Review: THE WAKING LAND by Callie Bates

Publisher: Del Rey
Page Count: 432

Release Date: June 27th, 2018

Note: I received free books from Penguin Random House in exchange for this review.

32671619THE WAKING LAND by Callie Bates is a pleasant fantasy romance.  Although the plotting can be a bit rough at times, the author’s deftness with capturing the richness of the heroine’s magic helps carry the story to a worthy conclusion.

Lady Elanna is a child of five years in the opening pages, seized from her parents by the king of Eren as a hostage to prevent them from leading any more attempts at open rebellion in the subject kingdom of Caeris.  Raised with Eren’s customs, culture and view of history, Elanna has nothing but disdain for her homeland.   But Elanna also has a secret: she has a magical connection to the land, one that causes plants to grow in her presence and the magical rings of stone scattered around the land to sing when given a drop of her blood.  Elanna has done her best to suppress this connection, as using magic in Eren is punishable by death.

All of Elanna’s plans for living an unremarkable life are thrown out the window when the king is murdered, and new queen plans on pinning the crime on Elanna.  Framed for treason, Elanna has no choice but to accept the help of dashing sorcerer Jahan and a cadre of rebels from Caeris, who whisk her away to her father’s home.  Her father has a plan to reinstate the old ways of life, and it all hinges on his daughter assuming the mystical mantle of steward of the land. Elanna must decide if her loyalties lie with her homeland or the kingdom that raised her, while contending with a magic that will lie dormant no longer.

It is in the writing of this bond Elanna has as steward of the land that the author really shines.  As Elanna’s power deepens, she can feel the trees growing in the forest, the creatures walking through it.  Ms. Bates conveys Elanna’s connection beautifully, so that the reader feels like the kingdom of Caeris is a giant blanket you can snuggle into. Elanna’s moments of rage and passion are equally well written, as her magic takes the flames of emotion and causes nature to act in defense of its guardian, a sensation that is wholly satisfying.

While the descriptive prose soars, the plot of THE WAKING LAND gets along in fits and starts.  There are some truly thrilling set pieces, and large chunks where I found myself reading much longer than I intended, so enthralled was I with events in the book.  The story, takes a while to build to that point, however, and at times I was frustrated with the almost capricious nature of the narrative.  Characters reversed course on their decisions or events were derailed without the moments feeling earned.  While I fully believed in Elanna’s growing bond with the land, I didn’t feel nearly as invested in the characters around her, particularly the long lost family members she is reunited with early on.   Some moments late in the book only truly had an impact because of the author’s skill at infusing the scenes with tension and painting Elanna’s raw reaction to events, rather than any feeling I had for the side characters themselves.

THE WAKING LAND is tale carried by the strength of emotions it conveys. It makes you want to curl up in a quiet meadow or let a storm rage through you. While the overall plot isn’t the strongest, I’m glad of the time I spent with Elanna and the world of Caeris.



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