Published by: on April 7, 2020
Genres: Adult Fantasy, Romance
My Rating: ★★★ ½
🚨 MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD 🚨
A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.
Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.
I‘ve spent a long time feeling conflicted over what to rate this book — the first half was a chore to read, but the second half was exciting and had me throughly invested. One of the reasons I stuck with this book is because Roth has the most captivating writing style that always manages to leave me in awe. “She had fallen in love with him a half a dozen times before she knew she had” and “Always famous but always fading, the way old movie stars were, carrying the ghosts of their younger selves in their faces” are two quotes that don’t have much relevance to the plot, but highlights the consistent enchanting quality of Veronica Roth’s writing. My main issue though — as I could see it being for others — was the pacing. It was slow and I didn’t even know what the plot was meant to be until I was 300 pages in. A part of me wonders if the book knew what it was meant to be itself, although it relied heavily on the ‘Chosen One’ trope, there was nothing original about it.
I couldn’t help but see elements of other books and shows in it — the Dark One and the siphons reminded me a lot of Shadow & Bone’s the Darkling and amplifiers. One thing that did differentiate from what we might have seen before is the fact this was set after the Chosen Ones had defeated the villain. This left me conflicted because, would we still have read Harry Potter if Harry was 30 and rehashing his glory days to us rather than readers experiencing them first hand? I actually think it would have been more interesting if we saw the characters in battle when they were younger as opposed to merely hearing about it. Without knowing everything that happened beforehand, I was frustrated and felt like I never had the full picture. For Roth’s first venture into adult fiction, the only thing that felt adult about it was the age of our characters and I can’t help but wonder if it’s due to the stigma around YA as a genre. The content was no worse than Divergent, but a lot of writers seem to think YA is a stepping stone to more prestigious paths.
There are five ‘Chosen Ones’ we’re immediately introduced to — Albie, Esther, Ines, Matt and Sloane — but two of them we don’t see much of it. The main character, however, is Sloane. God, I love Sloane. She is fierce, clever, independent and everything you could want in a heroine — albeit, I might argue the case of her being an anti-heroine, all things considered. Despite being a hero to the rest of the world, she’s shrewd, bitter and left reeling from PTSD after her final battle. She never wanted to be chosen and never plays into being chosen either. All of that made Sloane more relatable and I definitely identified with her most. If I was expected to risk my life, I’d be tired and angry too. Sloane is a perfect contrast to Matt, the golden boy and hero archetype, alongside Esther, someone who relishes in her fame.
In the other dimension, we then meet Mox. Although he serves as a romantic interest for Sloane, he stands on his own as a fascinating character. He balances Sloane well and he a lot of wit to him, it was nice to see a relationship of equals for once. Mox may be a little unhinged, but he’s full of good interiors and bravery too. Their romance isn’t a fast burn, but it still felt too fast for me. As a whole, he is a great example of how multi-faceted the characters in Chosen Ones are.
As likeable as all the characters were, some felt like they were being introduced in excess only to serve no other purpose, such as Kyros. I never want to include too many spoilers either, but I predicted the identities of the Dark One and the Resurrectionist, which left me underwhelmed when the book reached its climax. Developed as they are, I kept waiting to be surprised by the characters and ended up disappointed.
MY FAVOURITE MOMENT
The Dive was so intense and gritty, it is easily my favourite moment and allows for Sloane’s emotional baggage to be understood more. When we meet her, she’s apathetic and how she became like that was always going to be difficult to get right — what type of thing could plunge a person into such a state of emptiness? — but Roth did it. In this scene, I felt Sloane’s fear, her panic and it’s the first time I thought the book might be start of something good.
Sloane’s first kiss with Mox was a standout moment too. Romance isn’t the focus of this book, but those two feel like the product of something natural. Their chemistry is amazing, but I get the sense they make each other better people too. Even if we don’t see much of them in a relationship, it was nice for all the drama to be outside of the actual couple for once, so the kiss scene felt rewarding after the two of them endured so much manipulation and pain.
MY LEAST FAVOURITE MOMENT
Not that it’s my least favourite moment, but the proposal. It felt pointless — in fact, a lot of the first half was unnecessary. Of course the relationship between Matt and Sloane needed to be established, but then it made me feel like their was too much left unresolved between them when Sloane began to move on. I despise loose ends and this caused some. It didn’t feel right Sloane agreed to the proposal either — even under pressure, it didn’t make sense why she wasn’t more upfront with him later.
The articles, transcripts, diary entries etc between chapters were interesting in the beginning, but ended up being annoying and overdone as well. They broke up the story when I was finally engaging with the events and seemed like a convenient excuse to increase the book length. If anything, they started to be repetitive and served to complicate the magic system that had already been explained so well.
This book has left me with mixed feelings, but I’d still recommend it — if you can push past the boring first half. Whilst it tries to put a fresh spin on an overdone trope, I don’t think the book included anything that hasn’t been explored before. I didn’t have a burning desire to keep reading it at all, the characters and the relationships they forged were a saving grace as opposed to the all-over-the-place plot. However, the world building was brilliant with a complex magic system grounded in science. I don’t know if this is part of a series or not, I do know that I still have a lot of questions to be answered and would not be averse to picking up a sequel in the future in spite of my hold backs.
Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
read it and weep,