The knife is the symbol of Todd's arduous, violent journey toward manhood. It physically represents the choice he has to make about what kind of man he will be: the kind his adopted father, Ben, wants him to be, or the kind Aaron and the rest of the men of the town want him to be. Once Todd knows the true nature of the choice, it seems like it would be cut and dried, and in a fairy tale land where the only ending is happily ever after, it would be.
But Todd's life is anything but a fairy tale, and the fact that his choice is an impossible one, even with the blatant forces of good and evil staring him in the face, raises this book to the level of literature instead of merely adventure.
The knife is alive.
As long as I hold it, as long as I use it, the knife lives, lives in order to take life, but it has to be commanded, it has to have me tell it to kill, and it wants to, it wants to plunge and thrust and cut and stab and gouge, but I have to want it as well, my will has to join with its will.
I'm the one who allows it and I'm the one responsible.
But the knife wanting it makes it easier.
But the knife barely scratches the surface of the deeper meaning woven into this book. I'd be extremely interested to read a feminist interpretation of the book, as the roles of women and their relationships to men play out across the warped stage of this planet cursed with men who can hear one another's thoughts. As it is, this book has stayed with me since I picked it up, and after I put it down. I'm still thinking about it, worrying it around in my brain, trying to glean more meaning out of it.
Marked for ages 14 and up, this isn't a book for young readers, no matter how precocious, but mature readers who can handle the literary tone will devour it and — word of warning — be extremely anxious for the next in the series when they reach the entirely unsatisfying cliff-hanger ending.