Review by D.A Lascelles
It is hard to classify The Chosen into one of the easy to define boxes that are literary genres. Mostly this is because what you actually have in this book are several different stories, each one set in a different genre and each one largely separate from the others apart from an overarching plot which links them to each other. You have three main settings and three stories within them, each following the fates of a number of young people who are ‘Chosen’ by destiny. One, Astra, is a standard issue ‘fantasy kingdom’ with wizards (well, mystics), evil queens and cute Ren-fair style villages. Another is a post apocalyptic earth with Wild West style grim survivors clinging to life in the face of dwindling resources and rapacious tribes of scavengers. The third, Volga, is a bizarrely sterile and unemotional world of clones shrouded in misty clouds of vapour. With this variety, it is easy to see how classification might be difficult.
And this disparity is one of the main issues with the story. Two of the three settings are firmly SF in nature with one being an extrapolation of our own world and the other an alien planet. There are other alien planets mentioned too, including the planet where the alien mentors for the Chosen are sent from. The arc plot also has a SF feel with alien machines threatening the galaxy. However, the world of Astra with its strong fantasy vibe clashes with this feel and risks taking the reader out of willing suspension of disbelief. Mixing science fiction with fantasy is a dangerous risk in any story and it often fails for this very reason. The SF worlds are imaginative and interesting and clearly have had a lot of thought put into them. For example Gentra, the world from which the alien Guardians who are tasked with protecting the chosen, with its underwater environment and sentient squid inhabitants is well realised. In comparison with this, Astra feels somewhat derivative which is a shame because the characters from that world, an interesting bunch of young mystics in training, are among the strongest, especially as one of the worlds consists entirely of clones identified only by their ID number.
Another issue is the fact that this is a massive story. It spans a galaxy and even though this tale focuses on only a small number of people on a small number of worlds it feels as if there is too much in one novel. Had I been considering this story as a novel, I might have not included the prologue which outlines the entire plot outlining the destiny of the Chosen and the role of the Guardians. I would have started on one world, seeing things from the PoV of one of the Chosen as they meet their Gentran Guardian and slowly find out the truth about their destiny – preferably picking up clues as they interact with their mentor and even having events make the mentors look sinister and alien to the eyes of the Chosen. As it is, with the readers already in on the secret, a lot of tension and suspense is lost. The story of how each set of Chosen find out their destiny is a novella and maybe an entire novel in and of itself and I feel that it deserves that attention instead of being crammed into one volume. I suppose that this demonstrates the importance of point of view choices. Which character forms the main focus of the plot determines what the reader finds out and when they find it out and it is sometimes better to have this character be a relatively unknowing person so that the reader can learn with them what all the secrets are.
Overall, I enjoyed this book despite the flaws. The story is good and with a little tweaking and a good edit (change the PoV, more showing, less telling, watching out for head hopping) it could be great. The concept reminds me a little of that behind the Green Lantern Corp – ancient, wise aliens select champions from each planet in a galaxy to fight against evil – and this is no bad thing. Fabbro has a lot of imagination, an eye for detail in her world building and a clear love for her stories and this sort of talent needs to be nurtured and channeled. I hope to see more from her in the future.