Alex Archer,
Rogue Angel #4: The Chosen
(Gold Eagle, 2007)

Annja Creed is an archaeologist who loves to explore ancient sites, dig for artifacts and piece together the past, separating myth from reality. But, there isn't enough money in that to support herself. She gets a job on a television show called, Chasing History's Monsters, and they pay her to go all over the world, tracking down sensational stories from the past, so that they can present the stories in a tabloid-like manner. When in southern France, trying to track down the Beast of Gevaudan, Annja found the sword of Joan of Arc, that was the sword of Saint Catherine-de-Fierbois. As the series progressed, Annja gradually discovered how possession of the sword has enhanced many of her abilities, while she tried to figure out what her role in life has become as the heir-apparent to Joan of Arc.

In The Chosen, Annja investigates a series of mysterious events taking place in the deserts of New Mexico. Two unusual phenomena are occurring: There are sightings of the Santo Nino, a boy who suddenly appears, helps people avoid disaster and then disappears. Unusual beasts are also being sighted, and this escalates until several deaths occur.

Also investigating these unusual events is a Belgian Jesuit priest, Father Godin, who is one of the last remnants of the Holy Inquisitors, and whose mission in life is to seek out heresy and unmask it for the fabrication he hopes it to be, or to battle whatever real demons he might really encounter. Annja and Godin meet, and it takes them a while to figure out whether they are allies or enemies. Godin has heard rumors about Annja's sword, and initially sees her as a pretender spreading heresy and fraud. Of course, when he finally must accept the reality of the sword and judges her to be a worthy wielder of the sacred relic, things begin to go smoother (i.e., he stops trying to kill her). Meanwhile, Annja experiences several close brushes with death that appear to be assassination attempts. By who? Ah, that is an interesting question.

Is the Santo Nino real? Is Santo Nino a manifestation of the Christ? What about the monsters? Are they real, or just the products of overactive imaginations? Once the bodies start to accumulate, the reader (and Annja and Godin) know that something real is happening, but are they demons or the results of some misguided experiment? Will either of our heroes survive to find out?

This series is written by Alex Archer, but the quality varies somewhat, and it might just be that Archer is a pseudonym used by several collaborating authors writing in rotation. This particular book lists Victor Milan as a contributor, as did the second book in the series, Solomon's Jar. The Rogue Angel books that have Milan listed as a contributor seem to have a bit more emphasis on big-action scenes, often with plenty of martial arts fights. The Chosen certainly fits that mold, and there is less focus on Annja's growing identity as the heir of Joan of Arc and learning to use the sword (you see those patterns when Mel Odom is a contributor). In The Chosen, Annja almost seems to take the sword for granted, as does Father Godin.

The Chosen is a good adventure story with strong elements of suspense and mystery, plus some supernatural horror. The supernatural horror elements in this story remind me of George Chesbro's The Beasts of Valhalla, although Chesbro developed those elements better.

While the Joan of Arc aspect is not as developed as I would have liked, I did appreciate how the mystery of the Santo Nino is not completely clarified or solved. I will not divulge what comes of Godin, but I found that aspect disappointing.

Despite several elements that were not optimally developed, I still enjoyed the story, and The Chosen kept the series moving forward, if not quite at the same level of quality seen in the Archer-Odom collaborations.

review by
Chris McCallister

9 February 2008

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