I was lucky enough to gain access to an eARC of this compelling book thanks to Hodder and Netgalley and as it is being published today, I thought that it was the perfect timing for me to share my review.
Trigger warnings: PTSD, death, suicide, trauma, neglect, emotional abuse, depression
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, really liked Sloan as a character, as she felt well-rounded and layered in a way that consistently interested me. Her backstory was shrouded in a lot of mystery and trauma, which slowly played out as Roth dropped tantalising clues. You could feel her walls breaking down as the story explores further and further into her mind. In fact, I liked most of the characters, who felt cohesive and easy to engage with. Their history was gradually revealed to me and I liked the interplay of past and present through the structure of the plot, symbolising these reoccurring flashbacks the characters were having. My only issue would be that the villain didn’t feel very fleshed out, though there is obviously room for that in the sequel.
I thought the discussion of trauma in this book was really well executed, with a variety of reactions that felt raw and real. Roth particular focuses on the long-term effects of abuse and neglect. This blend of honest discussion blended really well with the fantastical exploration of magical powers for me, with a believable magic system and good world-building.
This book definitely took so twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting, which really helped to keep me engaged and on my toes. I sped through the pages, wanting to discover the truth and see how the story would develop.
I initially requested this book because of the fascinating premise of the book. The ‘Chosen One’ trope is so prevalent in fantasy, but few books that I can think of explore what happens after the final battle. Roth lived up to this premise, offering intriguing subversions of my expectations and ensuring that it never felt predictable.
Through a careful balance of character arcs and engaging plot, Roth has set the groundwork for what promises to be an even more intriguing sequel.