Chosen by Mark E. Cooper

CooperChosenWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Publisher: Impulse Books UK (2014)

Narrator: Mikael Naramore

Length: 9 hours 6 minutes

Series: Book 2 Rune Gate Cycle

Author’s Page

Book 1, Rune Gate, left us with a bit of a cliff hanger, wondering who was forced through (or chose to go through) the rune gate, a gate between our Earth and the world of Othala. Our heroine, Alex Yorke, is one of those who was forced through the gate. Douglas, who is from Othala, manages to get through, along with some of the folks from the Silver Mist coven. We also have a few bad guys who make it through too. Now, the Earthlings have to learn the rules of Othala, as well as the language. There’s plenty of hidden trouble for them to get into.

I really, really enjoyed Book 1. It had this great mix of the paranormal and detective work. In Book 2, we totally lose the detective work. At first, I was a bit sad to see this gone, as Alex is trained in police work, so we no longer have that aspect to her character. My second issue with this book was that women were second class citizens. This made me sad. All the ladies who came through the gate aren’t taken seriously in Othala, by the Othala men nor by the Earth men who came through the gate. They get to cook, constantly need protecting, are given little belt daggers that are for show. Douglas (and later other men) give the Earth men lessons in sword fighting. Yet no lessons in any kind of self defense are given to the ladies. And they are all OK with that – the Othala men, the ladies, and the Earth men! Ugh!

This bothered me for two reasons: 1) It’s inherently ridiculous for women, who generally make up half the population, to not be armed and trained. This is fiction, so the rules of gender equality can be bent any way the author sees fit. 2) The Earthlings are fighters, even the ladies. So it really seemed to be against their personalities to accept this change in status without a roll of the eyes or a huff over crossed arms on breasts. 3) And why wouldn’t the Earth men speak up and insist the ladies get some training in? Again, another break in character.

As the story unfolds, there are more instances of gender inequality. Men can fight and do magic, but women are stuck with laundry and magic. Squared off, one on one, a male magic user will always be stronger than a female magic user. Sigh…..You get the picture.

So, how was the rest of the book? It was OK. There’s some politics going on that Douglas was entwined in before he left, and he gets re-entwined in upon his return. I found these interesting. Douglas also has to figure out how he feels about Alex and what he will do about her. Meanwhile, Thomas the sheriff from back home and Alex’s past lover is trying to find his niche in this new world. He is use to being in charge. Now he isn’t and he’s a novice with the sword. I really enjoyed his character arc.

And there’s betrayal and redemption (hopefully)! This was the most engaging plot line for me. It was unexpected to have one of Alex’s party commit betrayal. But this individual quickly decides an error was made and works towards redemption. This character’s growth was excellent to watch.

Alex herself does some growing as a character. First, in Othala there are folks who can teach her about her powers. Second, her powers are strong here. In this world, magic users are sometimes gifted by the Goddess with a companion that helps to keep them grounded, their Chosen. By the cover art, I am sure you can guess what form Alex’s Chosen takes. I really enjoyed the dynamic between these two and the surly remarks often made by the Chosen.

So, over all the plot and individual characters were entertaining and engaging. However, the Earth characters’ lack of comment or action concerning the gender inequality on Othala felt like a huge break in character for most of them. I really wanted them to comment or, for the more opinionated characters (Alex, Thomas), to rail against the social norms of Othala. Yet they didn’t and this seemed to go against their characters. Also, do we need yet one more fantasy novel that places women in ‘traditional’ roles? It made some of the plot and some of the choices faced by our heroes predictable. On the other hand, the ending was very well done and satisfying.

Narration: Mikael Naramore gave another good performance. Some of his bad guy voices were a little over done. Other than that, he had a lovely voice for Alex, and a wonderful accent for Douglas. I liked his big surly cat voice too.

What I Liked:  Some characters have very engaging story arcs; betrayal!; the cover art; a satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: None of the Earhers blink an eye at the Othala social norms (gender inequality); there was no detective work.

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