Book Review: The Waking Land by Callie Bates – a Rousing Read
In the acknowledgements section at the end of The Waking Land by Callie Bates, she states that her book is “what happens when you read your daughter The Lord of the Rings [when she’s]…nine, then drag her into old-growth forests and nurture her desire to be a writer.” The book is a story told in the vein of that legendary one, but with it’s own style and strengths. Like that legendary book, it is also long and epic in scale (which is why I’m so late posting this review), but more rousing than the original and told, I thought, with more flair.
What The Waking Land is About
Lady Elanna Valtai 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. She runs into some men who are compatriots of her real father, the one that let her be kidnapped by that king many years ago. She’s taken back to and forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, who had been branded a traitor. 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, as certain powers suddenly stir within her.
But her accusers are relentless, and she’s quickly forced to choose between staying free of them but involving herself in a rebellion against the king’s daughter (now the queen and revealed to be the power-monger she truly was), who was just recently her pretend sister, or letting herself be caught and executed for a crime she didn’t commit. Neither is really an option, but the power that she develops to literally wake the land tilts things in the rebellion’s favor, ill-fated though it might be.
What I Liked About the Book
It is fascinating to me the way some authors can spin such rich, intricate tales about imaginary people, places, and plots. It’s not easy to do. Bates, even though she is a debut author, seems to be a pro at developing multiple story lines, embellishing each one, and weaving them all together into one seamless plot that marches ever forward. There is a romance story line, a what-do-I-do-with-my-power story line, a will-I-ever-have-a-good-relationship-with-my-parents story line, an evasion-of-capture story line, and a does-this-rebellion-stand-a-chance story line. They’re all big story lines in and of themselves, and they all progress based on Elanna’s thoughts and their ensuing decisions. Amazing.
Also, the entire book is told in first-person present tense, as in: “There’s a touch on my arm, and I look up to find Jahan standing next to me.” This is very unusual for speculative fiction, but it really works. It makes things seem more tangible and intense, being inside Elanna’s head as things happen. If I were to put a visual with this, it’d be the rug-weaving video I mentioned here, but with the viewer being the weaver and the rug being much bigger and multi-colored. That’s why I say it’s “rousing.”
Lastly, the intrigue and mystery of whose loyalties lie where (Elanna’s, Elanna’s mom, The Butcher, etc.) is very thick, which makes for lots of emotion and thinking during the reading of this book.
What I Didn’t Like as Much
- In the way of a nutrition facts label, there are a couple of swear words, a sex scene (that I skipped over), and an out-of-wedlock relationship. There’s definitely violence. There are also good examples of mercy being granted and of certain people taking the high road, of communing with nature (of course).
- It might be a bit long for some.
- There are a couple of major plot points that I questioned the sense of, despite the fact that they’d been well led up to.
Who Will Probably Like This Book
Anyone who likes Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, or The Curse of Chalion by Louis McMaster Bujold will like this book. Anyone who likes intrigue, action, non-simplistic plots, or romances will probably enjoy it too.
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Note: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley. All opinions expressed herein are my own.
About the giveaway: See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: The Waking Land. https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/59591d498e2ad84d NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Aug 8, 2017 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.