“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.” (Source: Goodreads)
Looking for a delightful, magical read? Callie Bates’s The Waking Land may sate your hunger. With several strong, female leads (like Rhia Knoll), the practice of forbidden arts, war, and just a taste of romance, this book easily lands as one of my most enjoyable reads so far this year.
I can honestly say this is one of the few books where the main character begins as the weakest. When we meet Lady Elanna Valtai, she appears weak and, quite honestly, brainwashed by her Ereni up-bringing. Throughout the first two-thirds of the novel, El proves to be unreliable. She is clueless as to where her loyalties truly lie, even as the truth rams itself down her throat. Fortunately, those she counts among her friends know what they’re doing and don’t have to rely on her for quite a while.
Loyce, the new Queen of Eren, on the other hand is an awful brat. Unfaithful to her husband (who readers never meet), she colludes with an equally disgusting noble boy, Denis Falconier. Their command over the Butcher of Novarre strikes fear into the hearts of those that dare to rebel. And the Butcher? He’s an altogether interesting figure on his own. Trust me on that one.
Eren and Caeris, the lands where this tale takes place, are beautifully rendered, proving Bates’s strength with the written word. Her command of language coupled with her love of nature come together seamlessly, visualizing a truly fantastic world. The story Bates weaves into this battle-worn land offers readers a faint taste of epic fantasy, in a style pleasing for fans of young adult literature. For some, The Waking Land may be the gateway to delving into high fantasy – Bates’s concept of magic is that wonderful.
The Waking Land is a fantastic ride through a world that fears magic. It is the timeless tale of how war erodes nations. Because of El’s wishy-washy portrayal and the sheer fact that we don’t see a lot of action until the last fifteen percent of the book, I cannot give this one five skulls. A four though, certainly.
I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for providing me with a free copy of this book for the purpose of unbiased review.