by Veronica Roth
SAVING THE WORLD ONCE MADE THEM HEROES.
SAVING IT AGAIN MIGHT DESTROY THEM.
Fifteen years ago, five ordinary teenagers were singled out by a prophecy to take down an impossibly powerful entity wreaking havoc across North America. He was known as the Dark One, and his weapon of choice – catastrophic events known as Drains – leveled cities and claimed thousands of lives. The Chosen Ones, as the teens were known, gave everything they had to defeat him.
After the Dark One fell, the world went back to normal . . . for everyone but them. After all, what do you do when you’re the most famous people on Earth, your only education was in magical destruction, and your purpose in life is now fulfilled?
Of all the five, Sloane has had the hardest time adjusting. Everyone else blames the PTSD – and her huge attitude problem – but really, she’s hiding secrets from everyone . . . secrets that keep her tied to the past and alienate her from the only four people in the world who understand her.
On the tenth anniversary of the Dark One’s defeat, something unthinkable happens: one of the Chosen Ones dies. When the others gather for the funeral, they discover the Dark One’s ultimate goal was much bigger than they, the government, or even prophecy could have foretold – bigger than the world itself.
And this time, fighting back might take more than Sloane has to give.
I received an eARC of Chosen Ones from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Veronica Roth isn’t an author I have a sentimental connection with; I tried reading Divergent years ago but DNF’d it because I got bored, and none of her other work has really called to me. As soon as I heard about her adult debut, though, I knew I’d want to try it because I am weak for stories that explore the aftermath of being a Chosen One, of having to deal with the trauma of saving your world in the public eye.
At first, this is exactly what Chosen Ones was about and I started getting that exciting feeling that this could be a new five star read.
Ten years ago, five teenagers saved the USA from a sinister figure known as the Dark One. Now all in their late twenties/early thirties, they’re celebrities whose every move is watched and scrutinised by the media. Our main character, Sloane, suffered greatly at the hands of the Dark One, alongside her friend and fellow Chosen One Albie, and she’s still trying to find ways to cope with her trauma while her boyfriend, Matt (another fellow Chosen One), has become America’s golden boy who uses his influence to support charities and can’t quite understand how Sloane isn’t coping as well with what they all went through.
The first third of the book I really, really enjoyed. So much of it was spent following these people and watching how, despite sacrificing so much of themselves for their country, they can’t get a moment’s peace to face their demons. It would have been a quieter fantasy story, sure, but I so wish the whole novel had simply followed all five of these people and how going through what they went through, and are still going through, had determined the kind of adults they’ve become. I wanted this novel to ask the question: what does a Chosen One do when they’ve done what they were chosen for?
In fairness to Roth, there is a lot about Chosen Ones that I did like. Sloane, in particular, I loved, but I suppose that should come as no surprise when I have a tendency to love spiky, ‘unlikeable’ women in my fiction.
But then the novel becomes a story about parallel universes and the Chosen Ones once again having to fight the Dark One, who maybe isn’t as dead as they thought he was. The problem here is that by bringing the villain back – although it feels strange to say ‘back’ when he isn’t a villain we’ve met before – Chosen Ones becomes yet another YA chosen one story dressed up as an adult debut.
That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? There are definite differences between this novel and a typical YA fantasy. There’s a lot more swearing, the violence is a little more gory and, of course, our protagonists are older. I wouldn’t call Chosen Ones a YA novel by any means (not least because adult fantasy written by women is always being labelled as YA when it isn’t) but, for me, it does hit a lot of those familiar beats of a YA novel. I’m trying very hard to review what this story was instead of lamenting what it wasn’t, but I so wanted this to be a story about dealing with trauma and other people’s expectations and I think a lot of that gets lost when our main characters have to learn about a new world and a new magic system.
Also, considering this novel is called Chosen Ones, it’s really about Sloane—I expected more of a group feeling from it, and I was also rather disappointed that one of the Chosen Ones, Ines, is queer, and yet she gets left out of the main adventure. I’m hoping we’ll see a lot more of her in the next book, and I’m wondering if the books in this series might each focus on a different Chosen One, but until I know more about the second book I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series or not. I like Sloane, but I don’t think I want to follow her for another 400+ pages when I’d like to get to know the other Chosen Ones.
I did ultimately enjoy Chosen Ones, though, and I imagine a lot of other readers will love it. It’s a story with a really good sense of humour, and I appreciated its exploration of the minute differences between being a Chosen One or a Dark One. If you’re a fan of novels that blend fantasy with sci-fi, or you’re into stories about parallel universes, this is definitely one you should check out.