“The Drain looked the same every time, with all the people screaming as they ran away from the giant dark cloud of chaos but never running fast enough.”
Ten years ago, a group of teenagers saved the world from The Dark One, a shadowy figure wielding terrible magical powers. The discovery that magic was real had started to shake the world, but it still looks a lot like ours. More shaken were the lives of these five teens, drawn together by a shady government department willing to believe a prophecy. They might have succeeded in their task, but at what personal cost?
Our main character is Sloane, perhaps the most overly damaged by her experiences. She’s prickly and unfriendly and I can see why some might not warm to her as a lead. However, I liked her antisocial attitude, it felt refreshingly likely. The hints at darkness in her past are perhaps a little drawn out, but don’t disappoint in the reveal, and do make her subsequent actions make a lot more sense.
The first part of the book deals with everyday lives for these half-unwilling celebrities (one at least is a full-on ‘influencer’ on the back of her fame!), continuing to deal with the aftermath. It wasn’t the most action-packed section, but I’ve always been a fan of world building. However, part two – still heavy on the world-building – takes a swerve I didn’t see coming. This is not quite the story part one seems to be taking you down!
The action levels do pick up as the book progresses, and the larger divergences from ‘our’ reality are done very well – out there, but logical progressions from a point where magic seemed to be released into the world. The big denouement didn’t feel particularly well set up, it sort of arrived from next to nowhere with a detached flashback, but it didn’t ‘ruin’ the rest of the story, so fine.
Chapters are interspersed with memos and newspaper articles, and I know at least one person who hated these – I quite liked the ‘verity’. Well, apart from the opening one: it’s done in the style of a hugely sexist reporter, and had I picked this up for a browse in a shop I probably would have put it straight back down – I get that it was a character speaking, but the tone was just icky and beyond.
Overall, I think it’s a shame so many people are taking a dislike to this for not being Divergent. I enjoyed that series, but I far prefer the non-YA tone here (although there are bits where it leaks in ;)) and the darker story. It’s not perfect, but I hope Ms Roth continues to write for adults – in fact, I believe there are supposed to be sequels to this, which intrigues me. The story is pretty complete, but yes, I can see there is a new world to explore…
NetGalley eARC: 432 pages / 45 chapters
First published: 2020
Series: The Chosen Ones book 1
Read from 4th-15th June 2020
My rating: 8/10