We all know Northwestern alum Veronica Roth, the author of the Divergent trilogy, can write a killer young adult book, but is her storytelling as successful in the realm of adult fantasy?
When I first heard about Chosen Ones, I was immediately excited. It’s exactly the kind of book that’s up my alley and that I usually devour greedily. It tells the story of a group of five twenty-somethings who, ten years prior to the start of the novel, were declared the “Chosen Ones” of their society and tasked with defeating the Dark One. They came out of their battle successful, and have been living the lives of celebrities since.
The book centers on one particular Chosen One, Sloane Andrews, who has never been comfortable with her fame and feels like she’s living an aimless life. She hasn’t moved on from her personal experience with the Dark One: he still haunts her for reasons she doesn’t fully understand.
When of the Chosen Ones dies, the remaining heroes discover that their victory may not have been as absolute as they thought. They’re suddenly thrust into an entirely new world where they’ll have to face demons both new and old.
My expectations were high for this book because of its intriguing synopsis and Divergent's impact both on me personally and the broader reading world. What I remember most about reading Divergent was how incredibly written each and every character was, as well as the action, which had my heart racing on every page.
In my opinion, both of those aspects were missing in Chosen Ones.
I do feel like Sloane was fleshed out expertly: we get to see every side of her as Roth reveals new facets of her character over the course of the book. Her love interest was also granted a degree of complexity, especially as he took center stage in the second half of the book. Everyone else, though? Aside from the barest information, there were very few details to go on, and I just didn’t find myself caring about them.
Similarly, much of the action was lackluster. There were a handful of explosive scenes that reminded me why I loved Roth’s writing, but there wasn’t nearly enough excitement to keep me on the edge of my seat or even encouraged to keep reading. I’m usually a pretty fast reader, and if a book is addictive, nothing can stop me from finishing it within 24 hours. This novel took me an entire week to complete. There were just so many scenes of Sloane going for a walk and thinking, or moments where she was reflecting and nothing else was going on. I understood the value of these moments for character development, but they started to drag on and feel repetitive when there was little else happening in the plot.
With that being said, I did, for the most part, enjoy this book. The magic system was unique, fascinating and thought-provoking in a way that few fantasy frameworks are. The overall story arc started to scratch the surface of the kind of plot that’s my absolute favorite, and I’m really hoping Roth takes the full dive into it in the sequel (sorry for the vagueness there, but no spoilers!!).
I also adored that this book was set in Chicago. It was so clear that Roth has a deep appreciation for the city, and as someone who’s still getting acquainted with it, it was so much fun and also educational to see it from her perspective. Settings can serve as nothing more than the backdrops of books, but in Chosen Ones, Chicago is just as front and center as the main characters.
Overall, Chosen Ones definitely had its flaws and, if you ask me, didn’t quite live up to its potential. Nonetheless, it was, without a doubt, a creative take on sci-fi/fantasy and I can’t wait to see what Roth has in store for the sequel.