A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.
Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.
I really struggled with how to write a description of this without giving any massive spoilers away and I simply couldn’t, so i’m going to dive right into the characters. The story is told from the perspective of Sloane, one of the 5 Chosen Ones prophesized to save the world from the Dark One. Sloane was a character that I bonded with almost immediately, she is still suffering trauma 10 years on, she is sick of trying to hide her true self from the public, her friends and loved ones and has this niggling feeling in the back of her mind that something just isn’t right. Her relationships with the other chosen ones were beautifully written, you see each characters personality come through in their interactions; Albie, he and Sloane were held captive by the Dark One and thus have formed a crucial bond, one knows what the other needs and is unafraid of their darkness; Esther, the socialite of the group, with her huge Instagram following curated from her childhood home where she spends her days looking after her terminally ill mother, Esther and Sloane are probably the most similar and their clashes can be enormous, but that also leads to a greater understanding of each other; Ines, is a character you learn little about and yet her trauma from the times of the Dark One are obvious through booby trapping her room to her constant knee tapping when in stressful situations, and finally Matt, the Chosen One of chosen one’s, he’s the golden boy, the one every wants to kiss their baby and speak at official occasions, considering that Matt and Sloane have been together the past 10 years, he’s the one she feels she has to put on a front for, the one she feels never truly understands what she is going through. There are other characters in the books who become more prevalent in part two but I can’t really mention them without giving away spoilers.
This was my first time reading a mixed media style book, the majority of the book is set in the present and from Sloane’s perspective but interweaving all the chapters are snippets from history books, books of poetry, scientific journals, newspaper articles and pages from diaries. These added a whole other dimension to the story, it enabled us to be almost ahead of the characters, you got insights into the history of this Earth, where the Dark One came from, how we first discovered magic as well as part events that created a world so wholly encompassing you could almost step off the pages and into the streets of Sloane’s Chicago. Every single scrap of information you learn in this book is relevant, and when it all ties together at the end you get almost mixed feelings of satisfaction and annoyance, satisfaction that the author managed to bring the amazing story to a close and annoyance that you didn’t see how it would end sooner.
While there are romantic relationships in this book, for me, the relationships that really stuck out were the ones between our chosen ones. They all have their own little quirks, tells and traits that set them apart and make for an intriguing group, a group that need each of it’s separate parts to perform as a whole. I got wholly invested in one character, loved them with all my heart and then the author went and did the inevitable and killed them (no spoilers it’s in the premise.) I was devastated, and it took me a little while to recover. The romance itself is written well, we see the progression of Matt and Sloane’s relationship, see them realise exactly who the other is and that sometime the face they put on for the public doesn’t necessarily show whats going on inside.
One of the things that stood out for me was how this book focused on the aftermath of the event. It’s such a rarity for people to talk about the trauma, how saving the world isnt all it’s cracked up to be. It is, I imagine a lot easier to write about the hero’s saving the world from the big bad villain, that actually admitting that the hero’s are just normal people, people who have major issues from something that was out of their control, that they might not fit into the ‘ideal’ of a traditional hero, and that some things stay with you… long after the fight happened. She deals with the trauma beautifully, never throwing it in your face, but giving you little snippets, just enough to whet your appetite and give you a better understanding of the characters and their motives and behaviours.
This book has the plot twists of plot twists… you will never see it coming I promise you. The premise gives us no indication of where the story is going and I was thrown for a millisecond and then things started to come together. The foresight that Roth uses in this book is tremendous, and has you literally slapping yourself wondering how you didn’t see it coming.
I hadn’t read anything by Roth before, and though her Divergent series isn’t one I am eager to pick up I will certainly be buying an of her new works after this. With one book she has cemented herself amongst some of my favourite authors and I am eager to see where she plan’s on taking this story. An easy 5/5.