Nostalgia Friday: The Chosen, by L J Smith

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Author’s website
Publication date – February 1997

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) She stalks the back alleys of Boston, seeking revenge on the vampires who killed her mother. Armed with a wooden stake, martial arts, and the will to resist mind control, she is killing the Night People one by one. But when she rescues Daphne Childs from certain death, she’s suddenly swept into the Night World Slave Trade, gateway to the vampires’ secret enclave.

Thoughts: Vampire hunter meets vampire, and they all live happily ever after.

Rashel decided to become a vampire hunter because when she was very young, she saw her mother and her friend (or possibly a kid her mother was babysitting; I don’t think the book was very clear on just who Timmy was in relation to Rashel) killed by a vampire, and decided some payback was in order. Then one night, on a mission, she runs into the vampire Quinn, and, true to the theme of this series, the two discover that they’re soulmates.

Now, I have to say that Smith did make a point of having Rashel deny the connection at first, refusing to believe she could be so bonded to something she despised so very much. But what really got to me was a scene in which Rashel and Quinn are mentally joined, and she senses darkness and fear in his mind so she (and I’m paraphrasing here) “dances through it kissing sunlight into the dark corners.”

Let me just point out that Rashel has spent over a decade at this point hating vampires with a passion, and being shuffled from foster family to foster family and refuses to form emotional connections, trying to cut herself off from others and keep her emotions cold, her mind removed. I understand that this is teen fantasy with an emphasis on romance, but honestly, I find it incredibly difficult to suspend my disbelief long enough to accept that “twu wuv” really heals all wounds in a heartbeat like that. It was trite, and horribly out of character, and it didn’t do anything but make me roll my eyes and wonder if Smith even understood the characters she was creating.

Nyala’s transition from mentally scarred to completely unhinged was also something that felt odd and out of place, like the author just needed a plot device to work in a little more tension.

Many parts of this book felt clumsily executed. Some scenes were powerful and touching, incredibly well done, but for every good scene there seemed to be one that was equally bad, and it made for a very poor experience. While this book wasn’t one of my favourites when I first read the series, my opinion on it has certainly dropped upon reading it again.

This novel also shows how dated it is by mentioning Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then adding that Rashel “missed the movie.” The vast majority of teens who read this book now will likely only know Buffy as the TV show, and may not even know that the multi-season show was based on and a continuation of a movie in the first place. It’s only a minor mention, but much like a previous book in the series mentioning Walkmans, it’s something that the audience doesn’t come across these days half as much as they used to. The stories are not timeless, and moments like this really underscore that.

Ultimately, I’d have been happier skipping over this book during my series reread, given all the problems I had with it. It needed serious work on the character development, the twist ending made only marginal sense, and it was far from the entertaining read I remember from my teenage years. Sadly, I came away rather disappointed.

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