Hello Humans! The end of the year is almost always a reading scramble for me (and many others). In my case, it’s not a dash to finish my Goodreads challenge, but a desperate attempt to take advantage of the fact that fewer books are published in December – so I can try and get ahead of my January reading. If you take a peek at my TBR you’ll see I have quite a few January books coming up so expect a number of reviews coming your way!
One such book is Taran Matharu’s The Chosen, the first book in a new series, Contender. I haven’t read anything by Taran Matharu before so I was excited to start fresh with this author and see what this new series was all about.
CADE CARTER IS LOST
Convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, Cade is facing a year in reform school when he finds himself suddenly transported to another realm.
BUT THIS NEW WORLD IS NO ESCAPE
Populated by bloodthirsty prehistoric creatures and fierce warriors, Cade’s surroundings are full of danger. Along with his fellow students, Cade is forced to become a contender in a deadly game of the highest stakes, controlled by invisible overlords.
Who are these brutal rulers, and why did they choose Cade? Before he can find answers, Cade must get ready to fight …
BECAUSE IN THIS GAME, FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION
This book started strong, from the off I was interested in Cade, the ‘wrongfully convicted young male protagonist’ has been done a fair few times and it’s always an interesting way of starting a book. I was wary at first, assuming that the all-male setting would mean some kind of Lord of the Flies business – but there are women in this book! I loved how early on in the book there were time jumps between before and after Cade was transported into the other realm, I was somewhat dissapointed when these seemed to fizzle out, though I can understand why it felt like an odd format to suddenly abandon?
But it’s a good start to a book as any, and from the off we’re thrown into the chaos that dominates much of this book. I don’t mean that as a bad thing (though there are a lot of YA stories that are too chaotic), I more mean that this book does a lot, we jump from Romans to Dinosaurs to 1980s schoolgirls to a whole host of other things, it’s not that the book is complicated, there isn’t detailed analysis of any of the things involved, it’s more like someone threw a whole bunch of things they thought would be cool into a book – which is essentially what happens.
While I might argue that this makes parts of the book seem a little shallow, I’d have liked more exploration of how different groups of people might react to certain other aspects of the realm – for example, overall it does the book favours. I’ve read my fair share of ‘young teen boy rallies the troops and tries to save the world from generic threat’ and this could have fallen into that trope-trap but somehow the constant introduction of new things keeps the book feeling fresh.
This definitely reads like the first book in a series, there’s a lot to set up and a lot of characters who need introducing, so I’m not surprised that I didn’t get a lot of connection to the characters in this book if I have the time I hope to look at later books in this series and see if they go any deeper. I just didn’t feel (personally) that these were the kind of characters I would root for against the odds?
I had a good time reading this book, I don’t think any aspect of it was strong enough that I’d recommend it over some other similar YA, but to be fair this side of the genre has never been something to which I’ve been particularly partial. This is another book I would add to my ‘does not give a terrible example to teenage boys’ pile (which is growing quite nicely – well done Kidlit authors!).
My rating: a solid 3/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
The Chosen comes out January 9th 2020!
What say you? Is this on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!