Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Waking Land by Callie Bates

Lady Elanna Valtai was kidnapped and held hostage to keep her father in check by the king. Raised in his court for most of her life, she is loyal to the royal family and calls her father and the rest of her own people from Caeris savages and backward thinking people. Elanna renounces her magic power and wants to become a botanist. When the king is killed with a poison mushroom, Elanna is automatically blamed and has to run or be executed with no trial. The only people who help her are those fighting for revolution to turn the corrupt monarchy to a just system. Elanna doesn't believe them until the evidence is right in her face and slowly starts to realize the lies she's been fed throughout her life. While she help the revolution or leave to find her own life somewhere else?

The Waking Land has an interesting premise and setup. I've read a lot of books lately that have two societies where one has conquered the other to oppress them and take away everything they held dear. This one is different in Elanna actually believing the awful things about her own heritage. Even though she is regularly mocked for her heritage, she tries to set herself apart and completely assimilate with the conquering society by rejecting her native language, her culture, and her father. This shows how people can be brainwashed against their own culture, through history lessons through the lens of the winner and bigoted treatment by everyone around them, and develop self hating behaviors that they justify to themselves. As the book goes on, Elanna finds out the truth through the lies she's been told and has to figure out a totally new world view to adapt.

Unfortunately, this is the only really interesting thing about this novel. Elanna turns out to be very wishy washy as the book goes on. One minutes she's totally commited to a revolution and the next  she's right back to being selfish. This goes on for far too long. A similar thing happens when she continually refuses a person who says they can help her learn more about her powers. Why would she say no? She has no idea what she can do. The romance doesn't take time to develop and seems there because it's expected to be. Her powers are amorphous and having sex for the first time seems to make her more powerful for no defined reason. That particular scene where she "wed the land" was odd to say the least. The conclusion seems too easy after almost completely losing and everything is conveniently resolved at the end except for one person's death who could have easily been saved by his best friend. It's a weird detail to add just after the fact and makes that particular character seem like a sociopath.

The Waking Land starts out really well and then descends into Elanna making the same mistakes and going back and forth on several decisions. After a while, it grows frustrating and the book could have easily been a third shorter had all that flip flopping been taken out. Callie Bates has potential to be a good writer because her prose flows well, but there are so many things I don't like about the story and its mechanics. I'm only reading the second book because I already own it and may as well.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

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