Katharyn Blair crafts a fiercely feminist fantasy with a horrifying curse, swoon-worthy sea captains, and the power of one girl to choose her own fate in this contemporary standalone adventure that's perfect for fans of The Fifth Wave and Seafire, and for anyone who has ever felt unchosen. For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice. The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister. The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters. Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse. When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner. The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found. But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world. Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.
This book is an invigorating shot to the dystopia genre. It’s such a fun blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and girl power. I couldn’t put it down. Firstly, Charlotte’s goal isn’t to take down her government, which doesn’t even exist anymore in a centralized way. Her job is to break a curse, which she ultimately discovers is really a call to confront her own self. This shift alone in the hero’s journey is refreshing, especially because while it may feel strange to read about the end of the world after this past year, Charlotte’s internal struggles are ones a lot of us can now relate to more intimately. Also, Blair takes The Chosen One trope and turns it on its head, basically indicating that we could all be The Chosen One if we decide to be.
Beyond that, Blair’s characters are so vivacious that they jump off the page. I especially love Charlotte, Seth, Dean, and Harlow, and wish there had been a bit more space to bring their love-square to a more satisfying conclusion. I was missing a deeper conversation between Charlotte and Dean, but understand there wasn’t enough time as this book is a standalone. Typically, for a story like this, I’d expect it to be a trilogy, which is another element that makes UNCHOSEN so unique. From one side, I like that we don’t have to wait years for a resolution. However, I also feel as though the second half of the book is a bit rushed as it’s a lot of plot to fit into a single novel. I would have preferred this as a duology, just so the plot had the expansion it deserved, and also so selfishly, I’d get to live in this world Blair created a bit longer.
That being said, UNCHOSEN is a getaway car of adventure. It’s perfect for fans of THESE REBEL WAVES by Sara Raasch and LEGEND by Marie Lu.
Harlow is the commander of the forces at their outpost, keeping the monsters at bay. Vessels as they are called are those infected with the Crimson (a zombie twist). They seek to destroy and/or turn humans who have not yet been infected, called Cursecleans. When raiders come into the settlement looking for the Chosen One, Charlotte pretends that she is the one they are looking for, protecting Vanessa. This sets off a cascade of events where the world hangs in the balance.
What I loved: The premise of the Crimson is about a pirate, Anne, who threw herself off the bow of her ship rather than be forced into marriage with a man she did not want. It was said that she spoke a curse, and when her remains were found and desecrated by greedy treasure hunters, the Crimson began. The way that this ends up unfolding was really unique and does have some strong feminist tones. The way this and the Chosen One pieces came together throughout the book and at the end definitely gave me chills. It's really brilliantly and intricately plotted- the mark of an excellent fantasy read.
I also really appreciated the character growth we see in Charlotte during the story. She seems to be just the extra one, but as she is forced into the world, she begins to learn who she is and who she wants to be outside of the way her sisters have defined her. That being said, I also appreciated the sister-love that is contained throughout, and the way that they always have each others' backs no matter what.
The romance, and the way that it evolves as Charlotte does, was definitely a win for me. From where she begins, in love with her BFF and her sister's boyfriend, to where she lands, it definitely showed her character growth- and was also totally swoony. I was there for it.
There are some great themes in the book about power, misogyny, fate, and ethics/morality that would be really interesting to discuss in a book group. At the end of the world, how an individual defines themselves and the roles they choose to take are really telling and definitely thought-provoking.
Final verdict: UNCHOSEN is an intricately plotted and masterfully told story of sisterhood, self-realization, and internal power that is sure to captivate readers. Highly recommend for fans of FABLE, SEAFIRE, and/or LEGEND.