Taran Matharu, bestselling author of the Summoner series, is launches an all-new epic portal fantasy series June 4. The Chosen finds a teen boarding school student transported to an odd new world, where he’s forced to compete in a dangerous game among the detritus of the ancient past. Here’s Matharu to talk about the new book, and to share a sneak peek…
The Summoner series was combined my love for all things fantasy. The Chosen is my love letter to Earth’s history.
I grew up watching historical films, from Gladiator to Braveheart to The Last Samurai, not to mention the prehistoric saga of the Jurassic franchise. My favorite books were those that touched on our past—from War Horse to The Eagle of the Ninth. But I could never settle on one favorite time period. I wanted to write about them all. The Chosen has allowed me to do just that.
History has always fascinated me, both what we do know and also what we don’t. From entire armies that marched to unknown fates, ancient cities once discovered and then lost to the mists of time, or treasure-laden ships that vanished without a trace, there are many mysteries and disappearances throughout our past.
In The Chosen, these mysteries are answered. What if these disappeared groups and objects were taken to another realm, traveling across time and space? What if someone was taking these people?
Imagine warriors from history, snatched from their time and made players in a deadly game. People surviving in a wilderness populated by creatures from our primeval beginnings. Made to scavenge for weapons and tools among stolen artifacts strewn through the jungles, making homes in sunken warships and lost temples. And all the while, forced to battle monstrous creatures at the whim of mysterious overlords.
How would a modern teenager fare in such a place? You’ll have to read The Chosen to find out.
I’m particularly excited about the exclusive Barnes & Noble edition, which contains an encyclopedia of all the lost artifacts and groups that feature in The Chosen. Every one of them is a real missing thing, and I can’t wait for you to read about them!
Read on for an exclusive excerpt of The Chosen…
A great pillar of knobbled flesh stretched across the river like a crane. At its tip, a hump-nosed, reptilian head munched softly on the waxy leaves of a tree, while at its base, an enormous, elephantine body stood in the dappled shadows. Its four great legs were planted like ancient tree trunks, and beyond, a tail even longer than its neck lashed back and forth. From end to end, it was as long as an airliner, and it looked just as heavy.
“Is that what I think it is?” Spex asked.
“I’m afraid I do not know what you are thinking,” the Codex intoned.
“Oh, shut up,” Eric said. “He wasn’t talking to you.”
“This is some next-level madness,” Yoshi groaned. “Either I’m tripping serious balls right now, or that’s a goddamned dinosaur.”
Cade couldn’t believe his eyes. It was as if he were watching a film and any second the illusion would be shattered by some poorly rendered animation. Instead, the giant sauropod’s head swiveled to look at them and watched them go by with dull, cow-like eyes.
“I’m ready to go back to the keep,” Scott groaned.
The current pulled them out of sight in just a few minutes, leaving Cade stunned as the others argued around him. He couldn’t help wondering if he had imagined the whole thing. Romans? Dinosaurs? Mutants? Maybe Yoshi was right. Maybe he was hallucinating.
Then, as if prompted by his thoughts, the jungle fell away on the boat’s right, casting them in bright sunlight once more.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Cade whispered.
The banks were awash with color, but these were no flowers that broke up the green grass of the wide plain to his right. Animals. Hundreds upon hundreds of them. From great behemoths to small, fast-moving critters.
Sleek, birdlike theropods with blue-black plumages strutted back and forth on two legs, snapping their teeth at one another’s tails as they tumbled playfully on the muddy banks. These smaller, scrawnier creatures drank from the round foot- prints left by the herds of great, ponderous sauropods that dominated the skyline, matching the dinosaur they had seen at the river in shape, if not quite in size.
The long-necked sauropods were a sight to behold. With each gulp from their enormous gullets, a bowling ball of water traveled up their throats in an undulating wave, as the beasts sated their thirst in the cool waters of the river.
Duck-billed hadrosaurs lined the river farther down, their strange, round-beaked mouths sucking up weeds and water alike. Some sat on their haunches, their shorter, clawed forefeet in the air; others on all fours, walking through the shallows with a strange, lopsided gait that made them look as if they would fall forward at any minute.
Watching as the boat floated by, the hadrosaurs lowed mournfully, a strange cross between a moo and a honk that seemed to reverberate through Cade’s chest as he stared across the water, keeping time with the frantic beating of his heart.
Among the herds, individual creatures slunk between the great beasts, each different, but no less fascinating: furred mammalian predators that looked like dogs, cats, even warthogs and hyenas, but larger and stranger than anything he had seen. There was so much to see, and yet he couldn’t focus, his eyes skipping from one creature to the next with wonder.
Some of the dinosaurs had hoary, bumpy skin; others scales like those of a lizard. More still had plumages, and all sported some form of display—red wattles, bristled spines, balloon- like vocal sacs, vivid skin tones, and plumes of kaleidoscopic feathers more colorful than a peacock’s and twice as flamboyant.
A far cry from the fossilized bones that had fascinated him so much in his childhood visits to the museum. Who would have known that coating their skeletal structures, there was so much more?
But just as he began to smile, a flood of fear coursed through him as a dinosaur that lived in the psyche of every prehistory lover emerged from the tree line. It moved through the gathered masses like a shark through a shoal, the crowd parting and closing as it stomped toward the water. A Tyrannosaurus rex—or a large bipedal theropod much like it—buried its head beneath the waters, oblivious to the creatures nearby. Its body was dusted in dark proto-plumage, spiny follicles that sat somewhere between fur and feathers.
Then the boat disappeared into the tunnel of the jungle once again, and the scene disappeared from sight.
“Dinosaurs?” Eric shouted, slapping the bow with his hands. “Is this a joke?”
Cade stared back the way they had come, the reality of their situation finally hitting home.
“This place is twisted,” Scott muttered.
“Maybe my mind’s twisted.”
Somewhere behind Cade, Spex began humming the Jurassic Park theme song.
“Will you shut up,” Yoshi groaned.
Cade couldn’t begin to explain what he had just witnessed. Certainly there was a common theme. History, even prehistory, was at play here. Creatures, people, and civilizations long dead were where they should not be. Had they traveled through time and space? A wormhole, perhaps, that they had unknowingly flown through, bringing them to this place.
It did not explain the vipers though. Not unless they too were some ancient Earth species, their fossils undiscovered beneath the sands of time. Nor did it tell him what the Codex was, or who had generated those strange force fields in the canyon, or placed him there.
But there was no time to contemplate, for the river had changed. Now, the current was picking up speed, the once-placid surface swirling and cresting with white. And beyond, Cade could see rocks in the water, at first a few scattered boulders, then more and more. For a brief, terrifying moment, he and the others stared in terror.
He saw it then, half-beached on the muddy bank at the jungle edge. A red, wooden vessel, its hull splintered and holed, the back end half-submerged in the water. Cade spun to look at the boat’s cabin in horror, panic finally unfreezing his throat.
“Row!” he yelled. “Get to the shore!”
Finch’s face was pale behind the algae-stained window as he heaved on the wheel, while water sprayed as the boys around him paddled desperately. Their boat edged toward the shore. But it was slow . . . too slow. A rock swam into view, just beneath the surface ahead of them.
A thud shuddered through the boat, pitching Cade forward. For a second he flailed, grabbing for a railing that was not there.
Then he was in the water, plunged into cold darkness. He slammed against the river bottom, the long weed fronds grasping at him as they tangled about his body. For a moment he struggled, a silent scream bubbling from his lips, but seconds later he was tugged free by the current, surfacing and gasping for air. It was all he could do to breathe before he was snatched beneath once again, crashing into one immovable rock, then another, the pain blossoming across his ribs and back.
Again and again he was pulled beneath the surface, breathing when he could, gagging when he couldn’t, and all the while pulled inexorably onward. For what felt like hours, Cade’s world was a misery of dark, rushing water that choked and battered him in equal measure.
Sand rasped against his side as he tumbled beneath once more, and he kicked out, reaching the air with what felt like the last of his strength. A patch of reeds near the bank slapped against his face, and he grasped at them, choking in terror as they snapped in his hands, but gave him just enough purchase to snatch another handful. Then, his eyes blurry with water, he dragged himself into a thicket, his feet tiptoeing on the riverbed. He hauled his torso forward, his body screaming for air, until he finally crawled onto the bank.
He vomited the water he had swallowed onto the wet-slick grass. Only then could he collapse onto his back, staring at the foliage far above him.
He flopped his head to one side, gazing back up the river.
No sign of the boat. No sign of anyone.
Cade was alone.
The Chosen is on sale June 4, and available for pre-order now.