Review: The Waking Land by Callie Bates

June 27, 2017 Review 0

Review: The Waking Land by Callie BatesThe Waking Land by Callie Bates
Published by Del Rey on June 27, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Romance, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 400
Source: NetGalley
Sexual Content: Moderate sex scene
Reviewed by: Rebecca
4 Stars

Lady Elanna Valtai is fiercely devoted to the King who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder and must flee for her life.

Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition powers that suddenly stir within her.

But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.

Revolution is a messy, dangerous business and THE WAKING LAND doesn’t pull punches to depict it. After her father’s failed uprising, Elanna Valtai was taken from her home and placed as a ward within King Erylais’ household. Over 11 years, she learned to hate her homeland and its culture. When another revolution rises Elanna must become a figurehead and unite Caeris, a country that she doesn't fully love or understand.

Elanna spends much of the novel working through the trauma of being kidnapped at a young age, the anger at her family for never rescuing her, and the confusion that King Erylais may not have been the man she thought he was. Elanna can be naive but she never lacks for agency. She’s constantly planning, plotting, ready to throw herself into action. Unfortunately, she does seem to have a poor memory -- thoughts tend to repeat before she understands their meaning. Near the end of the novel, she’s surprised by a reveal about Finn that we learned in the first chapter. There are a lot of side characters in THE WAKING LAND, but the core focus is Elanna, Jahan (a sorcerer from Ida), and Finn (a potential king for Caeris). Yes, there is a love triangle, but it never weighs down the novel or distract from Elanna’s story. It’s clear who she prefers. While she likes and respects both men, she never dallies between them.

THE WAKING LAND is a big book. Not just the page count but also the amount of characters and the history between the countries. The plot moves quickly and readers are expected to keep up. With each chapter, new characters are replaced by newer characters. At times, you want to plot to slow down so you can spend more time learning about a particular setting or character. The book is also written in first-person present, which can be a turnoff for some readers. It’s surprising that the book is considered YA since main characters are 19 or older and there’s a sex scene. It reads more like a New Adult title. Regardless, if you’ve ever had a fascination with revolutions (especially the story of Marie Thérèse, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette), THE WAKING LAND is the book for you.

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For other novels about courtly intrigue and balancing the needs of the people, check out Uprooted by Naomi Novik or The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

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