Lady Elanna 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.
Praise for The Waking Land
“Callie Bates has written an exciting and involving first book, and she is clearly a writer of real talent.”—Terry Brooks
“A heartbreaking, enchanting, edge-of-the-seat read that held me captive from start to finish!”—Tamora Pierce
“The Waking Land is all about rising to challenges, and it succeeds wonderfully.”—Charlaine Harris
“A simmering tale of magic that builds to a raging inferno, and hits like a cross between Brandon Sanderson and Pierce Brown.”—Scott Sigler
“This superior novel blends passionate romance and sweeping magic. . . . Bates has a delicate, precise touch with human and superhuman relationships.”—Publishers Weekly
“A wonderfully stunning debut . . . Bates’ clear, captivating, imaginative storytelling and vivid, distinctive characters will cause readers to soak up every word.”—RT Book Reviews
About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
It’s been fourteen years, last night. Fourteen years since King Antoine took me hostage; fourteen years since I’ve seen or heard from my parents. It’s the only night I allow myself to remember them, and the only night I dare to look my fear in the eyes and remember why I’m here. And as usual on this night, I haven’t slept at all.
I dress in the dark, dragging breeches over last night’s silk stockings. Beyond the wooden paneling separating my bedroom from the alcove, Hensey snores. I wish she’d sleep in the servants’ quarters, but she protests that I still need her, even though it’s been fourteen years and, most nights, I sleep without fear.
I pull my weathered greatcoat over a shirt and waistcoat, tugging its wool collar up high. I look nothing like a boy, but this early no one will look past the bulk of my clothes to see my face. Through the mullioned windows, a gray light penetrates the gloom, revealing the strip of garden beyond the palace. I can’t see the drive well from here, but most of the coaches seem to have gone. Eren’s courtiers have finished their celebration—not that I stayed to toast Princess Loyce and her favorites, especially after she mocked the trailing silk vines and embroidered flowers wound into my hair. “Lady Elanna, you seem to have a plant growing out of your head,” she crowed. “Have you potting soil there as well? Caerisians! You can never get them out of the dirt. Like hogs.” I didn’t answer her, even though she made me flush with anger; it never does any good to respond to her jabs.
Denis Falconier, her favorite, answered instead. “Why, don’t you know that the earth is alive, according to the Caerisians? That’s why they’re always dirty. Rolling about in the dirt. Making love in it.” He smirked and Loyce laughed and, because she laughed, so did almost everyone else.
Sometimes I think Loyce would be less cruel without Denis goading her on. But maybe he just says what she’s already thinking.
We had a gathering in the Diamond Salon instead, my best friend, Victoire, and I—leading the celebration with the latest gossip from Ida, drinking sweet mead, and laughing. Even the king joined us for a brief time, our disagreement the other day forgotten as we talked about my latest botanical work. I don’t think he’s actually angry; he wants to protect me. I’m almost as much a daughter to him as the princess is—more, maybe. Antoine takes an interest in my work and life, and he’s always generous, though I ask for little. Maybe that’s why he’s so kind to me. Loyce is always demanding more things: new gowns, a better chef, a larger allowance, a new jewel she’ll wear once and forget.
Strange to think of him holding a pistol to my head when I was five years old.
I carry my boots out into the corridor before putting them on. Hensey doesn’t wake.
I take the side door that slips out below my rooms and head down the maids’ stair, out into the vegetable garden. A dim racket echoes from the kitchen. I make my way, unseen, along the hedge to the gate, and out onto Laon’s cobblestone streets. The city lies quiet around me—the whole kingdom of Eren lingers under the spell of good food and wine. The people who have food, anyway. Not those who clamor at the palace gates and are set upon by the palace guard, claiming that King Antoine Eyrlai has stolen their grain for his own bread.
But even the poor aren’t out scavenging after last night’s celebration. The brisk autumn air is sharp in my lungs as I approach the Hill of the Imperishable. The ground steepens and the elms and oaks cluster together, dense with undergrowth. A trickle of birdsong fills the air.
The great old circle of stones sits silent on the hilltop, overlooking the river and the Tower on its distant hill, lit by a burning autumn sun. No one else ever comes up here. They’re afraid someone will accuse them of practicing magic, that they’ll be seized and interrogated by witch hunters. When they invaded our lands centuries ago, the emperors of Paladis called our stones nests of witchcraft. They couldn’t drag the stones out of the earth, so they set up guards to kill anyone who came up here, sorcerer or no. The imperial army’s two hundred years gone, the empire’s shrunk due to corruption within, and Eren is the empire’s ally now, not her subject. But the fear still lingers. After all, though the inquisitions have ended, some people still practice magic, and witch hunters still capture and imprison them.
I ought to be afraid, too. But no one’s watching me—not this morning, nor any morning. I haven’t been under guard since I was five years old, once I proved myself a tame hostage.
So there is no one to see me taunt myself with the magic I cannot have.
I stride to the center of the circle, where a flat stone lies buried halfway into the earth. I drop down onto its cold surface. The chill seeps up through my greatcoat and breeches. There was a stone circle in Caeris, I think, that I visited as a child. I seem to remember my father taking my hand in his. People singing while he cut a gentle drop of blood from my palm and let it fall to the stone at my feet.
But maybe I’m imagining it. Maybe I’m inventing what happened when the stone drank my blood. I was just a child; what do I truly remember?
I slip the dagger out of my pocket, balance it in one hand, and throw it into the circle instead. It clatters off the closest stone, loud in the empty morning. Would my mother scold me for doing this? Would she call it disrespectful, sacrilegious? The savage gods they still worship in Caeris, the gods Denis Falconier mocked—the old gods of earth and wood and mountain, not the civilized deities we’ve adopted from Paladis—would not approve.
I don’t remember what my mother looks like. But when I throw the dagger, I remember the warmth of her hand on my wrist, stopping me.
Or maybe it’s just my imagination.
I snatch up the dagger and hurl it at another stone. What’s the use in thinking of my mother or father? I’m glad they never tried to rescue me; I’m glad I didn’t grow up a scrawny, backwoods Caerisian rebel, speaking in a wretched accent and hating the crown. The Caerisians are shepherds, cattle-raiders, fishermen, poor farmers tilling rocky soil; they’ve scarcely heard of Paladis and the philosophers of Ida. Caeris itself has hardly changed since the conquest two centuries ago, still a land of drunk, querulous half-savages. They’re so disorganized that it took the Ereni one day to overtake their capital during the conquest. Think how easily Antoine put down my father’s foolhardy rebellion! By capturing me, he stopped the rebellion and destroyed my father’s hopes for a new king in a single stroke. Imagine what it would have been like if the Caerisians had succeeded! Would we be speaking their barbaric language now, expected to practice their backward customs, bowing to the Old Pretender instead of Antoine? The entire world, and not just Denis Falconier, would deride us as earth-worshipping pigs.
Thank all the gods I live at the court in Laon, where I have friends and my work in the greenhouse, salons and theater and dancing—the sophistication that the north can’t even conceive. Thank all the gods Antoine put a stop to a rebellion that wouldn’t have benefited anybody except my father, the man who fancies himself a kingmaker. King-mocker, more like.
I start toward the dagger—my throw went wide, landing between two of the toothy stones—and feel a warm trickle between my fingers. I must have cut myself picking up the dagger that first time, because jewel-red blood shines on my finger-pads. It doesn’t hurt, but still a shiver runs through me and I look at the stones. With the light burning behind them, and their shapes throwing shadows on the ground, they seem almost as if they could shift shape—or move.
“Don’t you dare,” I say to them. I start toward the dagger but instead pause by the nearest stone. It is squat, with a small bulge on top, like a head over a square body.
I only come up here once a year, on this day. When I was twelve, Hensey caught me sneaking back in. She saw the cuts on my hands. “What have you been doing?” she demanded. I stuttered something about the Hill of the Imperishable, about what happened when my blood touched the stones—even though I knew I shouldn’t tell anyone, not even her. I knew it must be kept, a terrible secret.
“That’s witchcraft, El.” Hensey buried my face in her bosom as if she could smother the magic out of me. “Anyone sees you doing that, you know what will happen? The witch hunters will come for you. First they’ll use their witch stones to send you mad. Then they’ll strip everything you know from your mind. When they kill you after that, it’ll be a mercy.”
For months after, I had nightmares about the witch hunters coming to haul me away to a prison in Ida. Then the nightmares faded; my tutors taught me that, while magic is considered anathema, in truth it simply has no place in the rational, modern world. They said that the Paladisan emperors have made the empire and its former subject states a safer place with their inquisitions and their witch hunts, which not only cleansed our lands but purified the heart of the empire itself. For a while, even I thought we should celebrate the inquisitions that made our world a safer place.
But then the Harvest Feast came around again and I sneaked back up here. I dropped my blood on the stones. Just one morning, I promised myself, just one morning, once a year.
Hensey’s never caught me again, and I’ve grown better at sneaking out.
I stretch my hand out toward the stone, my breath stilled in my throat. No, I shouldn’t do this. The risk is too great. The taint of sorcery mustn’t touch me if I want to go to Ida.
But I want to see it happen again. Just one more time before I turn twenty and Antoine either allows me to study botany in Ida or forces me to marry some safe and dependable man. One last time, before I have to forget for the rest of my life.
I squeeze my palm.
A single drop falls, crimson, winking.
Nothing happens. I stare at the circle of my blood on the stone, willing it, daring it . . .
I’m about to turn away when it happens. A phosphorescent gleam out of the corner of my eye.
The stone blooms into a woman—pale as frost, more insubstantial than wind. She moves restlessly, as if she sees me and yet does not. There’s a knife in her hand, a twin to the one I just dropped. I stare at her—at the high lace collar that hugs her neck, at the folds of her clothing sweeping over and around and through the stone. Her gaze lifts above me, uneasy, intent.
“Mo cri, mo tire, mo fiel,” she says.
Her voice cuts through me. Fine as ice, softer than snow, so cold I feel myself freezing into place as I watch her. Every year, I think perhaps she will not appear. But she always does.
“Mo cri, mo tire, mo fiel.”
I grind my teeth together against the words. “I don’t know that language, you horrid thing.”
This is a lie. I do know the language.
But I don’t speak it anymore. I’ve forgotten everything I knew of it.
“Mo cri, mo tire, mo fiel!”
“Speak Ereni.” The horrible Caerisian echoes in my head. She’ll go on all day, until the blood fades or I wipe it away.
Her gaze lifts. She goes alert, tense, drawing her arm back so that the knife winks in the morning light. The muscles of her wrist tighten. The knife dips backward.
She’s going to throw it.
I duck, but she’s not looking at me. She’s looking at—
I swivel just in time to see him: a man stepping between the stones on the other side of the circle.
The dagger sails through the air. Not spectral. Real.
“Look out!” I scream.
The man starts, his gaze jerking to me. He doesn’t see the dagger until it thunks into the ground at his feet.
The man and I stare at each other.
I look back at the stone. She’s still there, a fresh dagger in her hand. She lifts her arm, poises again to throw . . .
I scrub the side of my hand over the stone. The blood vanishes, and so does she.
I breathe out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. I brace my palm against the stone. My thoughts scramble, frantic. Why has this man come into the circle? No one comes here. I’m supposed to be safe here, safe to taunt myself with a magic I am not supposed to possess. A magic I still don’t understand.
Did he see her? Or does he think I threw the dagger at him?
“Are you all right?”
At the sound of his voice, warm and deep and slightly accented, I remember who I am. I hitch myself upright, facing him. He’s standing on the other side of the altar stone now, the dagger held between both hands. A flush mounts in my cheeks, burning up into my ears, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Like me, he wears a bulky gray coat, with a hat pulled low over his face, so that all I see is the firm line of a jaw above a blue silk neckcloth, a mouth, and the curl of his nostrils.
The dagger gleams in his gloved hands, solid and real. Just like the one that I’ve forgotten, fallen between the stones. If he looks at it, he’ll see it’s old-fashioned, a needle-bladed rondel, its bone handle carved with running deer.
I lunge forward to snatch the dagger from his hands. He jumps back, startled, and the weapon falls onto the trampled leaves and dirt. I pick it up, stuffing it under my coat. When I get to my feet, he’s standing farther away from me, his hands shoved into his pockets.
“An unusual place for target practice,” he says.
I decide to pretend I threw the dagger. Maybe he didn’t see the specter after all.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An entrancing debut novel from Callie Bates I have to say that after reading hundreds of books over the years it is a rare thing for me to come across one that causes me to forego my responsibilities and lose myself in it completely. With every turn of the page I savored reading THE WAKING LAND. The writing was clean and intelligent, and while the main storyline was slightly predictable, the little side twist that were seeded throughout were intriguing and surprising. Blessedly, the love story, while present and charming, was secondary to the character development and the plot. The flaws of the main character and supporting cast drew me in, and I became engaged in watching their growth through their trials, struggles, and successes. All of which held my attention, and had me reading into the early morning hours fully unaware and uncaring of the time. Without question I would recommend this novel.
First of all, can we look at this cover? How cool is this cover! And it’s entirely appropriate for this book. Like, I can’t think of any cooler cover for this book. It perfectly sums up the story and the character Elanna. So, as far as I can tell this is a stand alone fantasy novel. It’s billed as YA, but it’s really more upper YA into NA due to one steamy scene. I hope this becomes a series though, because I was blown away. I’m just not sure what is left of the story to tell… but I’d still read it! This world and magic system is so cool. Basically, El lives in a country where magic is outlawed. If someone is suspected of magic, the Witch Hunters are called, and it’s a death sentence. So El doesn’t tell anyone that plants come alive around her - one touch of her finger and she can make them grow. She has big plans of going off for further training to be a botanist. Of course, the king might have other plans, like an arranged marriage. No worries about that whole arranged marriage by the king thing though, because the king is murdered. Oh, and El is one of the prime suspects. And aside from taking her away from her parents and homeland at five years old to become a political prisoner—due to her father leading a rebellion, she actually kind of liked the guy. So begins her tale. She goes through a lot of changes of heart in this book, starting with not wanting anything to do with her parents. Not wanting to accept her magic. Wanting things to stay the same for her in King Antoine’s court. El’s journey is a long one. Like, this book could have been broken into like, at least a trilogy, but it wasn’t, and I’m glad the author chose to keep it as one book. It meant no wait time to finish this journey! The magic in this book is so cool. The land is literally alive and that power lives inside Elanna. There’s a lot of talk of the ancestors and ancient magics and so on. I loved it. The romance? I don’t know if I was just in the mood for this kind of romance or what, but I immediately fell under Jahan’s charms. His personality was just so… charming! And he’s got secrets of his own. He was very easy going and had a nice sense of humor. This review does this book no justice. Seriously, none. I can’t even describe all the feels. I can say this though, I did not want to put this book down. Most times I have my specific reading times and I stick to them. With this book? That went out the window. I read and read, and then I read some more. Until I’d devoured this entire thing in 3 days time—which is pretty quick for me for a book this long. So, long story short: fans of YA fantasy tales with really cool and unique magic systems and a swoon worthy love interest will enjoy this story.
pooled ink Reviews: Rich with ancient customs and magic of the earth, THE WAKING LAND sings the song of a hero who once sided with the enemy. Adventurous, mystical, dramatic, and worthy of an old Gaelic poem, this story draws from the best of fantasy and presents a story in full. The characters and plot twists kept me easily engaged with the story. The plot was iconic fantasy but with a uniqueness I really enjoyed. I can certainly sense a draw from Lord of the Rings as well as druid legends and the like. The magic in this book largely pulls from ancient rituals deriving magic from/with nature. I’m definitely glad I had the opportunity to read this book and if you’re in the mood for a standalone fantasy story then I’d recommend you give this one a thought. Read my full review on my Wordpress site: Pooled Ink
Sleepless. That's what this book left me. I was desperate to know the fate of Elanna and her friends in this gorgeous and deftly woven tale. I loved the evolution of Elanna as the book progressed. I loved the twisty romance with Jahan. I loved the bevy of female friendships. I loved the complexity of the Revolution and conflict between the warring kingdoms. Simply put, I loved everything about this magical debut. I can't wait for the next thing that Bates will conjure up!
“The Waking Land” is an enthralling YA fantasy that follows Elanna Valtai. The prologue shows us Elanna’s nightmares over the life-changing event that altered the course of her life. Elanna was only 5 years old when the Ereni king came to her house and attacked her family, holding a gun to her head and threatening her parents. He took her captive and treated her somewhat like a daughter, indoctrinating her into the Ereni way of life. Elanna is Caerisian and the other young courtiers won’t let her forget it. Caerisians are seen as backwards, ignorant, and pagan. Caeris and Eren used to be the same land but the people were divided long ago, and after a bloody war, Eren captured Caeris and exploited its riches. Caeris was ruled by three- the mountain lords, the elected king, and the steward of the land with a balance of power and strong respect/reverence for nature. 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 fanta
This was a very interesting book. The world has this history of magic that was practically a living thing in itself. I enjoyed the characters for the most part as they had some depth and the plot was very compelling. However, the whole thing seemed to drag on a bit. There's an urgency to the situation throughout the book, yet they sometimes just take their time or make a side trip and it was frustrating at times. The magic, while neat, was often very confusing. The ending was satisfying, though leaves room for a sequel that I don't know I necessarily want. *Since reading the book, I have learned there is in fact a sequel that follows up on Jahan - Elanna's love interest. I'm interested, but not in a rush to grab it. The Waking Land is a fascinating journey through a world divided over magic that will keep you turning pages.
Before going into this book, I didn’t know much other than that the cover was absolutely gorgeous and that it was fantasy. Yes, I totally do judge books like that. Now that I’ve read it, I will say that the novel is a bit less than what I hoped for, but at the same time, it certainly isn’t as bad as it could be. My favorite thing about this book is probably the writing, and that’s definitely a part of what kept me reading. It certainly wasn’t the frustrating main character, that’s for sure. The Waking Land is about a girl named Elanna who was stolen away from her family as a child, as punishment for her father inciting a rebellion against the king. Fast forward many years later, and she hates her family for “abandoning” her, and she’s bought into all of the lies that the kingdom has taught her. All of the sudden, the king is dead, and everyone decides that she’s the culprit. When Elanna’s family comes back for her, she must decide what to believe, and whose side she’s really on. At the same time, she finds herself feeling emotions thanks to a certain guy who’s charming and handsome, but can Elanna trust him? One of my biggest issues with the book is probably the main character, Elanna Valtai. She already didn’t sit well with me because of how easily she bought into what the kingdom taught her, but that’s explainable: she was a child, and the kingdom became the only thing she knew. But she also abandoned her earth magic simply because it wasn’t accepted in the kingdom, and I mean, excuse me, but what protagonist would ABANDON MAGIC?? I just didn’t understand. Another thing I didn’t get was how, later in the book, her magic came to her so easily despite her disuse of it, and how quickly she was able to master control of it. I didn’t find it believable, and at that point, I’d started to take this book less seriously. Also, Elanna’s slight preoccupation with whether or not Jahan – the charming dude – really liked her, or if he only liked her for her status/symbol, was annoying right from the start. So long story short, I didn’t like her as a main character, or as a character in general. An equally large problem I had with this novel is that it follows a lot of clichés, and that there was nothing really original about it. I felt the same way when I was reading Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill: the writing and setting were well done, but I didn’t feel excited by the story itself. It was a combination of many things that have been done before, and so I didn’t feel much towards it when I was reading. It was an okay book for me because I was in a book slump anyways, but as it was, I continued reading only to finish the book and hold the pretty cover in my hands, and not because I was genuinely interested in what was going on. I gave this book three stars (★★★). There was nothing shockingly bad about The Waking Land, but I don’t think I’ll be picking up the next book any time soon. Nothing in the novel caught my interest, and most of the characters were more annoying than anything else. I didn’t cry when characters died, and I didn’t feel their victories either. Although the writing was quite admirable, I have to say that I liked the cover more than the book itself.
I very much enjoyed Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. When I read that this story should appeal to those who liked Novik, I knew I had to read it. I was not disappointed, Solid world building with a wide assortment of characters, good and bad, and ambiguous. It held my interest, especially as the ending was coming. My only comment is that the end seemed a bit rushed after so much work had gone into the development of the rest of the story. I can understand a feeling of rushing down a steep hill as the final scenes take place, but some of the depth seemed lacking. None the less
When I first read the summary, I was incredibly excited to read this book. I couldn't believe my luck when I managed to snag an ARC at Yall West this year. After the first few chapters, I was sold. I was hooked on the beautiful writing, the promise of intricate world-building, and the premise for the story. Then I kept reading and the book stagnated due to pacing. The middle section was a bit of a mess and the ending was "blink and you missed it" fast. That being said, I think that Callie Bates is an incredibly talented writer and has written a very unique debut novel. I will definitely be continuing with this series, although I do hope future installments are a bit better. Elanna, the main character, was a thoroughly unsympathetic individual. I could understand some of her feelings at first but her internal monologue was so wishy-washy, I found it difficult to connect with her. I do understand that the author was attempting to portray Stockholm syndrome but, while Elanna's thoughts may have been consistent with that idea, her actions weren't. I also felt as if she were willfully ignorant of politics and made some decisions out of spite rather than common sense. Additionally, the love interest just did not click for me at all. It was insta-love and was never explored in-depth. Plus the whole wed to the land scene was a little weird (it could have used a lot more explanation and less romantic intimacy). Had the other secondary characters been better, I might have forgiven the poor romance storyline. However, I frequently got them confused and very few of their roles were clearly laid out or well-explained. The villains were pretty much one-dimensional, which was a shame. Overall, the characters themselves were definitely the weakest link. While there are negatives to this book, there were also many things that were done well. The world-building and concept were so unique and I liked the magic system. The writing was beautifully done in parts and it was a very easy book to read. Some parts of the book were so well-written that the world came alive for me. The plot had the potential to be amazing and, had there been better characters and not so much of a focus on Elanna's inner dialogue, I think it would have lived up to that promise. The pacing was a little off but I think that was due to the fact that the author explained what Elanna was thinking at each step, elongating parts that otherwise would have been quite brief. I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone but if you're looking for a unique fantasy novel with political intrigue and an interesting plot, consider checking this one out. This book wasn't perfect but it was still an enjoyable read. I do plan on continuing with the series. *Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I couldn't get a hold of this book fast enough after reading the synopsis and perhaps that was a bit too much excitement because I ultimately found it to be a a less than average read. The Waking Land follows in the steps of the epic fantasies before it, but with a young adult twist (and the cliches that come with it). I enjoyed a step back into the familiar territory of fictional worlds steeped in magic and rich histories. But all of these features are barely mentioned. Like I knew they existed but the world wasn't explained enough to really give it the depth that it could have had. I started out liking Elanna as a protagonist. Then she got on my nerves. Back and forth, she was quite indecisive to the point that it was annoying. I began losing interest in her successes and failures. Her attitude sucked and made me dislike her even more. And I'm not even going to mention the romance because I didn't find it worthwhile. Insta-love and all that business. As I said, the book isn't stellar, and a lot of that comes from the plot. It moved a bit too sluggishly for my tastes and was fairly predictable at that. I don't usually mind predictability in fantasy if the characters are interesting but, as I mentioned, I wasn't a fan of the protagonist. Now granted, I finished the book. It wasn't the worst thing I've read and honestly there was potential in the story but it was a bit too messy, a bit too cliched, for me to really enjoy it and rate it higher. At the end of the day, I didn't even have enough to say about it for a full review. I don't see myself reading further in the series down the road, but may give the author's future work a chance.
It was a great start but quickly lost stamina for me. There were a lot of characters that I could not keep track of as well as inconsistencies with the personality of the main character, Lady Elanna Valtai. She was confused yet she was certain. She was loyal to the King that raised her like a daughter yet barely fought for her best friend. She was defiant and stubborn with everyone except the (conveniently handsome) sorcerer Jahan. I understand that she was supposed to be immature as she is a young teenager who is just now discovering that her whole life was a lie. However, her character was too erratic for me to be able to enjoy. I gave it two weeks to try to finish and I still cannot bring myself to, so I am moving on and marking it as a DNF at 31%. Please note: an electronic copy was generously provided for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (thanks!).
I honestly was going to give it a 1 star rating and then thought that even though the book was entirely not for me, it at least was written well for what it was. Hence, the 2 star rating. This book unfortunately put me into a huge reading slump. If I didn't receive this book for a review, there's no way I would have finished it and I hardly ever leave books unfinished. The first quarter of the book felt entirely like a history lesson except more boring because they were all names and places I've never heard of. The last 75% of the book felt like a non-stop battle. It was constant scheming and talk about strategy and extreme detail about battle. If that's not your thing, Don't read this book. The main character goes back and forth so much with her views I feel like my head is going to fall off. The "plot twists" if you want to call them that did not catch me off guard. Maybe that's because ultimately I didn't' care about any of the characters. It felt like too many people went back and forth between being allies and traitors then allies...I just stopped caring. Especially since most of what you learn about characters are from a tactical and political standpoint and nothing really about them personally. The magic in this book...could have been good but I feel like the explanation was drawn out and... well, boring. The magic was confusing even to the characters themselves at first. I like magic in books to have fake science in it that at least gets explained even if it's not technically possible in real life, it doesn't seem so far off. I did not feel like the magic in this was like that at all. The character seems to understand the magic in the end but it was not explained in a satisfying way to the reader. Plus, I feel like the author just drew on the main character's magic too much where it just got boring. Like, I get it, I know what she can do. What happens next? Don't even get me started on the love aspect in this book. Who Elanna marries? Just....No. As I've said, I would have given this a 1 star if it wasn't written well for what it was. Several times throughout this book I just did not want to pick it up again and just wished for it to end. Never a good feeling for a 400 page book.