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"Endgame" by Malorie Blackman - Book Review

by Ted Ryan about a month ago in book reviews

The “Noughts & Crosses” series reaches it long-awaited conclusion

Twenty years ago, Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses, a story that charted the deeply forbidden romance between Sephy (a Cross) and Callum (a Nought) was published. Theirs was a love affair that has had repercussions for their families for generations. Until now.

Endgame, the final book in the series, is a breathtaking conclusion to the groundbreaking series.

The first Nought Prime Minister, Toney Durbridge, is about to go on trial for the murder of notorious ganglord, Dan Jeavons. Tobey insists he is being framed. There were ten seats at Dan's dinner party the night he was killed and each guest had their own reasons for wishing him dead.

Sephy Hadley was one of the guests that night. Haunted by the idea that she didn't do enough to stop the death of her first love, Callum McGregor, Sephy will not sit quietly and wait for accusations to fall on her now. She has her children to protect...

It's time that actions speak louder than words. Time that the truth is uncovered. Time for the endgame.

I was really looking forward to reading the conclusion of this series. Since re-reading the Blackman’s dystopian as an adult, so many of the themes and nuance character moments evoked some poignant discussions with family and friends as I revisited the series in preparation for the fifth book (Crossfire) a couple years ago.

However, I was sadly disappointed with the final instalment of Blackman's series. It picks up almost immediately after the events of the fifth book, with the narrative perspectives focusing on seven characters known throughout the last six books, one of whom remains a mystery for the majority of the book. I will say, I was a bit disappointed the book went down a murder mystery route that had an underwhelming conclusion - it even gave Cluedo vibes towards the end of that particular storyline.

The pacing for this felt off. There were several different storylines that veered between two murder mysteries, a political thriller, a kidnapping, the corrupt government and racial prejudices. None of these plots felt evenly developed nor did the characters’ reactions to them come across as genuine.

The one storyline I was probably the most invested in was the kidnapping of the newly elected (and clouded in scandal) Prime Minister’s daughter and a respective lawyer’s half-brother. The stakes of this should have been a lot bigger, but the logic of how the characters responded to this situation ranged from passive to downright ridiculous. Also despite the POVs themselves being written well, the third change in kidnapper took that storyline into the ludicrous territory.

I appreciated that Malorie Blackman wanted to pay homage to the series as a whole, but there was so much crammed into one book that it actually felt overwhelming and yet underwhelming simultaneously. Also for a book that was relationship driven, I was not invested in one of these romantic pairings - specifically that of Toby and Callie Rose. Since Checkmate, I’ve had an instant dislike to this pairing and that’s only been solidified in this book. I’ve never liked Toby as a character, but the fact he continuously speaks to and treats the woman he supposedly loves horrifically and was redeemed it forgiven… it never made sense and was infuriating to read. I was actually surprised by the conclusion of that plot and believe this book may have been better if it explored that revelation more.

Similar to Crossfire, this book cast its narrators as Toby, Callie, Troy and Libby - however, Blackman also pens chapters from the perspectives of Sephy, Dan and a unknown narrator who remains nameless for the majority of the book. These narrators tie all the books together and even a short story, but again this felt very rushed for a finale. I actually listened to the audiobook version and I actually liked the casting of Josh Dylan, Vivienne Acheampong, Rebecca Lee, David John, Masali Baduza, Nathan Stewart Jarrett and Simon Darwen as the narrators for this production.

All of the plot points lead towards a traumatic and dramatic conclusion, but this was one of the few times I had to backtrack with a book because so much was going on. There were also breaks at the end of chapters which delved into newspaper articles which explored the wider world of Albion (the United Kingdom) which worked quite well in the fifth novel because it dealt specifically with scandal, political injustice and world issues. Blackman used these segments to address real-world issues which weaved through the story quite well. However, Endgame had so much (sometimes too much) going on, these articles actually slowed the story down a considerable bit. This became more apparent when none of the characters are effected or reflected on these news stories in the overall plot.

The ending left me with more questions than answers and as someone who loved these books as a teenager, my expectations may have been too high for this book and I was sadly disappointed by the ending.

Although Blackman’s writing was still good, the plot lacked the structure and pacing to keep me fully engaged. Therefore, I gave Endgame a ★★ rating.

book reviews

Ted Ryan

Screenwriter/Director/Playwright/Reviewer

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