London, Random House, 2013, 357p
Words fail me when I try to describe how much I adore this novel. Malorie Blackman is best known for her Noughts and Crosses series, but this novel is what truly shows how talented and engaging she is.
Kaspar is a Guardian of the Alliance. His job is to defend civilians from Insurgents, the dangerous enemy intent on disrupting the peace of his society. Years ago, the Insurgents damaged the earth through experimentation, forcing the Alliance to segregate them. Now, the Insurgents are a constant threat, and the Alliance must fight defend, but aim to avoid causing any death.
But Kaspar starts to question what he has always believed to be true. With the aid of Mac, a kick-ass librarian, he delves deeper into the history of the Alliance and the integrity of some of the recent attacks, revealing some disturbing information.
Noble Conflict is an intelligent, thrilling read. Blackman does not patronise her reader, but challenges you to keep up with her. Her dystopia is complicated and thought-provoking - like Kaspar, I found myself stating to question what I knew about the society in which I live.
The action throughout this novel is brilliantly controlled and executed. From page one, you are gripped, as the Insurgents attack an Alliance ceremony. Each moment reveals a little more of the mystery to you, and you cannot help but read on! I can't pretend that I didn't guess the ending before it happened (I tend to do that a lot), but it made no dent in my enjoyment of the story.
Most of all, I love the characters in this novel. Kaspar is a dream protagonist - loyal, handsome, clever and a brilliant fighter. He has great friends, each of whom seem incredibly real and wonderful despite not being a significant element in the novel. But best of all are the female leads - Rhea and Mac. You barely get to know Rhea - she is doused in mystery, temptingly dangled in front of you and never fully revealing herself - but she is brave and feisty and passionate, providing Kaspar with the motivation to discover the truth. Meanwhile, Mac provides him with the resources to learn more. As a librarian, she is a credit to our trade. She never falters, she's smart, confident and driven; she is a perfect counterpart to balance Kaspar's fiery masculinity. And the tools she has to carry out research are genius - I wish I had little bots I could program to trawl cyberspace for information.
Plus, she gets the best line of the whole novel:
"Books and knowledge don't make for a safe world. Just the opposite. Books and knowledge are facets of truth and the truth can be very dangerous."It is not completely clear if Blackman has a sequel in mind for this one, but I would love to read more about this world!