Title: The Waking Land (The Waking Land, 1)
Author: Callie Bates
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (29th June 2017)
It’s been fourteen years, since King Antoine took Elanna hostage. Fourteen years since her father’s rebellion failed. Fourteen years spent being raised by the man who condemned her people to misery. A man she’s come to love as a father.
Now 20, Elanna is about to be taken prisoner once again… but this time by her father’s mysterious righthand man.
Her father wants to reignite his rebellion, this time using Elanna as figurehead. He will tell his followers she is the legendary Wildegarde reborn, a sorceress who could make the very earth tremble.
But what no one knows is that magic really does flow through Elanna’s veins. Now she must decide which side she’s on, and whether she’ll use her powers for mercy… or revenge.
– blurb from Amazon.co.uk
Rating:⭐️ ⭐️ (2 stars)
THE WAKING LAND is Callie Bates’s debut novel. It tells the story of Lady Elanna Valtai who has lived in the court of King Antoine for fourteen years; a hostage in a foreign court because of her father’s failed rebellion. Elanna knows she does not belong in King Antoine’s Court, but at the same time it is the world she has known for most of her life and she wants nothing to do with her father. Still, rebellion is in the air and when events come to a head Elanna finds herself in the middle of them. Torn between two worlds Elanna must choose which path to follow forward.
I will be honest, THE WAKING LAND was not on my radar at all until it turned up in the May 2017 Illumicrate as an ARC (advanced readers copy). I thought it sounded interesting and added it to my to-be-read pile, where I’ll be honest it just sat for a bit. I’m not sure what made me decide to pick it up and give it a try in the end, but I’m glad I did. Callie Bates has some interesting ideas, though the execution of them missed the mark for me.
The first fifty or so pages of THE WAKING LAND are really strong, and they hooked me and drew me in. Unfortunately from there to, I would say, the final quarter of the book I just drifted along. I found the plot all over the place. I think this was because the story is told through Elanna and she really has no idea at all what is going on, and nobody bothers to explain for ages. So as a reader I was left as floundering and confused as she is. It also doesn’t help that there is a lot going on; there are a lot of factions in the rebellion that are only touched upon.
It feels really weird to say this, but I didn’t – and still don’t – feel anything one way or the other about any of the characters, even the bad guys I feel pretty meh about. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t purposeful on Bates’s part that I am supposed to root for Elanna but I just didn’t feel invested in her story. I don’t think this can really be considered a spoiler because it’s in the blurb, but we’re lead to believe that she could be the “legendary Wildegarde” but I don’t recall ever learning what the significance of that is beyond a simple outline. That being said, I think there is a lot of potential in this story if things were expanded more within the narrative. There is a sequel, THE MEMORY OF FIRE, which is told from a different character’s point of view that will hopefully fill in a few more of the details.