Usually novels end with the villain being vanquished. Not so with Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth. Known for the YA phenomenon Divergent in the early 2010s, this is her adult SFF debut, and it is a memorable one. Having been the ones prophesied to defeat the Dark One in their youth, the tenth anniversary of the event brings Sloane, Esther, Matt, Ines and Albie back together. No longer chosen teenagers, they are dealing with the repercussions of trauma, PTSD and a world that had been terrorized by a Dark One.
After things go awry and Albie dies, Sloane, Esther and Matt find themselves in a parallel universe where the Dark One has not yet been defeated, and a number of chosen ones have died trying. Although the people who seem to have brought them over seem to be very cagey with information, and much of what they have been told does not add up.
More so than any other book I have read, Chosen Ones interrogates the trope of the prophesied chosen one, of what makes a hero and what turns one into a villain. The book addresses issues of perception and perspective, and puts the focus on the humanity of the heroes. While the story is ostensibly about the group of chosen ones and their fight against the Dark One, large chunks of the story focus on Sloane. She was likely the hardest hit by the original fight against their adversary, and is struggling with her mental health throughout the book. Much of her development arc is her coming to terms with who she is and figuring out her place in the world, which, although most of us are not chosen ones per se, resonates with a generation of millennials struggling to find themselves.
Chosen Ones is a true step up from Roth’s earlier work, and a book deserving of the adult SFF genre. It is compellingly written – despite the pandemic I read the decently sized volume in only a few sittings, and the pacing is kept up throughout. The book doesn’t drag, and reveals are scattered throughout the plot without being overly obvious to the reader. The story is full of morally grey characters, whose ambiguous nature makes the reader guess about their true nature for much of the novel. There are various kinds of magic, from powerful artefacts to almost scientific learned magic to a sort of necromancy, all of which are thought out and well established.
All in all, I very much recommend you give Chosen Ones a read! It is enjoyable, thought-provoking, and it deals with an issue that bugs me about many happy endings: what happens after the seemingly all-is-well of so many stories? How do the characters deal with the repercussions, and how do their lives develop? Chosen Ones is a light Grimdark answer to that question. Do not discount her due to her commercial YA past, but treat her as an adult SFF debut author and give this book the shot it deserves. Many thanks to Netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton for the review copy of Chosen Ones.
Buy Chosen ones by Veronica Roth