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. A bold and gorgeous fantasy featuring a brilliant heroine on the cusp of womanhood, The Waking Land is the first of a trilogy that will delight fans of The Red Queen, Six of Crows, and Court of Thorns and Roses.
Wildegarde came bearing a flame in her heart and her hair crowned with the pale light of stars.
Where she placed her feet, the earth trembled.
Where she raised her hand, mountains moved.
It’s not hard to fall in love with The Waking Land. Callie Bates pens a lyrical novel of power, magic and the fragility of humans in the face of war. At five years of age, Elanna Valtai is taken from her home and traitor family and taken to King Antoine’s estate. There, she grows up alongside the princess, amidst court rumours and the nastiness of children who don’t know any better.
For fourteen years, Elanna learns about her father’s treachery to the crown and must bear her family’s mistakes upon her own shoulders, whilst all the time trying to rescind her origins and ignoring the burning power in her veins. Magic has been outlawed and witches are punishable by death, and although Elanna doesn’t remember much about her childhood before the palace and the king, she does remember the song her mother sang to her, and the way flowers bloomed in her hands with only a touch.
Now twenty years old, Elanna’s life is falling apart. King Antoine has been assassinated, which puts El’s safety at risk; not only that, but they believe she to be the murdered, and so Elanna must flee. Quickly.
But Jahan, the mysterious sorcerer who appeared in the palace grounds just hours before the king’s death, won’t let her get away so easily. Her home is awakening, and El must make an impossible choice: go back to her father and rekindle his once failed rebellion, or remain in the city and fight for her life.
Like I stated above, it’s not hard to fall in love with this novel. It’s beautifully written, rich in detail and with a beautiful love story that slowly, slowly unfolds. Bates’ inspirations seem to stem from revolutionary France and Scotland during the Civil War with England, which gives the entire novel a very mystical yet dark atmosphere. I loved every second of it.
However, there were some things that irked me, such as the slow pace. Throughout the novel, we follow Elanna as she flees and plots and plans, and it builds to a huge climax that withers and dies before it has time to start. There’s also a lot of info-dumping, but it doesn’t explain very much, and although this is the first book of three, it leaves a lot to interpret. Also, the ending wrapped up almost too nicely, with hints in the general direction of “more is to come.” I’d love to read more about Elanna and any adventures she may have but, otherwise, the last quarter of The Waking Land was very lackluster in comparison to the rest of the book.
All in all, though, Callie Bates is definitely an author to watch. I look forward to see what other tricks she may have up her sleeve, and to see if Elanna and Jahan’s story will continue later down the line.