I don’t deal in spoilers. So, if I’m going to deal in spoilers, you have to know there is a serious reason why. This is a serious reason. Obviously, there was always going to be spoilers for the first book in Kiersten White’s Buffyverse spin-off, Slayer. But for me to deal in spoilers for the second installment, Chosen (Slayer #2), before it is even out? I didn’t see that coming. But you have fair warning. There is a major spoiler coming. And there are serious reasons why. If you don’t want to read them, turn around and go home, now.
Just know that there is A LOT to love about Chosen. I say that with all sincerity. However, there is also a glaring, undeniable and irrevocable issue with Chosen. Maybe it will be my opinion only, and that is fine. However, I believe it to be an issue that cannot be overlooked for more than just the obvious reason, which is why I have to discuss it. That is also why this review is about ten days late (also, because this isn’t the most wonderful time of the year for everyone- people need to start sucking it up and have a little more empathy- it isn’t just something one, “gets over”). At one point, I actually was going to write two separate reviews. But then, I just decided to bite the bullet. So that is your very simple explanation and fair warning. With that, get out now or read further at your own risk.
Hear Me Out.
I don’t even know why I subtitled this “here me out.” I’m not being fair to myself. One I wrote a rant on my issues with characters waltzing back from death, for a reason. It is enough. Two. The more I think about this, it isn’t just about dead being dead. There is a compounded problem on here and that is simple. WHY FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS UNHOLY IS THE SOLUTION TO EVER ISSUE A BOY. WHY? And while I didn’t technically write I separate rant post on that little poke of the stake, I did end up writing a rant within a post, when I did the wine all you want tag. Because the whole forced relationships, forced boys forced all of it is out of hand.
So that brings me to the whole problem with Chosen. LEO. And this is going to be a bit backwards, and I might regret how this whole post is structured later, I don’t know. But if this gets confusing… scroll down and find the part about Artemis and come back and then that might help. Because I’ve struggled over this review for too long. I don’t know what else I can do with it at this point.
So, on top of Leo was dead at the end of Slayer and now 1/3 into Chosen? Leo isn’t dead. Leo not being dead makes that a plot ploy that I’m just tired of and then it also makes him a solution for a problem he shouldn’t be the solution of because that is too easy. Why does a boy have to fix Nina? Why not sisters? Why not just Nina? Why does Leo have to come back from the fucking mouth of a demon to fix Nina? I MEAN WHAT THE EVER LOVING HELL?! IS THAT. And let me break this down further because truly there are just too many layers of wrong with it. In fact, the more I write, the more I find wrong with Leo’s coming back from the dead.
Hi Angel! Um. Bye Angel?
Ok. Fine. I’m an Angel geek. I watched Angel before I watched Buffy and I can own that but there was something very special about the way Leo and Nina ended at the end of Slayer. And for me? ME OF ALL PEOPLE- me who is sick of the relationship crap (see above) to say that? You know you have done something special. By the way what I just said? This whole point, really? It can make all of you people rolling your eyes in the back of your head so hard that you can see the back of your skulls right now, bring them back to full frontal view. It is proof that this isn’t just an anti-relationship point. Because if it is done right and it isn’t forced- great.
Ok part of Slayer was cringey to me, but I didn’t mention it because I knew that was a me thing.
But the end? The end was a spectacularly done. And here is part of why, but maybe even this is a me thing because maybe only I saw this (but I couldn’t mention it in the review of Slayer because serious spoilers).
Thank you, Simon Pulse, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
So. Season 1 Episode 9 (Yeah, I’m going there) of Angel: Hero. It is an iconic episode when Doyle sacrifices himself and kisses Cordelia, passing along his connection to the powers that be (and his visions of who needs saving). Fair enough, he didn’t turn her into a slayer and these visions gave her debilitating migraines. But still. I thought there was a deep connection between the two ideas. BUT DOYLE DIDN’T GET TO COME BACK.
And when Cordelia sees the video, he was making, on top of the kiss and his actions? She has to wrestle with all those feelings of guilt, regret and think about the kind of person she was and the anger of Doyle passing this connection to her without asking first. Because who wants that pain in the ass?
But that whole thing got thrown out the window the second we find out Leo is alive. Ok Leo is alive and dying. Except. Of course. Leo never dies. Duh. So, there’s that problem.
Nina and Chosen’s Core
Chosen, at its heart, is a brilliantly crafted, emotionally charged, character driven book. Critical to the success of any character driven book is creating intimate connections between readers and characters.
We want the brave, elite and fantastical writers to rip our hearts out because there aren’t many brave enough to do so. So, when they do, don’t walk back on it. Don’t cheapen it by making it a plot trick. For 1/3 of the book Nina is tearing herself apart over the myriad of emotions she felt at the end of Slayer and it is beautifully written.
When Leo returns, it takes away that entire piece of the book like a magic trick. It doesn’t get to work that way. For a while I tried to play it off because hey, Buffy died how many times on the show? But. No.
It was obvious that the messiness of Leo’s death was the cog in Nina’s character ARC. But once he was alive? It didn’t matter. There was a couple of chapters of her being mad at him and pouting over putting her through that torment and then *poof* done. She gets her answers, her watcher and closure in the space of a breath.
How do you just take Nina’s whole story arc away- her motivation, her driving force, her problem, her everything in the space of a breath, the removal of a death? You can’t. It doesn’t work. It breaks my heart to say it. But Nina is the main character and her demons can’t just be snapped by Thanos.
Her demons, her changed Slayer powers, pretty much everything she is battling centers around the end of Slayer, which is Leo and his mother. The betrayal, his giving his mother up, giving Nina her Slayer powers back and then her leaving him to “die.” The guilt, broken heart, anger, bizarre nature of the returned Slayer powers, betrayal, it is all messing with her and churning her into one big hot mess. And for 1/3 of the book her and Artemis are going to explode. And then Artemis keeps going and *poof* Nina is solved when they find Leo alive.
And here is the other issue with Leo coming back, Leo solving Nina and the whole thing. It takes away from the power of everyone else’s story line. There are other characters that go through major change and have wonderful stories. Like…
While everyone, including the reader, is diverted into worrying about Nina and what her reborn Slayer powers have done, are doing to her, Artemis is in her own private hellmouth. No one wants to be powerless. Feeling like your world is spinning out of your own control is like trying to breath underwater.
White wrote Artemis with such ferocity that I ached for her every bad decision and wrong turn. I have lived her life for a very long time. I have learned, in the hardest ways imaginable, that when we feel like we have lost control of what is most important to us, we often try to gain power in the most damning ways imaginable. And boy did Artemis walk that line in spades.
Her story line gave the title of this book a double-edged sword. All through Slayer, Nina felt like Artemis was chosen by her mother, by everyone while Nina was relegated to the sidelines. And now Artemis feels like those the script has switched. But as White so delicately puts it in Slayer
Being chosen is easy. Making choices will break your heart.
Because the truth is, we have control over so much in our lives. Do we prioritize what is important in our lives? Do confront things or take the easy way out to avoid conflict at all costs, no matter the collateral damage? Can we eat better, spend our money more wisely? Do we maintain relationships and protect those that are hurting? Withdraw or get out and find ways to give in the community?
But when you feel without power, instead of looking for choices that make sense? We often seek out the type of blinding and obsolete power that we think will wrap us in a safety but in reality, will cause more pain and the type of fear in others that makes our lives more chaotic, more out of control and isolated than it was to start with. And this is the path that Artemis chooses through her decisions, in Chosen.
Watching her step-by-step is truly cringe-worthy. If I could have reached through the book and grabbed hold of her I don’t know if I would have knocked her out or hugged her. But I would have stopped her one way, or another. Her pain was palpable and her choices to ease it were on a collision course with everyone who could truly help her heal.
Artemis and Honora
And Honora? Oh, poor Honora. I know she’s easy to hate. But don’t.
She doesn’t give Artemis an easy solution to the demons and pain. She isn’t Leo. All she wants is to make her girl whole. And she is too blind to see that what Artemis thinks will make her whole will actually destroy everything she is and everything she loves. That is a relationship that is grounded in some form of reality.
Because. One. HONORA DIDN’T DIE. Two? That is more likely a scenario. Love is blinding. We are more likely to give into and buy into those we love rather than put our foot down for their own good. And that is what she does. She enables, not because she intends harm, but because she truly loves Artemis.
Unfortunately, enabling is often the gravel used to pave that road of good intentions that leads to hell.
<Honora’s> eyes narrow. “No one gets to make me feel powerless… I’m not powerless and neither are you.”
“I am, though,” <Artemis> whispers, trying not to let her voice break. “The whole world makes me feel powerless. That’s why I have to change it.”
“Change what?” Honora asks.
Honora sighs. “You need this.”
Artemis nods, her face still against Honora’s shoulder.
She lets go and pulls out her phone. “My girl wants a hellgod’s power, my girl’s getting a hellgod’s power.”
So, Artemis doesn’t get the *poof* relationship solution. And neither should Nina.
Oh, how I feared for Cillian throughout Slayer. I don’t know why, but I thought he was going to be the big fatality. He was too perfect a character. The ying to Rhys’ yang. Everything about him was lovable. His empathy, his easy-going nature, his compassion, his ability to take things like- we’ve been dating for how long and now you tell me there are demons and what not in the world, in stride- he was written too perfect- but he survived.
And now. Well wow. What a storyline he was given. And assuming there is another installment to come, I would read it for no other reason than to see what happens with Cillian next. And I think I’ve spoiled enough of Chosen to say all of what happens with Cillian.
But if you think he got handed a boat load of information having to find Doug, and learn about all the evil in the world in Slayer? That was a walk in the park compared to what he learns in Chosen. There is a lot more of his backstory to learn when mom arrives back in town and his relationship with Rhys develops a great deal. And that is all in the middle of a huge bomb that drops in his lap.
On top of all that? Doug is still Coldplay loving Doug who gets a kitten that he names… Trouble. <le sigh> And we get to spend a lot of time with Doug, who gets some spitting super happy drugging powers… so there’s that. There is a traitor among our crew… a big bad, but of course, two mommy dearests, now (when Cillian’s mom comes back to town) and, well, you know. Leo.
PLUS… Cameos! More Buffy- and not so much on the hating, FAITH (I always did love Faith) … oh and pssstttt…. OZ!
It is just a shame because if you can’t tell, I really LOVED Chosen. But Leo. I just can’t past it. And I almost wrote two reviews for those who didn’t want the spoiler except it just never made sense, which is why this took so long to post. The other two are for later in the month. But this one is out on the 7th. I could’ve posted it a week ago. I just couldn’t get it together because I don’t deal in spoilers.
But I had to bite the bullet and just label it so that those who didn’t want to read the spoilers knew to avoid it because I just feel robbed. And one more time… not just because death is death. But because, like I said above, why always a boy? Why not sisters? Or why can’t Nina just be strong enough to get through it and help Artemis? I don’t know but the whole thing, just wreaked. There isn’t any other way to say it.
Had Leo stayed dead their fates would have collided in a much more epic way. As sisters, together. Through almost killing each other, maybe they would have figured it out together. They are twins. But we are robbed of finding out. Because. Leo. And that turned what was an otherwise incredible book into a what would have been book.
Will I be here for another installment? Yes. Definitely. Will Leo’s presence always irk me? Yes. Definitely.