Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Waking Land

Title:  The Waking Land
Author:  Callie Bates
Publication Information:  Del Ray. 2017. 400 pages.
ISBN:  0425284026 / 978-0425284025

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I felt safe that night in Laon, safer than I had any night before in the city."

Favorite Quote:  "we have to be merciful ... If we're not, then what are we?"

When Lady Elana Valtai is about five years old, she and her family walks into what is essentially an ambush. No blood is shed, but Elana is kidnapped and held as insurance such that her father will no longer threaten the king in power.

Fast forward about fifteen years. Elana lives as a princess, having been cared for like a daughter by the king who kidnaps her. What she knows is the king's version of history and the fact that her family never came back for her. They seemingly left a five year old and never looked back. The secret Elana holds is of her past and of her magic, one because of guilt and the other because magic is a forbidden art.

Then, her world changes yet again. The king dies; rivals emerge; and Elana is on the run for her life. Her escape leads her back to her childhood home and her family. Here, she learns that there is another version of the history she has been taught and another side to the story. Allegiances are questioned and questioned again. An epic struggle for the kingdom ensues, with sorcerers, handsome princes, princesses who can defend themselves, and all the intrigues of royal politics.

Battling for the empire with kidnappings, rival kingdoms, armed soldiers, and sorcerers is unfortunately not quite the exciting, adventure-filled story I expect it to be. Unfortunately, the "epic" is not quite so epic. Primarily, this has to do with the depiction of the main character, Lady Elana. Warranted that at a young age, her world has been upended twice. It would be natural for her to question beliefs and actions. However, that uncertainty and that questioning somewhat takes over the book. Considering that she is the narrator of the story, what the reader sees is her internal monologue of uncertainty more so that the story itself. This also makes the pace of the story seem really slow, which does not work considering the plot line. Every plot twist seems to be accompanied by Elana's questions. Should I? Shouldn't I? Who do I trust? What do I do?

I am also disappointed in that the romance and Elana's romantic thoughts take over what should have the story of a strong, independent young woman capable of standing on her own. Not every story needs a love story, and not every princess needs a knight in shining armor. I would much prefer the story of the princess who is a brave knight.

The magical element, particularly the power of the earth, is present but not really developed as a main point in the book. Given the cover and the title, I expect there to be a greater importance placed on the land itself and on the role of humans as the stewards of the land. That message is really not the objective of this book.

The most interesting aspect of this book is the world the author creates. Admittedly, the reader gets a limited view through Elana's eyes. However, what is visible sounds like the forests of medieval England, Ireland, and Scotland with the addition of modern weapons. Royal palace intrigues usually make for an entertaining story, and this book is no different. It just falls short of the being the grand adventure it could have been.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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