The Waking Land by Callie Bates (2017)
YA Fiction | Fantasy
“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.”
Expected Publication Date: June 27, 2017
pooled ink Review:
I believe this book is a standalone, which is absolutely excellent because there really are not enough well-written standalone YA fantasy books out there.
This story had a brisk pace that I easily fell into rhythm with, and 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.
Complete with an unsuspecting (and reluctant) hero with unforeseen power, oppressive rulers, epic battles, strange and ancient magic, romance, and a generally happy ending, this book checks off major items on the “traditional fantasy” list. But this isn’t a bad thing, it’s what we love about traditional fantasy tales. In this case it’s written with enough twists, action, and creativity to stand firm on its own rather than fade into the corner amongst the massive amount of fantasy books flooding the literary market.
Elanna leads this story and, although I didn’t totally connect with her, I did really like her as a character. She seemed realistic to her circumstances. An important factor in her character is that she was held (comfortably) hostage at the palace of Eren for fourteen years. Having been taken when she was only five years old it would stand to reason that she would be swayed towards the Ereni way of thinking, particularly because she wasn’t locked in a dungeon or made to scrub floors, rather the king almost saw her as a daughter. He educated her, clothed her, fed her, encouraged her pursuits, so it comes as no surprise to us when she is extremely reluctant to aid the foolish, backwater simpletons that are her blood family.
Her family expects her to be eager to escape Eren, but until accused of regicide she had absolutely no desire to do such. I really liked this angle because not only does it make a lot of sense, it’s an unusual portrayal for a story on freedom and patriotism. It’s unusual that their last hope should not care at all about their cause. Furthermore this really gives Elanna a fascinating character arc throughout the story. She doesn’t suddenly agree with Caeris and its people, it takes a long time to a) realize the lies of Eren b) understand the people/culture c) accept her magic and power d) align herself with her magic, with Caeris, and with herself. This unique trait is also what makes her ideal to lead their rebellion.
It’s not a particularly fast book, but it’s not slow or dull either. It’s also not horribly long (it’s a nice 400 pages). The characters and plot twists kept me easily engaged with the story. 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.
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.
Purchase here: The Waking Land
Similar recommended reads: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Lichgates by S.M. Boyce, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini, Sora’s Quest by T.L. Shreffler, Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Meet Callie Bates!
Callie Bates is a writer, harpist and certified harp therapist, sometimes artist, and nature nerd. When she’s not creating, she’s hitting the trails or streets and exploring new places. Her debut fantasy novel, THE WAKING LAND, is forthcoming from Del Rey Books in 2017.
She is represented by Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates.