Morning mortals! Today’s review is a book that was on my Want to Read shelf for a long time. The Waking Land had a cover that intrigued me but I wasn’t so sold on the concept that it was a must-have. Well, with the help of the publisher and of Netgalley I’ve managed to get round to reading it and am excited to share my findings with you – wondering if this is something you should grab? Read on…
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.
Where to begin? Many who read this blog will know that I am currently, though not deliberately, in a year of reading all the retellings. This is of course not a retelling but there are some key fairytale elements in this story which definitely brought old English folklore to mind – perhaps brought into relief by the fact that I just watched Disney’s Brave again…
But you do have those elements, the idea of the land having its own identity and it’s own power, the notion of a captured powerful woman (in some cases that might be a princess, in this it’s Elanna) and the handsome prince who may or may not get the girl (no spoilers friends, no spoilers).
Conceptually I loved this book, I like a lot of the ideas that it discusses, in particular, the way in which Elanna was raised (one could argue) on the wrong side of the revolution and how she deals with the prejudices and the preconceptions she has gained as a result of that upbringing. That’s something that has been done well in other books but is often ignored, the lines of right and wrong often being pretty clearly drawn, especially in YA fantasy.
I also enjoyed the development of Elanna’s connection with the land, though of course the ‘I just developed/discovered powers that put me in danger’ is certainly a YA trope that many criticise.
I think a lot of my issues with the book came from the fact that a lot of things are set up that never come to fruition. For example, the Queen is set up to be a villain but barely features as a character, the villainy being performed by various male characters (not a bad thing, but an interesting use of a big bad?). Since the sequel (The Memory of Fire) seems to be more of a companion novel than a direct sequel I don’t know that a lot of the worldbuilding that is set up will be used.
I was also interested in the way the author tackled romance. I wasn’t really sure where the story was going, at first I thought it would be a straightforward ‘tall dark and handsome’ affair and then it seemed as though Elanna was going to throw all of that away and instead be independant…and then it went back to the former again…it was a little confused. Personally, I think this story would have been more powerful without such a reliance on the romantic narrative, but that’s my preference and not necessarily a critique of the book as a whole.
That being said, the descriptive writing in this book was gorgeous without being too wishy-washy. You really got the sense of the landscape these characters were inhabiting, in particular, I thought the elements of weather and atmosphere were well handled, as a reader you get well and truly immersed in this world alongside the characters.
I think this book is a good example of YA fantasy, with some interesting ideas, for me it didn’t get a five-star rating because I didn’t feel it did anything particularly groundbreaking (if you’ll pardon the pun). If you’re someone who doesn’t read a lot of YA fantasy this might be a good book for you, if you’re as much of an addict as I am I wouldn’t say it’s a must-have. I would suggest getting a copy from your library, as it is a fun read.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Is The Waking Land on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!