The Waking Land by Callie Bates

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The Waking Land
By Callie Bates
Available 6/27/17
Publisher: Del Rey Books
ISBN: 9780425284025
Pages: 389
Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis:

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.

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-thought

I want to note that I chose not to label this as YA for this review. There is one scene in particular that I feel pushes that boundary. 

Lady Elanna has spent the last 14 years being raised by her captor, King Antoine. During that time she has come to accept him as a father and embrace their way of life. But when the King passes under mysterious circumstances Elanna soon discovers that she is the prime suspect. A decision to flee will bring her face to face with a home and family she no longer knows. As she returns to the land of her childhood, a magic she has kept buried is beginning to awaken. Now that a battle is about to begin El must decide whether she will embrace her truth and fight for the land or uphold her allegiance to the home she was raised in?

The Waking Land is an aspiring debut novel that brings many promising attributes to the forefront. With a distinct magic system and ambitious plot, there is a lot of expectation. While I was able to find a strong admiration for what Bates was attempting to accomplish, it ultimately failed to deliver a fully engaging experience.

I found my connection with the characters to be impeded by my general dislike for the majority of them. However, I did manage to muster a decent amount of appreciation for Elanna as an individual. She was flawed and somewhat infuriating at times, but I felt this lent a lot of credibility to her. She exhibits many signs of Stockholm syndrome, as she has come to care for her kidnapper, the King. The life he has provided her is all she has known. I found her emotions to have been adequately divided between confusion, grief and anger. Overall, she is well-developed but something was missing. The supporting characters fell short of the mark. There is a lack of depth and many unanswered questions. I found El’s biological parents to be exasperating for reasons I cannot reveal.

While the world that Bates has constructed does coincide well with the magic system and El’s use of the land, I found that there was still a large portion that felt unexplored. There are gaps in the supplied history and a few stones left unturned. The magic is noteworthy being reminiscent of an elementalist, but never fully explored. The dialect was also an issue of note. The setting was presented as historical and beautifully described through details of garments and homes (I was imagining late 1800s), yet the language felt too modern. I would find myself settling in only to be yanked back out by an odd comment or choice of words. Everything felt rushed. This is not to discredit the fact that it was more original. I just wanted to know more and there wasn’t more.

The writing is disjointed at times, but when Bates gets into a rhythm it really flows, creating an easy read. There is a lot of good to be found within The Waking Land but just not enough time dedicated to each aspect which left me torn. I would be inclined to read more from Bates, as I believe her writing can and will evolve into something great if she continues.  I would recommend this to someone who is looking for an introduction to fantasy.

*I would like to thank Del Rey for this ARC. The above review is my own, unbiased opinion.

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Goodreads Monday ~ Bad Romance

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Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners. To participate, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners and add your own links!

My (Not So) Random Pick

29102896.jpgBad Romance
By Heather Demetrios
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN13: 9781627797726
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Contemporary

Synopsis:

Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape.

Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.

Okay, so I am very aware this is not a typical read for me, but I am trying to expand this year. Lilly at Lair of Books is fantastic for featuring diverse reads and she reviewed this yesterday. I could not shake the desire to pick this up after reading her review. Check it out here.

Have you read this? what are your thoughts on the synopsis?

Happy Monday!

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Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylen

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Long Black Veil
By Jennifer Finney Boylan
Publisher: Crown
ISBN13: 9780451496324
Pages: 304
Genre: Fiction/Mystery

Synopsis:

Long Black Veil is the story of Judith Carrigan, whose past is dredged up when the body of her college friend Wailer is discovered 20 years after her disappearance in Philadelphia’s notorious and abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary. Judith is the only witness who can testify to the innocence of her friend Casey, who had married Wailer only days before her death.

The only problem is that on that fateful night at the prison, Judith was a very different person from the woman she is today. In order to defend her old friend and uncover the truth of Wailer’s death, Judith must confront long-held and hard-won secrets that could cause her to lose the idyllic life she’s built for herself and her family.


my-thought

Long Black Veil is rather unique in what it brings to the table. What essentially begins a mystery centered around the loss of a friend develops into a detailed exploration of the lives of Judith and 4 other individuals forever connected by their past.

“You carry the past with you. Even if there’s a before, and an after, in your life. It’s still the same life. The trick is to build a bridge between that and what comes later.”

20 years ago Judith and 5 other college friends decided to visit Eastern State Penitentiary. Only 5 of them would ever leave. It was a day that would forever alter the course of their lives. Now events from that tragic day have resurfaced, and Judith finds that she must return to face a past she left far behind or a friend may be charged with a heinous crime he did not commit. But returning also means possibly sacrificing everything that she values in life.

I hesitate to label Long Black Veil as a mystery. There is an unsolved disappearance at the core of the story, but this is a beautiful examination of characterization and life.  Through an eccentric ensemble of cast, we are exposed to the trials of Judith’s journey into self acceptance and happiness. Judith is a refreshing protagonist the contributes many valuable and attractive variables that solidified the success of this story for me. It is unfortunately impossible to discuss the heart of what makes her so profound and fascinating without spoiling the book’s most rewarding and surprising facet.

“I think it’s very human, the hope that an all-encompassing love will change us into someone else, someone better. That this hope usually turns out to be false makes it no less human; the world is full of hopes far more unlikely than being transformed by love.”

While the setting is credible, this a character driven novel that relies heavily on the thoughts and actions of each individual in order to tell a complex story. The narration shifts from past to present and frequently passes between characters. But each transition is clean and easily defined, creating a fluid experience.  However, I find it fair to warn that due to the larger number of individuals involved, I found it took several chapters to acclimate myself. But once I did, it was impossible to put Long Black Veil down. This is the sort of book that beckons you to turn the light back on and read one more chapter.

Boylan’s writing is elegant and immersive. Her words carry you effortlessly through each page, creating a hauntingly lavish experience with a welcomed element of diversity that begs to be devoured. I have read reviews of those who flaws with the author’s approach to certain topics, but I cannot be counted among them, nor do I recommend reading them before approaching the book. I am enthusiastically recommending Long Black Veil to anyone who seeks an engaging and personal reading experience.

*I would like to thank Crown Publishing and Blogging for Books for supplying this copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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