character from Sephy. It helps that everyone else is somehow acting or reacting to her – Sephy in reacting to their relationship, Meggie in trying to preserve her place in her life, Jude in trying to corrupt her. By the end of the book, it seems that she has always been involved in the series. We see an interesting difference in society from when Sephy was her age some twenty years before; we see for the first time how a mixed race person fits into the dystopia; and most interestingly we understand how Callie-Rose’s impression of Callum is substantially different from the reader’s.
The reader finds themselves rooting for events, people and relationships and Blackman does enjoy teasing us before switching timestream on us now and again.
Checkmate was originally written to be the last instalment, and it would have been a fitting (if surprising) conclusion. It will be very interesting to see where the writer chooses to go from here.