Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Chosen by Ricardo Pinto

The Chosen by Ricardo Pinto is the first book in The Stone Dance of the Chameleon trilogy and it is an ambitious effort to say the least. Pinto has created a more realized world than I have seen in a majority of the speculative fiction available. The culture of peoples is at once alien and reflective to our own.

The Chosen rule the world over humans, their hybrid offspring and other beasts of burden. A delicate balance exists between the Lesser Chosen, the Greater Chosen, and the Wise (a race of mutilated slaves elevated to unsurpassed knowledge). The Great Balance is in flux as the health of the God Emperor fades.

Imagine an educated, spoiled male teenager, trained in the knowledge of his culture, but raised outside where things are much less formal. Now imagine said teenager traveling to the center of the world, becoming immersed in the middle of deadly politics, and yet generally doing what he wants. This is Carnelian.

Carnelian is the son of an exiled Ruling Lord of the Greater Chosen, Sardian. A contingent of other Masters arrives one day to end Sardian’s exile and bring him back to the center of the world where he will assume a leadership position in times of political upheaval among the Chosen. Carnelian faces the harsh reality of who he is and what it means to be Chosen. Death and mutilation of lower races are nothing to the Chosen and Carnelian struggles in this world so foreign to what he has known. Fear and loneliness lead him to impetuousness and the discovery of a forbidden love.

The Chosen is a fully realized novel and an ambitious debut by Pinto. In fact the novel is so fully realized that it suffers from awkwardness. The world Pinto has created is so foreign to our own that its descriptions are at time difficult to follow. The levels of racial bureaucracy are not easy to follow without a glossary or notes. All this (and more) is available at Pinto’s website, The Stone Dance of the Chameleon, but inclusion in the book would have been preferable.

The Chosen is refreshingly not an epic fantasy novel after medieval Europe or anything European at all. Much of the novel has a Mayan feel to it, though I can’t claim enough knowledge of the Maya or other American tribal lore to know how much inspiration was found there.

On my 10-point rating scale where 5 is a take-it or leave-novel I’m not likely to recommend and a 10 is unsurpassed, The Chosen rates 6.5. This is an ambitious debut, and I look forward to seeing where Pinto takes us, but the flow of the narrative suffers too much from awkward descriptions. Other flaws are that I did not find myself caring very strongly for or against any characters and the book was too easily set aside and at times difficult to pick up again; however by the end of the book, these issues lessened significantly. The conclusion is both satisfying and open ended, and this clearly the first installment in a larger body of work. The Chosen has flaws but the ambitious and even risky story Pinto has begun is rewarding for those with the will to give it a chance.

The sequel, The Standing Dead, is currently available with the conclusion of the trilogy forthcoming.

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