Chosen is an urban fantasy novel and is book one in The Elm Stone Saga. The White Elm council has governed the magical societies of the world for centuries, keeping the peace, leading the way of the light, but when popular and powerful Lisandro announces his intention to leave the council, a line is drawn in the sand.
Young Irish sorceress Aristea Byrne jumps at the opportunity to compete for a coveted position as an apprentice to the White Elm and quickly finds her powers blossoming. Under the tutelage of the council at their Academy she awakens skills she never knew she had. As she finds herself drawn more into the council’s unfamiliar world, and in particular into the web of mystery surrounding council rebel Renatus, she starts to wonder how much is still within her control and how much has been chosen for her...
Sometimes we choose our way. Other times it is chosen for us.
Hi! I'm Shayla, and making stories is the basis of everything I love and do. I write lengthy books about magical happenings in ordinary places, and the supernatural crossing paths with the everyday. My favourite themes to explore in these fantasy story worlds are interdependency, found families, us-against-the-world, and a good helping of angst.
At home in Brisbane where I'm a happy little hermit, I'm married and a mum to our two adorable white cats. In my working life, I have been a schoolteacher, an editor, an assistant publisher and a lecturer. I'm too easily roped into study and am accidentally completing a PhD in Publishing Studies.
Once upon a time, there was a young man. Like many people his age, he enjoyed movies, video games, parties... stuff like that. He didn't read much. Actually, he didn't read at all. The last time he read a book was a decade ago. Little did he know that was about to change...
One day he ordered a book – more to show support to his friend than to satisfy his desire to read. You could say it was a regular book, since it looked like any other book, but you would be wrong. It wasn't. Not to him. To him, it was a sign of an upcoming change. The change he was afraid of, but the change he so desperately needed.
The package arrived about a week after that. Curious, he went inside, lay down in his bed and quickly opened it. And there it was. Simple and beautiful cover, nothing overly extravagant. Just the way it should be.
He was hesitant at first. Wondering. Would he like it? When dozens of books before failed to keep him hooked for more than a couple pages? It wouldn't hurt to try anyway. So he started reading.
And there she was. Aristea. A girl worthy of keeping his attention. Strong. Powerful. Filled with self-doubt. Empathetic. Haunted by tragedy. Anything but perfect. But she tries. He wasn't exactly the same, but he easily related to her and quickly started to like her. And not just her alone. He was pleased to see that even the other characters were properly thought-through and had a lot of depth, which made them quite likeable.
Northern Ireland suburbs. Old mansion. An orchard. Wherever she went, he followed her, starting to lose the track of time and finding himself being unable to stop. Why would he stop reading and go get something to eat when there was still a story, waiting to be read? He particularly loved the descriptions. He just felt like he was really there. He even felt the weather, the cold wind – good thing he could snuggle under the blanket to keep himself warm.
But since he was a bit more of a scientific type of person, he soon started to wonder how the magic works. It has to have some logical explanation, right? It does. And he was surprised that it made more sense than all the other fantasy books. He absolutely loved it.
When he finished the book after a weekend of reading (and postponing all the important work due on Monday), he felt... grateful. Grateful that he was allowed to partake in this thrilling and intense adventure. And satisfied. And even, how could he put it... changed? What happened to the man that never cared much about reading?
Morgansen does a spectacular job of making magic itself appear real. It seems quite clear that she has a tremendous amount of scientific knowledge that she draws from to make this happen. Whether she has a background in science, or not, that I don't know.
But she clearly understands scientific processes and theories.
We see this in the instructors of the White Elm Academy. The reader is privy to bits and pieces of lecture that feel very much like real classroom lectures... though more interesting because, well... magic!
Morgansen explains simple concepts, such as the idea that magic cannot be created or destroyed. Merely borrowed, modified. Sound familiar?
Throughout the ebook, in fact, she draws on science in order to create magic, lending it credibility. It was something I found exciting, as well as engaging. She spends a lot of time on theory, rather than trying to impress the reader with awesome spells.
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of those... but they wouldn't have been nearly as impressive without the theoretical lectures and explanations of the processes involved.
They are what made the magic so true.
Those theories and processes made it feel as though the reader could perform magic... if only we had that talent.
(This is a truncation of my full review, posted to Undiscovered Tomes.)
This book is perfect for those readers like me who wants to have in-depth knowledge of how the magic in the world works. Author Shayla Morgansen explains the magic really well as main character, Aristea, learns it all, and it is clear that the author has done her research well. The story begins a little slowly, which you would expect from a book that is part of a longer series (it puts me in mind of the set up in the Wheel of Time series), but I enjoyed the world building. I particularly enjoyed the chapters that showed the perspective of the adults so that you gain much more of an insight into the politics at play than main character Aristea does. I also enjoyed the friendships and watching Aristea grow more confident in herself and her abilities. The story begins like it is Harry Potter - a young witch gets invited to join a magic academy, but that it where the similarity ends. The story from there is unique in its magic, its political system, its characters and the overarching plot. I give this book 4.5 stars because there are some typos. I am really looking forward to delving into book 2.
I love this book so much. After Harry Potter ended, I thought I’d never be happy again. But then I found Chosen, shining like a bright light! Incredibly hard to put down, it’s a wonderfully captivating and magical story full of beautifully developed characters. I can’t wait to get the rest of the series!
For more of my reviews, and to read a guest post from the author of Chosen, check out my blog!
My Rating: 4.75 Stars
Alright y’all, I will admit, when I first started this book, it was a little reminiscent of Harry Potter – I was immediately concerned. Teenager gets contacted by magical school that wants to train her to be a sorcerer…with a wand. However, as the book progressed, it became immediately apparent to me that while the author of this book may have been a Harry Potter fan (Shayla actually confirms this in the guest post she wrote), and this may have influenced some of her creative choices, the main plot of the book is nothing like the popular JK Rowling series we all know and love. As you can tell by my rating, I really enjoyed this book. Let me tell you why.
The main character of this series is Aristea, a spunky 17 year old with self-esteem issues. I actually liked and felt connected to her almost immediately – a rarity for me while reading a book. Her parents and older brother died in a tragic accident during a storm, and Aristea has been raised by her older sister for the majority of her teenage years. While the author doesn’t focus too much on the relationship between Aristea and her older sister, the glimpses we did get throughout the book were really endearing.
Upon Aristea’s arrival at the Academy, we are introduced to whole new host of characters – most notably, the dark and mysterious Renatus. Now, for my fellow romance lovers, Renatus is definitely swoon worthy, however, he is NOT a romantic interest for Aristea – I honestly don’t think she will have one in the series. While the hopeless romantic in me kind of wants for something to happen between the two of them, the sensible part of me appreciates their relationship the way it is. Renatus and Aristea have a really great dynamic, he seems to be a great mentor for her, and because of their shared history, there is a unique level of trust between them.
I think what I enjoyed the most about the book was that while Aristea’s experiences at the Academy are interesting, they aren’t the only thing happening in the book. Three of the members of the White Elm Council have deserted and formed their own group, hell bent on destroying the White Elm Council for reasons unknown thus far. I loved the chapters written from the perspective of members of the council – they were full of action and offered insight on council members that I may not have known much about otherwise.
The only thing that stopped me from rating this book a full five stars, was that I found it to be a little slow in places. The chapters during which Aristea was in class dragged a bit for me – the slow points in the book were few and far between, but there nonetheless. I only took off a quarter of a star for this because for the most part, the slower parts of the book were necessary for world building.
My Takeaway: A fast paced and interesting book with a unique premise and a set of characters that are easy to relate to. I am already halfway through the second book in the series and can’t wait to read the third!
**CHECK OUT MY INTERVIEWS AND EXTRAS PAGE FOR MY VERY FIRST GUEST POST – SHAYLA MORGANSEN HERSELF! I WILL ALSO BE POSTING AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR SOMETIME NEXT WEEK.**
Earlier this year, I was delighted to have received an invitation from Ouroborus Books,to attend the world launch of what I was promised to be the beginning of a fantastic magical new series and I have to be honest in declaring that it was actually the novel's title that first captured my attention; ‘The Elmstone Saga: CHOSEN’.
I am pleased to report, that every word that followed in this novel (from first time author Shayla Morgansen), did not fail to disappoint. From it’s title right through to the acknowledgements in the it’s final pages, Chosen evokes the reader to a world within our own, where magic is real, powerful, mystical and above all, enchanting.
We are introduced to the White Elm, a high council comprised of the most prestigious, strongest, and well respected leaders in the magical universe of sorcery, who have governed over Sorcerers and Witches in peace for many centuries.
But, as with every amazing adventure, not all is right! And evil has begun to sprout it’s poisonous roots in the garden of peace and harmony.
It is this that leads us to meet Chosen’s heroine, Aristea, who is brilliantly translated on to paper from the imagination of author Morgansen, and who is immediately identifiable to the reader, thus making her more genuine,realistic and relatable, yet possessing characteristics which I’m sure in up the upcoming novels, will leave readers gasping in suspense and triumph.
Aristea has always known of her magical ancestry, and is given the opportunity to attend the first magical school our world has seen, created by the White Elm, to assist in the fight against the cunning Lisandro who is now recruiting his own dark following.
It’s here at the magical school, that Aristea meets other teenagers all from multicultural diversities, who she instantly bonds with, and in the cases of others, such as Xanthe, doesn’t bond with (I’m sure we’ll see an interesting saga between these two alone). Characters such as Hiroko, twin sisters; Kendra and Sophia, and I also challenge you to not to fall in love with the man hungry Sterling, who is infatuated with the young and mysterious headmaster, Renatus. (I’m sure we have all met a representation of Sterling at some stage during our awkward teenage years).
The characters in this novel are not only written in such a vivid and solid manner, but they are most importantly, truly honest characters, who’ll invite you to share this amazing world that would have made J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis beam with pride.
Not since JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, have I fallen in love with such honest and identifiable characters.
Chosen will leave you wanting more in the upcoming Elmstone Saga, which I am very confident in stating will not only be sure to be a infinite classic in modern literature, but will delight readers of all ages for many generations to come….
My first thoughts are that I can't wait to read the next in the series. The tight, direct, impactful prose makes for an easy-to-follow flow in the action and makes the story a real page-turner. Prose is important, I think, and is the basis of style for an author, and hers, though somewhat topical, effectively comes off as unpretentious, which I prefer to flowery fluff without meaning. Her writing has the sort of bite to make the story entertaining and hard to put down. There is suspense in every paragraph. When self-doubt is implemented within a story's narrating, especially in the narrating of a character through a first-person perspective, it produces inherent intensity that keeps the reader craving for what happens next; how things will turn out, because the narrative voice isn't absolute and the characters certainly aren't either. Not only the style of writing, but the characters keep you wanting more. As always, her characters come off the page with a truly lifelike tangibility. You really want to know these characters, and the tragedy that follows some of them makes you wish you could be there to help and not simply be an onlooker. And the world she created--a version of our own world, being a dimension that exists within it, embellished with fantastical elements--comes off as palpable and has depth. Her descriptions of nature show her appreciation for the outdoors and it paints an authentic image accordingly. Her magic system, I thought, was impressively defined and thought-out and was presented in an explicit way, making it possibly easier to grasp for those who falter in imagination and need something outright and concrete. The little mementos that come up in the story always trigger an emotional response for me, as does all of this author's writing. I emphasize 'little' because putting significance in something that may appear otherwise insignificant or menial within a setting that delivers on such a grand scale derives a special appreciation out of the reader who will recognize it. This makes for almost automatic emotional impact. It tugs at the heart strings, so to speak. Truly a well-defined, well-polished, and gripping piece. I can't wait to read the next one!
Well Shayla I met you last year at the Fraser Pop and bought all your published novels though unfortunately I hadn't got around to reading any of them and when I said hi to you at Fraser Pop this year I went home thinking as soon as I finish Wolves of the calla I should start reading this series and I'm glad I did, it's taken a little while because I've been drawing heaps of late so reading has been secondary. Having said that I really enjoyed this book, it was very well written and structured, it set up the rest of the series very nicely, I usually don't read books in series back to back but because this one ended in Cliff hanger fashion I'm considering picking up the second one if not now then definitely following the next book I read. You obviously researched extensively for this book in relation to magic and the science behind it which I thought was very cool. You're characters were all interesting, I really enjoyed the dynamic between Aristea and Renatus and I'm interested to see where this progresses going forward. All in all a very solid first novel, I definitely look forward to reading the next two books in the series as well as future novels in the series, I think you mentioned there were six all together? Anyway ll the best, maybe see you again at Fraser Pop next year :)
I have read this book 4 times in the last 2 years. I think it's safe to say that I love this book with all my heart. It had me on edge with every turn of the page.
Shayla has always been an inspirational person for me, since 2nd grade to be precise. Two years ago when I saw her seated at a small stall with a stack of 4 books I just knew, in that moment, that I had to get them. At this time I wasn't a big reader, but this book got me out of that major reading stump. So much so that it only took me a day to finish.
Many others can agree with me on this statement when I say that this series gives me major Harry Potter vibes, but this book is anything but. Sure, there's an academy of 'sorcerers' but there's so much more involved.
Morgansen has made it seem effortless to draw is into Aristea Byrne's world. This book is well deserving of the 5 star rating.
Recently, when I go to the library to pick up the most recent batch of books I’ve requested, I’ve been also been picking a random book that catches my eye. I’ve found a bunch of mediocre reads, several genuinely awful books, and a few gems.
This is a gem.
I wasn’t sold at first. The prologue felt... kinda clunky and a bit awkward. But the more I read, the more it sucked me in. I didn’t want to stop reading and when I had to stop, I found myself thinking about it. It’s not a super slick, highly polished book, parts of the story are a little rough and some of the characters could have used more fleshing out, but the story is engaging and I’m curious to know what happens next.
All in all, I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to the next book in the series.
Superb young fantasy that grown in depth as it unfolds. Like all good fantasy a believable world develops and grows, switching between Aristea and her thoughts as a determined, intelligent young woman her friends, and enemies, and the grown up sorcerers of the magical world around her who are trying to cope with a desperate betrayal.
The story skillfully avoids any soppy psuedo-romantic pitfalls, using the student interaction to develop characters, move the story along, and add a touch of humour, and the story moved rapidly enough to keep me, at least, entertained and absorbed.
Chosen, by Shayla Morgansen is the first book of the Elm Stone Saga and it had a magical hold all way from the beginning to the end. If you are a Potter fan, like my self, Chosen is definitely your next favorite magical book series with an original story and characters. I specifically love how colorfully the author has captivated the world around the main character Aristea as she grows into her destiny.
I cannot wait to read the rest of the Elm Stone Saga, and see what Shayla Morgansen has created for Aristea and her friends. An easy five star ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ !
When I found this book at supanova, it was only by chance that I chose it. The blurb lacked punch. However, I'm glad I chose it. Very well written, great characters, well-paced and it kept me hooked.
It takes a lot for me these days to continue with a series, particularly when it comes to YA, and I've read some quite famous ones, only to put them down. This is the only series I've managed to continue with since adulthood. The writing doesn't read YA, nor do the characters. A rare thing.
Katharine is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This entry is the personal opinion of Katharine herself, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.
To be safe, I won't be recording my thoughts (if I choose to) here until after the AA are over.
Urban Fantasy YA and us that just love fantasy of any kind and magic.
An academy for magic, filled with sorcerers, from all over the globe, with different strengths and abilities. Set in an old historic mansion lived in by a magical family with a dark past. Hooked? I was.
Story line: The White Elm is the magical council that governs all the sorcerers in the world. Lisandiro leaves to establish an alternative group that uses unsavoury means to achieve their goals. In preparation for the war ahead, an academy is established to educate young sorcerers with apprenticeships to the council members the ultimate goal. Lord Gawain and Lady Miranda are the eldest and the leaders of The White Elm, other members of the council take up teaching positions in the academy. Aristea becomes a student. This is her story as she learns to control her abilities and discovers her own strengths, in the midst of a magical storm that is brewing.
Pace – consistent and builds to an action-packed, exciting ending that will leave you stunned and keen for more. Plot – quite character-driven and introduces those who will appear in the series. We discover the history of the characters as well as the society of magic as it stands. But not all is revealed. There are many questions left to be answered in the future books. This story has succeeded in establishing some suspicions and intrigue that you can't help but want to know more about.
Writing/Language – fluid and descriptive, easily taking the reader on a magical journey to a fabulous old mansion full of mystery.
World Building – magical. This world, though thoroughly modern has that old mysterious haunted house charm. Tradition mixes with the modern on the outside of the academy, but inside you are transported to another time. I love the dark and stormy, rainy feel that adds to the mystery.
Characters – so many to love, like, shake your head at, suspect, dislike and mistrust and I am sure there are some who will shock us in the future. Most of the book is from Aristea's point of view, but there are chapters written from that of other characters. One such character is the mysterious Renatus. He is a little dark with a story that is only partly told in this book. He is the one you can not be totally sure of but really do want to believe is on the side of good. There are a few characters who will reveal their true selves throughout this series and I am keen to see which side some of them choose.
A truly magical and mysterious book full of wonderful characters and magical adventure. I am so keen to read the next installment of this story. What happens next and who sides with who? I can't wait to see.
I wish I had discovered this book when it was first published. But better late than never. I buy a lot of books. I buy them faster than I can read them...I have a problem. So I set a rule for myself, when I go to places where books are sold, especially conventions, where there are many authors trying to sell their books, I will only buy a maximum two books. Because if I just purchased every book that looked interesting, I would need a second house just to store them and I would never have time to read them all. But when I saw Shayla Morgansen at Fraserpop with five books on offer. I could not resist, I bought them all (I am weak). And after reading the first book, I can say with absolute certainty, I REGRET NOTHING! An enthralling and engaging tale of magic and mystery and marshmallows (well, not really, but I did eat some marshmallows while I was reading). Anyone who would overlook this fabulous fabrication of fantastical fiction is doing themselves a great disservice.
I guess one benefit of arriving late to this party is that I have the next four books on my shelves ready to be read immediately. Though I will still have to wait for the last one. That is probably going to hurt. But such is Fate.
I was completely and utterly sucked in by the blurb of Chosen, so it was a wonderful relief to find that I enjoyed the book just as much. It was so much fun to dive into Aristea's world. Full of intrigue, magic, friends, and gorgeous lore, I could barely put it down. The worldbuiling was so rich from the very first chapter, and Morgansen created a world that felt really, genuinely lived in. The magic system was super cool, and it was fun seeing the characters learning more about it.
Morgansen's writing hit just the right level of description without feeling like too much, and it allowed me, as the reader, to sink further into her world. It was an absolute pleasure to read all about the characters, and I am so curious to see how things play out!
This was a DNF for me and I tried it twice. It's written for a much younger audience, I'd say early teen, and everything is described to death, no detail left unwritten. Tedious as hell! Sorry, wanted to like it, but just couldn't do it.
This is a self-published YA book, and it shows all the hallmarks of one. Bland but oh-so-special teenage protagonist, some very awkward prose that probably would have been picked up by a professional editing process, and way too much "telling" as opposed to "showing" coming from the point-of-view character's monologue. There's also an important subplot that gets pretty close to "Creepy Paranormal Romance" except for the protagonist telling us they're totally just mates every now and then. I don't accuse the author of intending to write a romance here, it's just another thing that stuck out to me as very self published YA-ish.
It's also very much "inspired" by Harry Potter, what with the whole magical school vs. dark wizards thing.
HOWEVER, there is some passable writing, interesting characters and OK world building here. Every few chapters, we get a view-point change and follow one of the adult characters for a while in third person. Relieved of the burden of Blandy McBland's internal monologue, the characters get more interesting and the writing becomes more engaging.
Overall, Chosen doesn't have much of a plot. It's almost all set-up. What plot there is occurs mostly in those third-person chapters. Morgansen made the good decision to end the book (vague spoiler) just had me shaking my head.
If future books in this series * Change Aristea's PoV to third person * Explain why the hell Aristea wanted so much to Scry, over all the other cool stuff Sorcerers can do, instead of just telling us that's the way it is. * Shift the view point to other characters for a greater proportion of chapters. and * Give us more information up-front, rather than just mentioning something on the fly moments before it's important. Then they might be worth reading.