Book Review: The Chosen One, by Walt Gragg

the chosen one
Image belongs to the publisher.

Title:  The Chosen One
Author:   Walt Gragg
Genre:  Military fiction
Rating:  2.5 out of 5

The Mahdi—The Chosen One—is a fundamentalist Islamic leader who rose to power a few months ago, at the head of an army numbering in the millions. Now he’s pushing into Egypt and Saudi Arabia intent on conquering the entire Middle East—including Jerusalem. An Allied force, mainly Americans, stands in his way, but they are vastly outnumbered. It will take both skill and luck if they are to stop the inexorable tide willing to die for the Mahdi.

Okay. Military fiction is not one of my favorite genres. But…I’ve read—and enjoyed—several Clancy novels, so it’s not an automatic dislike for me. Honestly, the military part of this book wasn’t the problem.

The idea of a fundamentalist Islamic leader at the head of an enormous jihadist army is, frankly, terrifyingly possible. Even with zero military experience, I found the battles—about 90% of the book—to be believable and understandable.

What I didn’t like:

-the distant point-of-view that kept me from making a connection with, or even liking, any of the characters.

-the vocabulary usage comes across as pompous and condescending (I’m a firm believer in Stephen King’s writing advice about using big words unnecessarily:  don’t. See #4.).

-the female characters are caricatures, completely one-dimensional, and totally unbelievable. Do you really expect me to believe that a top-tier journalist like Lauren Adams (beautiful, because that’s the ONE defining trait all the female characters share—and they really only have two traits each here) would sit around moping over a guy she barely met instead of focusing on covering the story of a lifetime? I have a master’s degree in journalism, so this is so unbelievable as to be ridiculous. Then we have the female jihadist soldier who is nearly killed, and ends up feeling affection to the American soldier who saves her life after only a few days when she can’t even understand what he’s saying…and who the soldier then kills because she suddenly decides to betray him. Really? I know basically nothing about fundamentalist Islam, and I know that’s completely unlikely—she’d have killed him in his sleep the first chance she got, with zero chance of affection. And, lastly, is the shrewish trophy wife back home who has her important senator daddy call in a favor to get her husband to come home from the front lines in the midst of battle and drive the kids across the country to his parents. I really wish I were joking. Why make your female characters so one-dimensional and…pathetic?

Walt Gragg is an attorney, former state prosecutor, and Vietnam veteran. The Chosen One is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Berkley in exchange for an honest review.)

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