Fierce e-book collection and reading the next novel, Chosen by K.F. Breene. As most of the other novels in both the Fierce and Epic collections, these are the first books in a collection of different series. I've decided to give them all a sampling but probably won't be pursuing any of the series in depth. At least for now. Anyway, Chosen is the first book in the Warrior Chronicles with the second book released this past year.
The plot follows quite a few characters but the most important character, and the one placed on the cover to the right over there, is Shanti. Shanti is the titular Chosen One, who's been tasked by her people to unite the tribes and fight off the self-described Supreme Being who is slowly taking over the world, either through crafty infiltration or outright conquest. At least, Shanti would be saving the world if she didn't nearly die of starvation and dehydration when it turns out a forest that was supposed to be on the map wasn't there anymore. Fortunately for her, Shanti gets rescued by an inquisitive group of cadets and their commander, being brought back to their home city and nursed to health. Everyone is curious about this mysterious woman and her strange powers, especially the Captain, absolute ruler of their city-state and perhaps a bit more than he appears.
I'll be honest, I have some issues with this book and I'm going to try to articulate them as well as I can. First, let's talk about Shanti's powers. Shanti has what she refers to as a Gift, a collection of mental abilities which enables her to do things as varied as accelerate people's natural healing, read their emotions, influence their thoughts, and even kill them with the proper application of this power. Of course, the bad guys that Shanti is running from have this power as well, just nowhere near the same level of strength or ability as Shanti. The problem that I have is that Shanti complains a couple of times about how the bad guys only use their Gift for destructive or evil purposes. Torturing people, killing people, enslaving people. You know, general bad guy things.
While Shanti certainly uses her powers to help heal people, especially herself, and helps one character get over her lack of self-confidence, she has no qualms about torturing or killing people with her own powers as well. I mean, maybe she's meant to be an anti-hero type who's willing to do whatever's necessary, but I still feel like if you're going to be the good guys you have to be better than the bad guys. To paraphrase Sam Vimes here, you can't do bad things to people in little rooms for good reasons because that leads all too easily to doing bad things to people in little rooms for bad reasons. I just didn't like seeing Shanti be driven by a thirst for revenge and looking forward and even taking pleasure in torturing people, even if they were the scum of the earth. It's just not something a hero, especially a Chosen One, should do.
I also had a considerable amount of frustration with Shanti and the Captain and their interactions. Both of them are very powerful people who are very used to getting their own way with things and butt heads pretty constantly through the novel. Shanti's determined to go off and be on her quest as the Chosen one and doesn't want to rely upon anyone else for help. Even when she was so far gone that she would have died of starvation if the Captain's subordinates hadn't found her first. On top of that Shanti keeps a lot of secrets from everyone for the first half or so of the book. Granted, it's with good reason considering she's been on the run from the Supreme Being and his minions for about a year, but she's not willing to tell her hosts anything and gets downright combative when they ask questions, which actually hinders her efforts to get back on the road again.
The Captain, meanwhile, comes from a culture with very strict gender roles and immediately assumes women can't be fighters at all. He thinks something about Shanti's story doesn't add up, but it's more because she was found carrying a sword and throwing knives and being ambiguous about her answers. And clearly a woman couldn't be carrying a sword and knives! Women aren't fighters! Fortunately the sexism falls away pretty quickly, but the Captain still is trying to get his own way when Shanti's trying to get hers, and the result is a sort of deadlock. I'm left with the feeling that I should slap them both and tell them to quit being so obstinate and work together. Fate of the world's at stake! On the plus side they both start to get a little bit better as the book goes on and you're left with the impression that there's plenty of room for character development in later books. However in my opinion both Shanti and the Captain have quite a way to go to being well-balanced characters.
There are a few other issues, but I feel like they're sort of minor compared to those two. I feel like the book went back and forth on a couple of things at various points which made it feel less consistent. I'm pretty sure the book said two conflicting things about how powers are passed down through lineage, but it may imply that the characters themselves don't have a terribly good understanding of how the powers work either. I also was kind of uncomfortable with Shanti utilizing lust and sex as a tool to get what she wants or needs from people, and then feeling bad about it later. Especially when she considers the Captain's culture to be prudish compared to her own. But they feel kind of minor compared to my frustrations with the characters.
Overall, the book isn't terribly bad, I just didn't feel terribly excited or interested while reading it either. I can see how some people might enjoy reading it, but for myself the sort of anti-hero willing to torture enemy prisoners angle and the obstinate nature of the main characters made me more than a little frustrated. If you've read this author before and liked her stuff, you may enjoy this, but personally I just wasn't a fan.