Review: The Waking Land by Callie Bates

Published by: Hachette Australia
ISBN: 9781473638730
Published: July 2017
Pages: 400
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended

I actively hunted this book down when I saw that Robin Hobb herself had given it five stars, and said she thinks ‘Bates is an author well worth watching,’

From the first few pages I knew I’d be ditching absolutely everything to finish it as soon as possible. We meet a five year old girl who’s caught in political uproar as the King himself comes to her home, shoots her nanny and takes her hostage so her father will stop trying to apparently take over the kingdom. Elanna has no clue at all of what her father may be doing – she loves her parents, she has a new doll, and she’s had a lovely evening until the gunfire started…

We then skip forward fourteen years, and meet Elanna again when she’s nineteen and still under the control of the king – but it’s not such a bad life at all. She’s able to study and they have intelligent conversations together – much more than he has with his actual daughter. She’s bullied from many angles regarding her heritage – apparently her people are heathens, dirty, and unintelligent – but in general she’s thankful for the quality of life she’s been given, and she believes everything she’s been told growing up. She has some close friends and opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible back in her uncultured land.

This all changes when her only protector, the King, is found dead. As one may have gathered, his actual daughter, now Queen, isn’t a fan of Elanna and quickly tries to frame her for the death of the King, which means Elanna has to flee for her life (though that makes her look guilty), and you’ll just have to pick this up and read for yourself to find out what happens next. The above is possibly the first 2-3 chapters – there’s so much more to this than the only life Elanna has ever known.

The pacing through the novel is possibly the only tricky thing – though there isn’t anything wrong with it from a reading perspective, it doesn’t always follow what one would expect which can throw you a bit – but if anything, it makes them seem even more desperate for their cause, and more realistic when everything doesn’t go to plan. The action is what drives this novel as they all run out of time again and again.

Another factor of the novel is what you would have to call a love triangle, however it’s the most convincing one I’ve seen. Elanna isn’t torn between her affections for the two men in question – she’s caught up between someone she feels closer and more similar to (and someone who sees her for who she is as a person), and what she should do for their people, the future of their land and people, and someone who is quite fond of otherwise – it’s also an arranged marriage from when she was five, and what everyone around them expects to happen… And Elanna isn’t flighty or distraught about this – like all her other decisions in the book she approaches this one with mature thought and deliberation.

The landscape, world building, and magic system in this book were all wonderful and delicate and I am desperate to see more set in this world so I can learn more about this and see where the characters take themselves. So far it looks like a standalone novel, and the plot certainly ties everything up neatly… but goodness, I’d love more.

Overall this was a beyond fantastic book, and I eagerly await to see what Bates comes out with next.

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