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.
The Waking LandFeatured
Elanna—El—is now nineteen. She has spent fourteen years pushing memories of her family and her homeland away, focusing on her love of botany and the few friends that she has made in Eren. King Antoine has been true to his word, and he has treated El as well as he treats his own daughter, Loyce. The young women don’t like each other at all though, and Loyce and her friends go out of their way to try to make El unhappy at every opportunity.
There’s WAY too much to fit into a short synopsis of this book, so suffice to say that the real action in THE WAKING LAND starts when King Antoine is murdered and El is considered one of the main suspects. As she runs away from Eren and those accusations, she ends up heading toward Caeris and the life she was meant to live as the daughter of a duke and the key to returning the land to its past glory. Unfortunately, El remains conflicted. Her time as a hostage wasn’t difficult, and she was taught a slanted and negative view of the country of her birth. She’s not originally sympathetic to the rebellion that continued to boil while she was under King Antoine’s care, and she’s angry that her parents left her (seemingly) without any trouble at all and never bothered to try to get her back.
THE WAKING LAND tells a story that is typical for the fantasy genre, drawing from the history and mythologies of the United Kingdom for its plot. Elanna is a standard fantasy protagonist: she continually doubts herself and the magical abilities that she knows she has but can’t figure out how to nurture—particularly since anyone suspected of “witchcraft” is persecuted. There are so many characters in THE WAKING LAND that it’s often hard to keep up, and the secondary characters don’t get much time to develop as the action sweeps them along at a brisk pace. That’s unfortunate; many of those characters have interesting stories of their own that it would be great to follow. There’s also the standard love story as Jahan, a young man with secrets and magical abilities of his own, engages, intrigues, and bewilders El.
And the cover of the book… if I were to buy a book based only on its cover, I would have paid full price for this one and bought it for all of my friends and family too. It’s gorgeous.
THE WAKING LAND concludes neatly, so it works as a stand-alone novel. However, with so many potential stories lingering in those secondary characters, I hope we’ll have a chance to revisit Caeris soon. I’ll welcome the chance to read Callie Bates’s future novels. Although the world she has created doesn’t feel fully formed, and the characters need a bit more flesh, her story pulled me along. I’m definitely interested to see where the story of Caeris and its people will go next.
My thanks to NetGalley and the pubisher for a copy of the e-book in exchange for my honest review.
Magic has been outlawed across the empire- not just in Eren/Caeris, and magicians are tortured and killed. Elanna not only tries to hide that she is from Caeris but also that she carries magic. She desperately wants to fit in, so much so that it appears she may have Stockholm Syndrome, believing all the lies that have been fed to her over the last fourteen years and hating Caeris, her family, and her people. Early in the book, the king who had taken her captive is poisoned and dies, leaving her not only uncertain about her future but a victim of the king’s daughter and new queen Loyce, who has always hated her, and her sadistic lover, Denis. Loyce and Denis accuse Elanna of murder and witchcraft (although they do not know that she has any power). Luckily, some of her father’s people have come to save her and escort her away to Caeris. Elanna resists them at every step, seeking any other option, as she has been raised to hate Caeris. We slowly watch her transform to understand the lies that have been told to her and appreciate the truth of the events that led to her capture.
Elanna also begins to understand that her magic is unique and special, tying her to the land as the steward (a position currently held by her father) also called the Caveadear. The story begins to take some twists and turns as we learn more about why her family was threatened and she taken captive when she was five years old, as well as the history of Eren, Caeris, and the powers at play in the laws and nature. This is not a short book and the pace is surprisingly perfect with how we watch Elanna grow and learn. The content seems to fit a whole trilogy of books, and I liked that it was all in one novel rather than divided as has been the trends these days. It does take longer to read than others, but I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it- the explanations and content were really right on target.
The romance is also really strong; although there is an instant attraction, we see the relationship grow and develop, and I really enjoyed the couple who emerges. While on this topic, I would mention that there is explicit sex (one scene) in the book. That, along with the violence and bloodshed of war, would make this book more appropriate for older young adult or new adult readers. There is emotional and physical torture as well as violent deaths that may not be appropriate for younger readers.
There are several really fantastically developed and strong characters, including some really great stand-out females, like Elanna, Victoire (who I wish we got to hear even more about), and Rhia. This is a really fantastic book, and I really hope to see more in this series, as I am not yet ready to let these characters go. Perfect for fans of “The Girl of Fire and Thorns” series, this was an engaging and thought-provoking coming-of-age story set in a beautifully-developed fantasy world. I look forward to seeing more from this talented author!
Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.