Our March book was Chosen (Warrior Chronicles 1) by K.F. Breene. If you were around for the February chat then you may now know this author is one of the Fab13 leading the #PWF movement. However, this book was released in 2014 is and classified as Fantasy and Action Adventure. It has 1,732 ratings (4.4 avg) on Amazon and 15,478 ratings (3.98 avg) on Goodreads. The cover and blurb follow.
Shanti has grown up under the constant threat of war. Since she helped her people defeat a raiding party by using a special power, she’s been a hunted woman. Carrying rare abilities and an uncanny fighting aptitude, Shanti is the only hope of salvation for her people. The problem is, she doesn’t believe in her own divinity, and when she flounders, she nearly fails in the duty hanging so heavy on her shoulders.
It seems like any other day when Sanders and his band of misfit boys find a foreign woman clinging to life in the wastelands. Oblivious to the weapon they now have in their possession, they are content to harbor the mysterious woman until she is well enough to continue her journey.
But when the war spreads its arms and lands on her borrowed doorstep, Shanti has no choice but to reveal her secrets, plunging her saviors into danger. If they band with her, they will face certain death. But to trade her to Xandre, the warlord desperate to add her to his war machine, would be to give up their entire way of life.
War is coming. The only choice becomes: Which side do you choose?
Let’s just jump right in with some negative review points and there are some despite the HIGH overall ratings. With this many reviews, it was harder to find themes in the criticisms, but I have tried.
–multiple POVs but none from the hero
–MC too powerful but still whiny and caves to the hero
–It feels clumsy and the world building is really lacking
–many referenced liking other books by the author better
Lacks world building
I struggled to get into this book in the beginning and I feel that may be how others felt. The world building wasn’t in-depth or detailed so it didn’t suck me into a new incredible world. I did form a general image similar to Firefly/ Serenity’s space cowboy worlds. There appeared to be technology but also some more historical ideas of clothing. It is a fantasy world and up to the author and often I skip narrative passages in favor of dialogue, but I didn’t see many world building revelations. I think that could have contributed to some finding it boring if you want to fall into details of an exciting fantasy world.
It was approximately around the 50% mark that I started to enjoy the book and invest in the characters. And speaking of the characters…
There were several references to the characters being two and even one-dimensional. I found it difficult to separate out individual characters in the band of boys Shanti trained. Those with POVs stood out more for me which did help (authors, there’s more on this discussion on the writer side below). Let’s get back to the comments by other readers as these issues could further mean ‘boring’ to some.
One reviewer noted: ‘The opponents in the story are either “smelly & ugly” or just viciously greedy and the good guys are loving, compassionate, beautiful and rich.’ That’s not an entirely unfair assessment in my opinion. However, I felt there was something to be said for a big bad that wasn’t as charming and complex as Loki. It did set up a more simplistic dynamic but considering the lack of world building that is probably the best option.
Villains aside, it’s the main characters I want to like to cheer for so let’s chat about those critiques.
Multiple POVs but none from the hero — MC too powerful but still whiny and caves to the hero
Normally, I love multiple POV’s, but it didn’t carry the same impact here in my opinion. They weren’t utilized in a smooth fashion or with any logic I could determine. And no, we didn’t get the hero’s POV. When I can’t clearly see the world, I need to connect to the characters and that didn’t immediately happen for me. It really was around the 50% that I felt a connection to and investment in Shanti.
I do disagree with the whiny/ caving comment. I liked that there were some complexities and contradictions in Shanti. Yes, she’s powerful, but she isn’t all-powerful (another critique I didn’t include but saw frequently). Sometimes, she caves and did run away – other times, she stands strong and fights. As more of her story came out, I did connect to her and did cheer for her. The complexities and contradictions worked in her favor for my reading.
I would have liked to connect with the main male lead but again we do not get his POV. I think it’s the romantic reader in me that expects that and this book isn’t billed as a romance. Again though, POV puts the spotlights on characters so I missed getting his POV.
I promised awkward nudity in the summary and there was definitely some awkwardness here! Shanti has no issue flashing her boobs to distract men and will use her mental powers to physically pleasure/ seduce. However, she also described sex as ‘playing tootsie’ and was uncomfortable when someone saw her underwear on her bed. Yes, parts of this work above with Shanti’s contradictions, but there was definitely a pattern which resulted in several awkward sequences centering on nudity. It wasn’t particularly sexy or crude, just kind of awkward and it fell flat for me. I don’t know if it speaks more to the character or the author’s style, but I cringed more than once.
Overall, I’d still rate this one 3.5 stars (again, I rarely give 4/5 star reviews and I really will have to blog about how I determine that). There’s a slow and confusing start, but once I got invested I read pretty quickly and needed to know what was going to happen. It is only book 1 of 6 so there’s still a lot to the story and a pretty strong hook to continue the series.
The bottom line is that I enjoyed the book and will continue to read the series and other books by the author. All criticisms and analysis aside, that is really the important thing.
Do you agree with the overwhelmingly positive reviews…or did the criticisms spoil it for you? I try to keep this initial post as somewhat spoiler free, but we can discuss the details in the comments! I’d love to hear from other readers so please feel free to comment here with your review and/ or thoughts on Warrior Chronicles 1 and/ or KF Breene!
Now, if you don’t write, you may want to stop reading here. My writing analysis comes next and it may not prove interesting to you at all!
As this one had a lot to work with on negative comments, I think there’s a lot to work with on the author side too.
We’ve discussed pacing in previous book chats so I won’t dwell on it. However, I did want to bring up the importance of pacing not just in a book but a series. For those of us who know going in that it is book 1, I think that should be an important consideration. I wanted to mention that here as I haven’t read the entire Warrior Chronicles series. It’s possible that pacing over the series means additional revelations that would resolve the negative aspects mentioned above.
However, we’re focused on book 1 so let’s get started with the review from the writing POV and see what lessons we can learn.
–World building was a frequent criticism on this one.
As authors, we’ve no doubt heard frequently to avoid ‘info dump’. We are advised to jump right into the action and then sprinkle details throughout the story.
As a new author, I took this advice to heart and overdid it in book 1 of my Rahki Chronicles. A frequent reviewer complaint for Azimuth is similar to these – it’s confusing at the beginning. I hope I build the world well enough after that stumble, but I still understand the struggle.
It is difficult to focus on plot/ characters to immediately snag a readers’ attention without sharing too much or too little of a fantasy world. There seems to be a narrow window where we can set the scene. After that, readers form their own opinions and will not appreciate learning they are wrong.
I can’t offer an exact size (chapters) for that window. However, I’d love to hear what other writers think and do to avoid info dump and still provide world building details.
–Characters and POVs.
We’ve spoken of character flaws in previous chats, but again characters came up in the negative reviews. As a reader, I need likeable characters so I try to write them. However, as mentioned above, I’m okay with some contradictions and quirks. As a writer, I seem to find such character depth the more I write a character. I will also write short first person POV pieces for my characters to help me get inside their head a bit more. I think the better we know our characters, the better we are at creating complicated characters with some contradictions and quirks.
What tricks do you have to add depth to your characters?
To revisit that POV discussion from above as part of this character discussion, I place importance on any POV character when reading. That is one of the reasons I found this one confusing. The characters with POVs didn’t prove to have much more significance over other minor characters.
As a writer, I have experimented with POV a bit. I prefer third person but, of my 2 series, one has multiple POVs and the other has a single POV. I do think the story dictates what needs to be shared and how. However, I’ve also read and been annoyed when the POV changes in ways I didn’t understand or expect.
I focus on characters as a reader and writer so that helps me determine POV in my books. It seemed that here the POV was simply a vehicle to forward the plot as the characters themselves weren’t overly significant. I’m not saying that’s a wrong choice. However, there were reader gripes about flat characters and a blanket ‘boring’ description so I think the POV choices play into that. Characters who did get the POV spotlight stood out for me and set my expectations higher…until I realized that wasn’t the point and didn’t bring any particular reward. Additionally, I wasn’t the only one annoyed that we didn’t get the MMC POV.
While authors aren’t always responsible for a reader’s expectation, I think analyzing negative reviews help us see how these things might impact our readers and thus our reviews.
Writers, what determines your POV selection?
This brings another Book Chat to an end, my friends. I hope you enjoyed the book and our discussion. Darcy was the kitten who joined us this time, btw!
Do feel free to share any reader and/ or writer comments to continue the discussion! Don’t forget – this is a monthly feature and most of the 2021 books have been selected if you’d like to read (or re-read) along with me. You can find that post here!
Until next time, happy reading to all!