Book Review: The Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

28 Jun

This first venture for the author into the world of fantasy adult literature was a surprisingly addictive read with a huge supernatural mystery and a flawed and tormented protagonist at its heart. The narrative is broken into three parts (or acts) with many inter-chapter sections acting as epistolary insertions (government files, news articles and journals) to catch the reader up or fill in the details of this multiversal plot. I have always loved when authors do this, and it successfully kept the mystery alive and allowed for a lot of cool exploration of the world(s) involved without bogging down the plot in exposition.

The story begins with the 10 year aftermath of a battle to save the world between a mysterious “Dark One” and the five teenagers who were prophesized to defeat him. As the world commemorates this victory over evil, the reader gets to know these characters through their continuing pain and trauma and dysfunction from their experience. At the center of this is our anti-hero, Sloane Andrews, a troubled survivor who shuns the world of publicity she is immersed in having been in a long-term relationship with the celebrated “chosen one” Matthew Weekes. Sloane is not my favorite type of protagonist, but she is masterfully executed by Ms. Roth into a very memorable character. The difficulties of living through trauma (whether from a bad childhood or from fighting the world’s first supervillain) is explored thoroughly. Then in the second act, the reader is thrown for a loop as Sloane and some of her compatriots become immersed in an inter-universal conflict.

My favorite elements of this book are the powerful characterizations, the building mystery and the exploration of “what if?” that when done well (which it is here) always helps us look at our own world with new lenses. I would recommend this book to anyone who is intrigued by modern worlds infected with magic, parallel universes, or just love a strong female protagonist.

A word of warning: the book introduces itself using compilated news articles, the second and most lengthy being an entertainment column written by a sexist idiot. It is our first foray into the world and our first introduction to the main character, before we get to the main narration, and it turned my wife off from reading further. I pushed on and was glad I did. I enjoyed this grueling adventure through alternate worlds and the trauma of being a hero.

4 stars out of 5.

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