I've been a Ted Dekker fan since reading his Circle Trilogy a couple of years ago and have read every book he's written since then. His writing is some of the best I've seen from anyone, books like Thr3e and Showdown captured my imagination and kept me hungry for more. But something has happened to my favorite modern writer that I can not explain. His slide from great fiction began with Saint and continued with Skin. Since then he hasn't been able to write a novel that is up to par with some of his past works.
Chosen is no different. Ted Dekker returns to the series that made him great in the first place in his new series, the Lost Books. He returns Thomas Hunter of the Forest Guard as a secondary character who serves as a mentor of sorts to the four main characters, Johnis, Silvie, Darsal, and Billos. The Forest Guard are struggling to fight off the powerful Horde army which seeks to destroy the seven green forests of Elyon that are home to the forest dwellers. In response to this great threat Thomas Hunter lowers the age of his fighters from 18 to 16. When our four heroes are sent into the desert to prove their worth by completing a task Thomas gives them, they are approached by the Roush who inform them that they are destined to search out and find the seven lost Books of History.
No book Ted Dekker has written has conflicted me more then this one. At certain parts I wanted to throw the book at the wall in frustration as I could not stand the horrendous dialog and cheesy "character development" that plagued the entire middle part of the book. Other parts glued me to my seat as the action picked up and Dekker showed off his ability as a suspense and action writer. The book, like almost all Dekker books, ended magnificently, but like Saint and Skin, the middle was horrible.
The minuses for this book are easy to see for anyone with an eye for literature. First off, and I can not stress this enough, the dialog was simply horrible. There were many parts where I almost put it down for good because the way the characters spoke to each other was nothing like how real teenagers would talk. Shut your yapper scrapper? I can understand the need to keep the book "clean" (even if I think it takes away from the overall realism of the story) but this is ridiculous. Here is a conversation from the book to let you know just what I mean when I say the dialog is bad;
pg 109-111, bottom paragraph; (don't worry; I'll try to keep out spoilers).
Johnis; "you will follow me Darsal. You will follow me to hell itself if that's where I lead you" (note here that Johnis isn't the leader of the group yet, Darsal is).
Silvie; "she may have a point, Johnis. You know we could still cut back and make it to the forest in the darkness."
Johnis; "But we won't. We can't. Our destiny is out here in the desert of death where the Horde lies in wait, desperate to feed on our flesh."
What teenager talks like this? Have you ever in your life met a sixteen year old who would, or could in that matter, speak this way? Another obvious flaw for anyone willing enough to see it are the horrible cliché's and stereotypes Dekker shamelessly uses to move his story forward. The prophecy foretelling of a "chosen One" whose going to save the world has been done so many times that it should be illegal for anyone to use it ever again. For anyone to use this tired plot device again shows a lack of originality and effort on the part of the writer. What happened to the originality we saw in his earlier books? On another note, each and every one of these characters falls into a terrible stereotype.
Johnis; The smart weak guy that must overcome his physical weakness to save the world and get the girl.
Billos; The stupid tough guy.
Silvie; The strong girl with a soft spot.
Darsal; The insecure teenager.
I've seen every single one of these characters before, by different names and from different stories but their basic personality's remain the same. They do the same things, they act the same way, and they always find a way to beat the bad guys in the end. Hurray.
So why doesn't this book get a one or two star rating? Well, when Dekker is in his element I have to say he can still be great. The book starts out pretty well, but then slowly fades into mediocre during the middle part of the story, followed by a killer ending (read my review for Skin and you'll see I said almost the exact same thing). It took him about 200 pages to get back in his element, but once he got in his rhythm there was no going back. His tie ins with Showdown near the end of the book were incredible and kept me glued to my seat into the small hours of early morning. Dekker is a great action and suspense writer, and proves in the ending of this book he still has what it takes to create great fiction; too bad he doesn't stay in his element though.
The single greatest piece of advice Thomas Hunter gave to the characters in this book was to "think with your heart." Now, the single best piece of advice this humble fan can give to my favorite writer is to write from the heart. The Circle, Thr3e, and Showdown were all great books because Dekker didn't just go by the numbers and try to write best selling fiction, he wrote what God put into his heart and came out with some great stories. Other then that, I honestly think he should give the Circle a break. Ever since he wrote the original series almost every book since has been a tie in of one kind or another. Showdown was a great tie in, but then it just got weird as he forced the Horde into Skin and Saint. Chosen has the potential to explain a lot of unanswered questions from the Trilogy, like how Thomas was able to move between our two worlds and what he was doing in the Black Forest, but Dekker doesn't take advantage of this fact. Let's hope that in future entries in this series Dekker will take this opportunity to expand the story. Well, I hope my rambling was helpful to you.
Re-read value; low.