An epic fantasy that doesn’t bow down to the conventions of the genre, Chosen is set in a warring land where men in power screw things up for everybody else in their quest for yet more power. That’s about the only conventional thing about Kyra Halland’s book, which also involves time travel, unexpected POV switches and a truly epic scope.
Things start off with a young princess married off to a man from another land in order to stop a war. Just as you’re waiting for a hundred pages in which the woman falls for her betrothed while wondering if he’s ever going to love her, something really shocking happens that jerks the narrative off in a really unexpected direction.
That’s the main strength of Halland’s novel – it keeps you on your toes. Just when you think you’ve got everything sussed, the plot takes a sharp turn that wrong-foots you completely. While the protagonist swaps are occasionally frustrating, that’s only because you’ve grown to know one character so well that you want to see them through to the end. Luckily, all of the characters in Chosen are engaging and well fleshed-out.
In particular, Chosen contains a number of genuinely strong female characters. While the women in the story are often considered pawns by evil men, they refuse to be pigeon-holed or ordered about. These women are headstrong and unconventional – one of the heroines is a mother, the other is a young woman who’s afraid of upsetting societal balance. The commentary on gender play and the unfair balance of power in relationships makes for thoughtful reading.
Chosen of Azara is an epic fantasy with a splash of saccharine-free romance. It’s fantastic to find a book this smart and well-written, though readers might be disappointed to discover it’s a stand-alone. Considering how rich the world-building is, you’ll wish Chosen was the first in a series.
– Joshua Winning