Checkmate – Malorie Blackman

***Please Note: Checkmate is the third in the Noughts and Crosses Series and this review may contain spoilers for the previous two books***

“The General watched as his Liberation Militia commanders took their places around the imposing mahogany dining table. He studied each of them in turn . Years of self discipline honed from childhood made it easy for him to keep his expression neutral. Six mend and three women finally settled and look at him in respectful anticipation.”

Sixteen years after the birth of her daughter Callie Rose, Sephy is struggling. Callie Rose can barely be in the same room as her and she’s so full of hatred and anger that Sephy doesn’t know what to do, what happened to her beautiful carefree rainbow child? Callie Rose has grown up being told very little about her father, her mother keeping that from her causes her to be told by a friend in the heat of the moment, and thats where it all starts. Her father was a terrorist, his family so tied up in the Liberation Militia she can’t begin to understand why her mother insists that she’s so much like Callum. Then Uncle Jude, Callum’s brother turns up and vows to tell Callie Rose the truth, his whole truth, about the LM and Callum. Callie Rose is drawn into his company and believes that he is the only one looking out for her, and she soon finds herself drawn into his dark and scary world. 

This is the third book in the Noughts and Crosses series. When I first read it it was actually billed as being the final book, my copy has written on it ‘the dramatic conclusion of the award-winning Noughts and Crosses trilogy’ and to be honest, it reads like the final book. I believe that Double Cross is more of a companion book to the series rather than the conclusion and Checkmate really finishes Sephy, Callum, Callie Rose and Jude’s stories off well, and I love it because of that.
The story is not linear. You start with life at the present, with Jude at one of the LM meetings and Callie Rose on the beach at her Nanna Jasmines house when she’s 16 and is about to do something crazy. I loved the parallels to Sephy in the beginning bit with Callie Rose on the beach with her male friend and it shows any reader of the series just how alike Callie Rose and Sephy are right from the start. The story then flashes back to places in the past, Callie Rose at 6 1/2, 7, 8, 11, 12 and so on until 16. Everything is building up to the scene at the beginning of the book and its a great way of story telling. The snippets show how much Callie changes as she’s forced to grow up with a mother who wont cuddle her and in a home which is full of tension at the best of times and shouting at the worst. The chapters from Sephy and Meggie’s points of view take that into consideration and their actions are explained along with the feelings of Callie Rose for growing up in that way. 
The characters have so much background and this book has to cover a 15 year past from where we left off in Knife Edge. The reader gains snippets of what happened in those years but not everything is revealed straight away and it was really interesting to read and pick up on bits that happened. I really loved some of the characters, especially Nana Jasmine and for the most part Sephy. Sephy is so scared and so alone. The letter she received from Callum just after eh was hung had scarred her and kept her from loving anyone including herself and that reflected badly on her actions towards Callie Rose and others in her life. It was difficult to read at times because she was so self-damaging and thats a trait she passed on to Callie Rose. Callie Rose was a really tough character to like. She was lovely as a kid, full of questions like ‘Why do I have to be in so early’ and ‘why can’t I ride my bike further than the end of the road’ just like kids are but the contrast between the chapters when she is little and the attitude of her in the present time is so striking and I loved that the younger chapters were kept in age order so that you could see where the problems started. Nana Meggie was awful in this book and although she didn’t appear much I found I couldn’t stand her. I felt sorry for her because she really did just want the best for everyone but she went the wrong way about it. Sonny and Nathan were amazing characters and whilst so different I loved them both equally. I loved the gradual development of Nathan and Sephy’s relationship and how you got to see it grow, but I did feel bad for Sonny. There’s a slight love triangle which is kind of paralleled in Callie Rose again but I love the way they are both handled because the reader gets to choose really which guy each of the girls go for. There were a couple of awful characters as usual and I wanted to hurl the book away at the scene with Callie Rose and her grandfather and Jude made me want to scream, he is so twisted and malevolent. 
My 2005 version

I devoured this re-read of Checkmate, I literally read it in about 36 hours and that 26 hours also included full time work and sleep amongst other things, so a 510 page book is a pretty big achievement I’d say. I loved the quirkiness of the chapters and how Callie Rose’s told the reader her age and they all had either an X or an O next to them. I loved the songs peppered through the book and what they meant for the characters and I loved how my hatred boiled up whenever Jude was near, major emotions are a sign of a great book! 

Checkmate was published in 2005 by Doubleday in Hardback and followed by Corgi in paperback in 2006. My copy was purchased.

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One Comment

  • Cliona

    Fab review! From what I can remember, I didn’t really like Callie Rose in this book, but I loved the whole Nathan -Sephy – Sonny thing – I had forgotten about that!

    Thanks for the great review! 😀

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