Book Review: The Waking Land

The Waking Land

by: Callie Bates

Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Finished on: July 18, 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House (Del Rey Books)

I won an advanced reader's copy of this novel via a BookRiot giveaway sponsored by the publisher (Penguin Random House).  All opinions are my own.

The Waking Land is a young adult fantasy novel by by Callie Bates.  Lady Elanna has been raised by a king since she was five years old.  The king then dies from poisoning, and his daughter accuses Elanna of his murder.  She returns from her exiled homeland - a place with magical legends and connections to the natural world - to her birth parents and a legacy.  Elanna is chosen to guide a rebellion against the kingdom where she was raised, but who is really holding her homeland hostage.  The Waking Land is the first book in a young adult magical/romance trilogy.

My review:
I ended up liking this book.  I was excited to read this novel - I love young adult fantasy and had been seeing this cover around with great praise from authors I respect.  I started the book and was liking it...but then I just...stopped reading it.  It's not that I didn't like the book, I just didn't feel connected to any of the characters and there are a lot of characters to keep straight.  In the end, I picked the novel back up and finished it and I'm glad I did!  Below are my pros and cons:

There are some strong female leads.  Women can be in the highest of leadership roles and this isn't questioned within this novel.  I love that!
The magical quality of this book through natural elements (plants, animals and rivers) was pretty unique to me.  I loved it!

At one point, Lady Elanna questions who she is if she can't be a wife or a mother.  This really blew my mind - for a book that seems to want to celebrate female independence, she should be totally fine with being a strong, independent female.  I was frustrated that these stereotypical ideals will be reinforced in another female character.
Lady Elanna was a bit wishy washy.  She would be adamant about an opinion, only to immediately change her mind on the next page.  This was frustrating, as I wanted her to hold to be a stronger character.
The romance was pretty week considering this is young adult fantasy.  Not that everything needs to be as racy as Sarah J. Maas's novels, but this felt pretty juvenile for my tastes.  And don't get me started on the section about "wedding the land."
In general, this story seemed pretty familiar to me.  Yes, there are new elements and new histories, but I felt like I could predict what would happen before it did.  

Overall, I rate this 3/5 stars.  The Waking Land is a strong first novel for Callie Bates and I'm curious to see how her writing grows.  I recommend this for young adult fantasy readers!


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