"Chosen Ones" is a Middle Grade fantasy novel, but I think kids ages 5-9 would actually enjoy the story (being read to them) the most. There were some black and white drawings of the events in the story, but unfortunately they weren't that accurate to the details in the text.
The first half of the story was full of detail--most of it unnecessary to the story--which slowed the action. Very little happened. Many of the details were also very obviously based off of various "Chronicles of Narnia" books, but the details the author chose to mimic were not the sense-of-wonder inspiring ones. The kids (one named Peter) jump into a glowing pool at a Professor's house in England and end up on an island that has smart (though not talking) animals and people and they're expected to fulfill a prophecy. In the second half of the novel, the action picked up and the story became original.
The characters tended to be one-dimensional; they were defined by one trait and didn't act beyond it. Also, most of the potential crisis points where solved very easily and quickly, so the suspense was lacking in my opinion--though young children might find it exciting.
I sometimes didn't understand why the children or villains acted the way they did. For example, no explanation was given for why our hero children (aged 13 and 14) still went to the castle after they ran into evil warriors that were clearly from the castle. Also, there were a number of unrealistic non-fantasy elements. Most were minor things that weren't critical to the story, but others were critical--like a slave being able to create a complex technology that's new to him from a sketch in one day.
There were some quotes from the Bible, though anyone not familiar with the Bible probably wouldn't recognize that's what they were, and some Bible-like parallels (like a Passover-like meal of remembrance). The slaves worshiped a Lord of Hosts, their name for their Creator god. The two hero children had one magical power, and another, good character could do magic. There was no bad language or sex.
I read this story out loud to a 12-year-old girl. She fidgeted during the first half but became more interested during the second half. Throughout the story, she said things like, "Why did they do that? That doesn't make sense" or "Yeah, right, no one's that dumb" or "No kid would know how to build that!" At the end, she said, "I still don't get such-and-such." However, she said she did enjoy the story (though she's not interested in reading it again--usually she re-reads books that she loves), and she'd be interested in reading the second book in the series.
500 years ago there had been a terrible rebellion in Aedyn. The traitors had won and given those who resisted the option of death or unquestionable obedience. Those who choose obedience had since been subjected to harsh slavery. Many had forgotten their roots--that once they had been a peaceful people ruled by a noble man who was guided by the Lord of Hosts. The years of oppression had led the people to despair and their only hope lay in the hands of two strangers whose arrival had been prophesied … more
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World building and character development take a back seat to religious themes in British theologian McGrath's opener to The Aedyn Chronicles. Teenagers Peter and Julia fall into a glowing pond in their grandparents' garden and find themselves in Aedyn—a small, former paradise ruled for the past few centuries by a trio of masked tyrants. Hailed by the enslaved populace as chosen ones sent by the Lord of Hosts to throw off the oppressors, Peter and Julia participate in a secret communion ceremony (“Why do we eat salted fish on this night of the year and on no other night?”) then lead a successful rebellion. Along the way they learn to reject ritualistic temptations to choose personal safety or power over the greater good, and by the time they return to their own world they've also learned something about having faith—both in a higher power and in each other. Periodic black-and-white illustrations add a dramatic touch to the story. The perfunctory story line may not linger long with readers, but the clear, simply presented messages of its religious core will. Grades 4-6. --John Peters