The Waking Land by Callie Bates

The Blurb On The Back:

Magic.  Romance.  Revolution. 

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.

Now twenty, Elanna is about to be taken prisoner once again … but this time by her father.

He wants to reignite his rebellion, this time using Elanna as a 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.  

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

When Lady Elanna Valtai was 5 years old, her father Ruadan (Duke of Caeris) rebelled against King Antoine (ruler of both Caeris and its neighbour Eren).  The rebellion failed and Antoine took Elanna hostage to guarantee Ruadan’s future obedience to the Crown.

14 years later.

Elanna’s grown up in Antoine’s court and despite the circumstances, she’s grown close to him and although taunted by Antoine’s daughter Loyce and Loyce’s favourite, Denis Falconier, Elanna views herself as more Eren than Caerisian.  A gifted horticulturist, her only ambition is to go to Paladis in Ida to continue her studies.

But when Antoine is poisoned by a rare fungus that Elanna and her tutor have been studying, Elanna realises that Ruadan has planned another rebellion and discovers that he’s brought Fionnlach Dromahair from Ida to press his claim to the Caerisian throne.  Worse, he plans to make Elanna Caveadear (Steward) of Caeris, a role associated with sorcerers with the power to wake the land.  He doesn’t know that Elanna really does have magic in her – she just doesn’t know if she wants to wield it for Caeris or for Eren …

Callie Bates’ debut novel (the first in a trilogy) is a flawed and unsatisfying YA/crossover fantasy that incorporates interesting elements of Celtic mysticism and shades of the Jacobite risings but is hindered by an unconvincing political landscape, a main character with no grasp of courtly intrigue, unconvincing antagonists, a predictable and dull romance and magic that seems to exist for the convenience of the plot.

Part of my problem with this book is that it tries to do too much in terms of set up and this, together with Elanna’s first person voice, means that there’s a lot of telling in terms of the way this world is set up, who the main players are and what the key events are.  There are also too many characters which means many of the supporting players are little more than names on the page and made it difficult to keep track of who was who while the fact that so many die off page made it difficult to care about them.

Elanna herself never convinced me. For someone raised in a court she has no concept of politics or intrigue (and while Bates tries to show this is due to her interest in horticulture I couldn’t believe she was that naïve).  The pull between Antoine and Ruadan is unconvincing because she doesn’t get enough page time with either to establish a relationship that would cause such strain.  The love triangle between Elanna, Fionnlach and Jahan (a fellow sorcerer) is predictable and dull and again, lacks the page time to establish the relationship.

The magic elements had a lot of potential and I liked the idea of Elanna’s connection with the land but all too often it’s used as a get-out-of-jail card (and in some cases as a literal shortcut), which ended up spoiling my enjoyment of it.

I did like some of the world building – particularly the Jacobite elements – but it’s inconsistent in terms of how its deployed (e.g. things like the naming conventions don’t have a lot of logic to them) and the rebellion itself is incredibly poorly executed such that it left me wholly unconvinced (something reinforced by Elanna’s stubborn refusal to do anything you’d logically expect her to do just in order to provide conflict that can further drive the plot).

Ultimately this book just didn’t work for me and I won’t be continuing with this trilogy.

THE WAKING LAND was released in the United Kingdom on 29th June 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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