The Kill Order by James Dashner

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The following review contains spoilers for the Maze Runner series.

Genre: Sci-Fi/Dystopian

The Kill Order is the fourth book in the Maze Runner series and a prequel to The Maze Runner itself. It could be read without reading the other books but I think there are slights spoilers just in the prologue.

The Kill Order takes place 13 years before The Maze Runner began. It tells the story of Mark, a teenage boy living through the aftermath of the sun flares (a phenomenon we found out about in The Scorch Trials, the second books in the series) which ravaged the earth.  When Mark and his friends are attacked by people wielding the darts laced with The Flare (a virus we also learned about in The Scorch Trials), they begin a quest to confront those who are behind the attacks. The story also tells in flashback about Mark’s experience surviving the flares.

The Maze Runner was one of those books I read in the aftermath of The Hunger Games, and I had high hopes for it being a match for the former. The first books seemed promising but the rest of the series didn’t really live up to its promise and I was ultimately disappointed. It petered out forgettably, but I thought this book might satisfy by solving some of the mysteries of what happened before The Maze Runner.

I was sorely disappointed. Yes, it takes place before, but it doesn’t touch on WICKED or the Maze trials at all…it alludes to a group trying to solve the world’s problems but that’s about it. It answers very few questions raised by the other three books. Instead, we are treated to the story of a new character, and not even a very enjoyable one.

I have two main gripes with The Kill Order. The first is with its brutality. I’m not squeamish, but some of the things described are pretty gruesome, especially for a young adult novel. Not in an unsettling but intriguing way as in Pure but more in a way that makes you think “Why on earth would he include that?” (Examples include long painful deaths and images of diseased and insane children being left to fend for themselves). It seemed kind of unnecessary and over the top.

The second was that it was so full of action it was boring to read. That sounds like an oxymoron, but when I say action, I mean people grappling with each other in hand to hand combat, being attacked, escaping, being attacked again, jumping around, falling down, shooting, being chased, etc. It was exhausting and felt like reading one long description of an action sequence in a movie. It got in the way of plot and character development and was tedious to read, rather than building suspense.

Fans of the series (grades 6-9) will probably want to read it, but it wasn’t worth my time.

Teaching resources:

Author’s website:

Brief James Dashner interview:

James Dashner on Studio (audio):

Sample essay prompts based on past MCAS Exam essay prompts:

1. Often in works of literature, a character earns the respect of his or her friends, family, or community. Select a character from The Kill Order who earns the respect of his or her friends, family, or community. In a well-developed composition, identify the character; describe how the character earns the respect of his or her friends, family, or community; and explain how the character’s experience is important to the work as a whole.

2. Often in works of literature, a character encounters a situation that requires courage. Select a character from The Kill Order who encounters a situation that requires courage. In a well-developed composition, identify the character, describe how the character reacts to the situation that requires courage, and explain how the character’s actions are important to the work as a whole.

3. Often in works of literature, something positive can emerge from a difficult situation. In a well-developed composition, describe a difficult situation from The Kill Order and explain how something positive emerges from it.

Please leave questions, comments, book review requests, etc. below!


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