Title: The Waking Land
Author: Callie Bates
Publisher: Del Ray
Publication date: June 27, 2017
Page count: 400
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 2/5 stars
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.
I was excited to receive a chance to read The Waking Land – it has been compared to Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which I loved. And maybe if it hadn’t been, my expectations wouldn’t have been so high and I would have enjoyed it more. Alas.
In recent years, I’ve been trying to be more open to unlikeable protagonists for a variety of reasons, but I just canNOT with Elanna. Selfish, bitter, wishy-washy, naive, angsty, self-victimizing (in the “people only like me for my powers WOE IS ME BOOOOHOOOOO” vein) – I mean, I get that she’s supposed to be 19 and sometimes those descriptors come with the age, but UGH. I had whiplash from how often she changed her tune. Basically? Whatever she THOUGHT was happening was NEVER happening, which took all the tension out of the book. You think that guy is a bad guy? Surprise, 1 page later you find out he’s not AD NAUSEUM. Fool me once, etc.
I found the magic in the book poorly described, which is too bad because it had a lot of potential. Elanna IS the land, but the descriptions of being both a singular person and the land incarnate were few, lacking, and just not believable. I am HERE for magic and have a strong ability to suspend disbelief, but I was just not convinced. It felt like such a missed opportunity.
I really wanted to like this book – I love a good fantasy story with magic, a strong female protagonist and revolution – but this one just fell short for me. Convoluted to the point of not interesting with a main character who I never felt much sympathy for – I just wasn’t convinced by this story.