Written by Veronica Roth
Published by John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Original Hardcover, 432 pages
The last books of Veronica Roth’s that I read were her Divergent series. Compared to the other female led series out at the time, I really enjoyed these. Roth was willing to do something to her main character I haven’t seen a lot of: let them die. So when given the chance to read Roth’s latest book, Chosen Ones, I was excited and hopeful that it would immerse me into a world I’m glad to visit but do not want to live in.
The premise of the book is interesting. Usually readers are brought into a story and participate in the actions of the characters through their time of conflict. But then what? Where does life for the survivors go from there? With the trauma they have survived, life surely cannot be all flowers and cupcakes after that. This book follows up on that conflict. Remember, with great responsibility comes great PTSD.
The story takes place 15 years after five teenagers were chosen to face a powerful being causing chaos in the world based on a prophecy. With some help from a government agency, a little magic, and the different strengths they brought to the table, they defeated the “Dark One.” The world around them returned to a new normal; however, not for them. The public knows who they are and treat them like celebrities, but they’re lost on where to go from there. This new lifestyle works fine for a couple of the five chosen ones, taking advantage of having a famous name and face, but not so much for the others.
Sloane interested the Dark One the most and had the hardest time adjusting in the aftermath. After being kidnapped by him and having unusual magical experiences, she kept many of her problems to herself regardless of her relationships with the others. On the 10th anniversary of the Dark One’s disappearance, something unexpected happens: three of the chosen ones are pulled from Earth to Genetrix, the magical alternate reality that had split off of Earth in 1969 when a naval ship set off a ballistic missile in the deepest part of the ocean.
They find the landscape of this alternate reality is roughly the same but everything is magic driven. The people of Genetrix use siphons, similar to body jewelry, to cast spells, whether for practical tasks, healing, or harm. Like their Earth and the Dark One, Genetrix is terrorized by the Resurrectionist. After the chosen one in their reality was killed, the head magical group started looking into other dimensions for another chosen one to help them defeat their foe.
Under the threat of never being returned back to Earth they agree to help defeat the Resurrectionist, only to discover things are not what they seem and find a surprise of their own.
I don’t want to give away too much more of the story, but there is the general plot.
As with the Divergent series, Roth does a fantastic job at world building in Chosen Ones. The story takes place in Chicago, or the Genetrix version, Cordus. The details she has of the post-Dark One era and real locations makes it easy to picture the world Sloane and her companions are navigating through. But what I like is when the crew is transported to Genetrix, the descriptions of places in Cordus that are in Chicago locations, but are not the same place. If you’ve been to Chicago, you can see them exiting Lake Shore Drive into the South Loop but instead of seeing the usual sites, current Chicago buildings have been changed for the more ‘magical’ taste in architecture versus some of the classic. The map is the same, but the landscape is much different. It’s easy to let yourself get immersed into Sloane’s world.
I also like Roth’s way of presenting to the reader information for both Earth and Genetrix and the two evil ones. The chapters are from Sloane’s point of view. However, in between the chapters are government documents, books exerts, magazine articles, and statements about Sloane from various agents or doctors. On the flip side, once the story moves to Genetrix, it is the same, but any statements are about their chosen one (the first one). You get an idea of how these kids were all “picked up” by their government agencies, their families allowing the young teens to leave, possibly to their deaths, and how the government saw them as expendable while carefully manipulating them to fulfill the prophecy. Once the Dark One was gone, the five of them were basically sent back into the world to fend for themselves, with a nice paycheck.
This leads to the second story of the book. Chosen Ones is about what happens next after you save the world. Society continues but what about those who did the dirty work? Sloane’s experience has shaped her into the person she is currently. She spent five years being told she was a part of a prophecy to destroy a destroyer and be put in situations that would have killed her had she and her partners not kept their heads straight. She had to put her trust in these strangers who would become her only safe circle and a government agency that kept them in the know just enough to get the job done. Through the government paperwork that we get to read, we see the information that was kept from the five chosen ones and how they viewed Sloane, their analysis of her behavior. What’s shocking is how easily they simply released her back into the world afterward.
Her experience with the Dark One on Earth help her protect herself on Genetrix, not just to get out of sticky situations but also follow her gut feelings on the people she meets. She feels things are not right with her captors and there is more than what they lead them to believe, similar to the what the reader learns from the government papers we get to read between the chapters. Her instincts are stronger than the others which leads her to the truth first. This also leads me to the one fault I found in the book: the ending.
The build up that Roth does, creating the worlds and explaining why these characters are there, is done beautifully. She truly has once again shown her skills with this. But the ending leaves a lot to be desired. While I wasn’t expecting the same satisfaction I got from the Divergent series (this is a different story), I felt the ending was abrupt, like Roth was running out of paper and needed the story to wrap quickly. At one point, I was wondering if this was the first part of a possible two-parter. But no. It’s not a bad ending, but it needed more pages to breathe.
The concept of Chosen Ones is great. The story is great. Veronica Roth has proven to be a good writer that I want to read more work from. Just know that the ending of this book will hit like a brick wall but not in the way that will knock the wind out of you.