Wednesday, February 26, 2020

#Review - Chosen by Kiersten White #YA #Fantasy

Series: Slayer # 2
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Nina continues to learn how to use her slayer powers against enemies old and new in this second novel in the New York Times bestselling series from Kiersten White, set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now that Nina has turned the Watcher’s Castle into a utopia for hurt and lonely demons, she’s still waiting for the utopia part to kick in. With her sister Artemis gone and only a few people remaining at the castle—including her still-distant mother—Nina has her hands full. Plus, though she gained back her Slayer powers from Leo, they’re not feeling quite right after being held by the seriously evil succubus Eve, a.k.a. fake Watcher’s Council member and Leo’s mom.

And while Nina is dealing with the darkness inside, there’s also a new threat on the outside, portended by an odd triangle symbol that seems to be popping up everywhere, in connection with Sean’s demon drug ring as well as someone a bit closer to home. Because one near-apocalypse just isn’t enough, right?

The darkness always finds you. And once again, it’s coming for the Slayer. 

Chosen is the second and final installment in author Kiersten White's Slayer duology. What you should know: This story takes place in the Buffy the Vampire TV series world. Buffy is alive, but retired. She has made some guest appearances via Slayer dreams. If you've watched the Buffy TV series, you should have no issues with understanding what has happened before these series takes place. 16-year old protagonist Athena aka Nina is both a Watcher with medical training and a Slayer, the last one ever apparently. 

Ever since she had her powers returned to her by Leo, Nina has a darkness chasing her in real life as well as her dreams. Nina's allies include Doug, Rhys, Cillian, Jessi, Jade, Imogen, her mother, and Ruth Zabuto who has been a watcher longer than most of these characters have been alive. Meanwhile, Nina and the Watchers have started to build Sanctuary, a place for demons and Slayers who have nowhere else to go. Truth be told, Nina has failed in her attempt at bringing Slayers to the Sanctuary. Until 3 of them are introduced just in time for them to help Nina against her sister and her new allies.

Her twin sister, Artemis (who gets some story time of her own), has chosen to go her own way with her girlfriend Honoria leaving Nina and her mother behind which will be a bone of contention for Nina throughout this story. Artemis decides she needs to take drastic steps to make herself stronger to protect herself and her loved ones. Instead, she finds herself hurting and betraying the ones she claims to love the most. Nina must try to stop her sister without ruining their relationship. There is also the dreaded prophecy hanging over the sisters head. Will one of them destroy the world? Will one of them be the one to save it? Stay tuned! 

As I mentioned, while Buffy is basically a guest in this series, there are others who appear as well. I am not sure if this Oz is from the series, but it's curious that Oz discovered he was a werewolf in this series, and this Oz just happens to be a werewolf. Another guest appearance in this story just happens to be Faith who actually imparts some pretty decent knowledge onto Nina right before she is to fight her sister, Honoria, and her allies.

"You can't stop what's inside you. If you fight it, it'll win. Figure out how to live with it, how to direct it instead of letting it drag you in its current. And only you can do that.” 

“You can't handle the pain and anger inside you? Welcome to the club. You're so much more than that, though. Maybe you messed up. You'll mess up again. But you're doing the best you can, and that's not nothing, you know?” 

“The darkness isn't going anywhere. But there's a difference between walking through it and becoming it. It doesn't control you. You got more of it than you should? Good. Use it. Use it all.”  

The reason for the rating was in essence because most of the book really wasn't all that entertaining. Nina was out of her element while she was supposed to be in charge. The humor and sarcasm tried too hard to make readers laugh. The final chapters were entertaining enough once Nina and her allies have to face Artemis and hers in order to save the planet. But, the ending felt a little too quick and neat for my liking. Also, I am not a fan of resolutions where we have to forgive a character for nearly destroying the entire planet just because they were envious that they weren't the chosen one.


Chapter 1

THE DEMON APPEARS OUT OF nowhere. Claws and fangs fill my sight, and every instinct screams kill. My blood sings with it, my fists clench, my vision narrows. The vulnerable points on the demon’s body practically flash like neon signs.

“Foul!” Rhys shouts. “No teleportation, Tsip! You know that.” Even while playing, Rhys can’t help but be a Watcher, shouting out both advice and corrections. He’s not wearing his glasses, which makes his face look vague and undefined. Cillian passes him, mussing Rhys’s carefully parted hair into wild curls and laughing at Rhys’s frustration.

I take a deep breath, trying to clear my head of the impulse to kill this demon I invited into our home and swore to protect. “It’s just soccer,” I whisper. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t even like soccer.”

“Football, bloody American,” Cillian sings, neatly stealing the ball from me. His shorts are far shorter than the January afternoon should permit, but he seems impervious to cold. Unlike those of us who are translucently pale at this point in winter, his skin is rich and lovely. He passes to Tsip. Tsip is a vaguely opalescent pink, shimmering in the sunlight. She paints her claws fun colors when we do manicure nights, and I try desperately not to miss Artemis.

I stay rooted to the ground where I’m standing. Tsip caught me off guard, but that shouldn’t matter. I like her. And the fact that I went from trying to score a goal to plotting a dozen ways to kill my opponent in a single heartbeat is frankly terrifying. I can’t get my heart under control, can’t shake the adrenaline screaming through my veins.

“Gotta take over for the Littles. I’m out.” I wave and jog from the field. No one pays me much attention. Jade is lying on the ground in front of the goal, the worst goalkeeper ever. Rhys and Cillian are bodychecking each other in increasingly flirty ways. Tsip keeps shimmering and then resolidifying as she remembers the no-teleportation rule. They’re all happy to keep going without me, unaware of my internal freak-out.

I’ve deliberately kept them unaware. Things here are going so well. I’m in charge. I can’t be the problem. So none of them know how I can’t sleep at night, how my anger is hair-trigger fast, how when I do manage to sleep, my dreams are …

Well. Bad.

They don’t need to know and I don’t let them. Except for Doug, his bright yellow skin almost nineties Day-Glo levels in the thin winter sun. Annoying emotion-sniffing demon. He watches me from our goal, his nostrils flared. I can’t lie to him the way I can to everyone else. I shake my head preemptively. I don’t want to talk about it. Not with him. Not with anyone. There’s only one person I want to talk to about it, but Leo Silvera’s not exactly available.

I do a quick sweep of the perimeter of the castle. Leo loved me. Check the woods. Leo betrayed me. Check the locks on the outbuildings. Leo saved me. Pause and just listen and look, feeling for anything pushing against my instincts. I let Leo die.

I keep walking. Leo loved me, betrayed us, saved us, and then died, and I can’t be sad without being mad or mad without feeling guilty or guilty without feeling exhausted.

Past the meadow, the tiny purple demons are taking turns pushing each other on the tree swing. That, or they’re trying to push each other off. It’s hard to tell with them. With nothing else needing my attention outside, I end up at the front stairs to the castle.

“Hey, Jessi.” I wave halfheartedly to our resident vengeance demon. She’s leading the Littles through an elaborate game of hopscotch. George Smythe, bundled up and barely able to see under a floppy knit hat, is shouting each letter as he lands on it. “G!”

“What?” Jessi snaps at me.


“I can take over for you.” I find the Littles soothing. They might be three incredibly hyper children constantly needing snacks, entertainment, and education, but at least none of them ever randomly triggers a kill reflex in me.


“No,” Jessi says, her voice as sweet as summer fruit. “G-E-what-comes-next …”

O!” George course corrects, wobbling on one short leg before jumping to the required O.

“Good! Oh, you’re so clever. Priya, how are your letters coming?” Priya, a tiny moppet with shiny black hair, is crouched over her own chalk work, which looks more like Klingon than any alphabet I’m familiar with. “Very good, darling! You’re really working hard. Hold the chalk with one hand, like we talked about. Thea, love, fingers out of noses, please—that’s a dear.”

And to think, we once considered these children the entire future of the Watchers. I watch as Thea spins until she falls flat on her bottom. Actually, the future of the Watchers is pretty accurately captured here. I pat Jessi on the arm. “So, you can take the afternoon off.”

Everything sweet in Jessi’s voice turns to ice. “I said no. I don’t trust you with these three precious wonders. We have an entire day’s curriculum to get through, and we haven’t even done story time yet or finished our art projects. Are you going to do any of that with them?”

“I—I could?”

“You were going to turn on a cartoon and read while their fertile minds were filled with weeds.”

Jessi doesn’t have her powers anymore, but I’m pretty certain if she did, I would have been vengeance-demoned right into something oozing and seeping. She’s already turned away from me and back to her three charges. Her whole face is full of gentle warmth and absolute love.

R!” George declares, hopping emphatically down on it. Jessi claps like he’s cured the common cold.

Thoroughly dismissed, I skulk up the stairs and into the castle. Jessi could at least pretend to be nice. She’s got a lot of enemies out there—vengeance is a nasty cycle—and without her powers she’s vulnerable. We took her in despite her obvious hatred for everyone over the age of ten. There was some debate, given her history, but my mom argued in her favor. It’s a little easier to forgive a vengeance demon who made it her immortal life’s work to avenge children than a vengeance demon who specialized in, say, fantasy league sports rivalries.

But Jessi’s dismissal leaves me with nothing to do. I used to have my medical center and my studies, all my little Watcher duties. Even with so few of us, the castle ran as near to Watcher traditions as we could manage. Which in retrospect was absurd, since we didn’t have a Slayer and weren’t actually doing anything Watchers should.

But now everything has changed. We lost Watchers—Wanda Wyndam-Pryce, sulking off into the sunset, good riddance. Bradford Smythe, murdered. Eve Silvera, secretly a succubus demon and murderer, smushed thanks to my actions. Artemis, off to find herself with her awful girlfriend, the thought of whom makes my jaw ache as I grind my teeth. And Leo, who didn’t warn us what his mother was (and what he was) but fought her to give us enough time to stop her from opening a new hellmouth.

And now we have a Slayer, again some more, thanks to Leo somehow returning the powers his mother stole from me. I don’t know how he did it, and it hurts too much to think about, like everything else. I spend so much of my days trying not to think, and it’s harder than it should be. I used to believe that all Slayers did was act without thinking. I was wrong, but I wish it were true. There’s so little acting and so much thinking these days.

It’s good. It’s all good. It’s good, I remind myself, over and over like a chant. Sanctuary, what we decided to turn our castle into, is just starting out, but it’s exactly what we dreamed it could be. We’ve taken in demons who had nowhere else to go. We’re keeping them safe, and ourselves safe, and we’ll keep looking for those who could benefit from the generations of knowledge and abilities we have. We’re protecting, not attacking or destroying.

Between our new demonic additions and existing Watchers, everyone has tasks and times to do them. It’s more work than anyone anticipated, keeping everyone taken care of and fed, making sure the castle runs like it should. But so far everyone is happy. Everyone is safe.

I sink down against the wall, feeling the cold of the stone radiating outward. The unpellis demon, all four gentle eyes soft and brown and hopeful, snuggles up to my side like a dog. It’s more animal than human in nature, nonverbal, and still recovering from its frequent de-skinning treatment in Sean’s demon-drug manufacturing scheme. I saved Pelly from that cellar.

I didn’t save everyone, though.

I wrap my arms around Pelly and close my eyes. Everything is exactly what we dreamed it could be. Except I feel Leo’s loss everywhere, and I miss my twin, Artemis, with a constant, physical ache.

And, worst of all, with enough time after Tsip surprised me to calm down and remind my body there’s no danger …

I still feel like killing something.

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