Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Double Cross: Malorie Blackman, March 18—May 16, 2013
Hiatus from 1 April—5 May
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
The fifth and final volume in the award-winning Noughts and Crosses sequence was a disappointing departure from its predecessors.
Gone was the dystopian world operated by race. Gone was the Liberation Militia and their creepy threat. Gone were Minerva, Jude and Jasmine. Gone, for all practical purposes, were Callie Rose, Meggie and even Sephy. Gone, even, is the clever alternation narration of chapters and the preceding X or O is replaced regardless of speaker (when it is briefly Callie instead of Tobey) with XX regardless.
Instead, we have nice guy Toby getting caught up in an old-fashioned turf war between two rival gangs, with Callie Rose caught (literally) in the cross-fire and spending most of the book as a vegetable hooked up to IV. Sephy, previously a mainstay of the series, was reduced to a scowling supporting character who rocked up once in a while to glare at Toby and sulk off again.
In the absence of Callie Rose, Toby sets about avenging her injury Medowview style and plans to take the gang lords down. The events unfold with every cliché known to man and every twist is more predictable than the one before. Having said that, it’s enjoyable nonetheless and perfectly paced throughout. Although previous novels have been bogged down with depressing reflections at times, Blackman nails it on the head this time with a downright masterful blend of action, reflection and introspection that keeps emotion and action in the symbiotic relationship that bolsters both.
As a lead character, Toby is immensely likeable and believable. His dialogue and narration is peppered with all the sorts of dry wit and cliché that roll from a schoolboy’s tongue – and this time cliché is a good thing. As a supporting character in Checkmate, Toby is brilliantly developed into the best lead the series has had, and is vastly more entertaining than some of his predecessors.
The climax to the story is also the climax to the series and it’s very nicely handled. All of the surviving characters are given conclusions relevant to their respective journeys. In contrast to the (brilliantly) gut-wrenching, heart-breaking conclusion to Noughts and Crosses way back at the beginning, Blackman leaves the audience of Double Cross moved in an entirely different, yet perfect, way.
Overall, a four-star standalone book with a great deal going for it, but presented as the concluding volume of the Noughts and Crosses sequence, it lets itself down by moving so drastically away from the format of the rest of the series. The key plot is markedly different and veteran characters are overlooked. The series was originally ended after the previous instalment, and on reflection perhaps that was the correct decision.