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The Waking Land by Callie Bates

BOTTOM LINE: Fun and diverting

Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: 27 June 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Lady Elanna 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.”

My Thoughts: The Waking Land is like a wonderful counterpoint to all those people who think climate change is not that big of a deal. History is full of examples of times when nature overwhelmed and overpowered man’s feats. After all, take a look at the damage wrought by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria for recent examples. Plus, man has long known we are at the mercy of earth, as seen by the amount of literature devoted to natural disasters, climate change, or man versus animal stories like Jurassic Park. There is something about reading about rivers shifting their paths, trees surrounding a city that makes you appreciate the power of nature, or animals switching hunter/hunted roles. While no one in real life is calling upon nature to do these things, pitting earth against man never brings favorable results for man, and Callie Bates is the latest author to remind us of this.

Elanna makes for a decent hero, if a bit hard-headed and inclined to ignore good advice. Quick to jump to conclusions and way too free in espousing her opinions, she is frustrating in her immaturity. Yet, when push comes to shove, she shows she has the mettle to stand for what is right and do what must be done while also finding unique solutions that will mean true change. Her posse, if you will, is an eclectic mix of beautiful people with their own unique powers, and their friendships help to blend some of her harsher, more annoying edges. While she is antagonistic and self-righteous enough to be unlikable, in the end she finds her path and becomes someone for whom you can cheer.

Even though The Waking Land is the first book in a series, there is no cliffhanger or brewing danger that would make people anxious for the next novel. Instead, it ends fairly conclusively. One could even consider it a standalone novel as almost all conflicts obtain resolution by the end. There is one lingering point of conflict by the time Elanna’s story closes, but it is so distant as to be negligible. I suspect this will be the main conflict in future stories, but for now, the story ends cleanly enough to assuage fears of anyone worried about starting yet another series.

As mentioned above, however powerful earth is, no one is going to confuse The Waking Land for realism, and that is okay. Books are escapism, and The Waking Land is a wonderful example of that. With its story of politics and family, two countries at war, forbidden magic, and new love, it is a fun fantasy in which good battles evil, those who deserve it get their comeuppance, and happy endings abound.

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