This review does not contain spoilers.
Darren Brown sings for coins in karaoke taverns and is beloved for his magical choir-singing, a vocal ability that he attributes to skill and wizardry. Christine, an aspiring journalist, travels from the Kitaumi Area to tiny dump-of-a-town Mirinshita to interview him. As the interview progresses, Darren reveals the truth behind his voice and his connection to a recently disappeared young man.
The Chosen Voice was a bit slow to start, and that was mostly to do with an unlikeable main character. Christine is pushy, selfish, obsessive, and self-aggrandising. By herself, she’s not enough to keep my interest (although there’s a certain satisfaction to be gained from disliking her). Thankfully, just as I was itching to punch Christine in the face, two things happened: Darren Brown appeared, and the narrative took a new turn.
As the prose begins switching between past and present, it casts Christine in a new light. Back in the fast-paced Kitaumi Area, Christine’s role as the most intelligent and important person in the room is put to the test. Maiko, a somewhat mysterious social worker, asserts herself as Christine’s equal or (maybe even her superior), and suddenly it becomes a lot easier to deal with Christine’s behaviour in the scenes from the present. By the last page, I was in ‘love to hate’ mode and wanted more of Christine’s story and her ruthless attitude.
In Mirinshita, Darren Brown turns out to be an unreliable narrator, making it all the more satisfying when his true story is finally revealed. If there was any doubt before, Darren’s story confirms the make-up of this world: despite the modern setting, wizards, Gods and curses are very real to these characters. I was already enjoying the nods to a Japanese backdrop, but the fact that magic is accepted as commonplace immediately made me want to know even more.
The writing style overall is engaging, though some sentences tried to squeeze in too much information. More than once I ended up having to reread the beginning of some overly long sentences to reorient myself. There were a few instances where the dialogue became formal and rigid but, for the most part, characters have distinct voices that are realistic and believable.
For something so short, The Chosen Voice took me on a complete journey. I found a character I loved to hate, a character that completely fascinated me, a world I wanted to immerse myself in, and was desperately flicking pages after a cliffhanger ending. Despite a rocky start, I ended up really enjoying this story and would happily recommend it to anyone looking for a short fantasy read.