Fiction Reviews

The Waking Land

(2017) Callie Bates, Hodder and Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, 389pp, ISBN 978-1-473-63872-3


There are some sayings, wise-words and proverbs where it is relatively easy to work out where they come from – some are from Shakespeare, some from the Bible, some from nature. Callie Bates in writing this book seems to be trying to establish an explanation of the phrase ‘Did the Earth move for you?’

Despite the heroine (Elanna) being 20 years old, this comes across as a juvenile fiction title. The premise is that at age 6, she is taken hostage following the failure of her father’s attempted rebellion against the rulers of Eren. Basically, you try it again, and she dies. She is brought up in the court, being fed lies about the past, until one night when her father has her re-kidnapped. It turns out that she is one of three key figures in the mythical make-up of her county; she is the Caveadear (always in italics) with magical powers to make the Earth tremble, fold, shake, and generally do things that solid ground shouldn’t do. So she is brought back to her homeland, Caeris, and has to completely relearn everything she has been told in the last fourteen years, so as to be prepared to lead the next rebellion.

There is intrigue, there are multiple betrayals, there is family loyalty and family heart-ache. And then there is the love-interest. She appears to be being forced into a relationship with Finn, the son of the Old Pretender (you can almost hear the bagpipes) who is the ‘Prince from over the water’ (queue even more bagpipes), who seems a bit ‘Tim, nice but dim’. And then there is Jahan, a spy in the court of Eren, but can you ever really trust him? He is very suave and sophisticated, with his own magical powers, but whose side is he really on? – an issue for me even at the end of this book, first in a trilogy. Part of her role as Caveadear is that she is Steward of the land, wedded to it, and so when she finally succumbs to Jahan and the inevitable sex-scene occurs, the land does move beneath them. You do begin to wonder if that was the point of her magical power.

For me, the resolution of the book was a little too forced – the baddies are dealt with, the true queen crowned (not Elanna, but her friend Sophie), family restored, Elanna and Jahan walking hand-in-hand in the snow (this literally is the last sentence in the book) – and the plot-lines for the next book were all neatly lined up. I suppose if this is a juvenile fiction title, then that might be to be expected. All in all, I enjoyed this book, though if honest probably not enough to want to actively look for the next. You might feel differently.

One issue. A really good map would have helped.

Peter Young

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