ARC Review: The Waking Land by Callie Bates

TheWakingLandCoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Setting: A fictional world in a medieval-like setting (think queens, kings, castles, ladies in dresses, swords, etc)

***I received an eARC copy of The Waking Land from the publisher, Del Ray, via NetGalley***


Review: Oof, I really had to force myself to finish this one! I found it slow and distant, but The Waking Land has an intriguing premise. The Waking Land by Callie Bates is a magical book that is told in first-person and focuses on Elanna Valtai, age nineteen, who was taken hostage as a young girl and forced to live away from her parents. The book starts out with the king being murdered, and Elanna being accused of that crime. Elanna has lived for years trying to hide her magical powers, and she escapes and meets up with various people who can help her learn her magic and help right the kingdom.

I’ll start out by saying that I found Elanna quite bland. She is magical, in that she can control nature, ie, grow trees and plants, and control rivers and rocks, and her magic was far more interesting than she was. There were many scenes where Elanna would be trapped somewhere and she’d be complaining about being trapped, but she had just done some wonderful magic, and I’d think, “Why aren’t you trying to use your surroundings to escape? You can control the ______ (trees, river, mountain, fog, etc)!” Perhaps I’m being too harsh on Elanna, but I never felt a true connection to her, or the other characters around her. It’s not that she was written badly, she did have gumption and bravery and intelligence, but I just could not connect to her or to her love interest, Jahan.

I think the world building of the novel was done well. There are various people and rivalries, languages and magics, stories and myths. This was interesting, but I felt removed from this story, and The Waking Land seemed to take me forever to finish. Sadly, I would’ve probably DNF’d this book had I not gotten an ARC of it. I feel really awful making that statement, as the author clearly put forth a lot of hard work on this book, but I just didn’t connect and found it slow and it felt exceedingly long. Amazon has the book listed at 400 pages, so it’s not too terribly long, but I just really felt that it dragged and I never felt compelled to read it.

I do think that some readers will really enjoy this book; unfortunately it just wasn’t for me. I think that those who like a more clean-cut fantasy (although there was one sex scene that seemed out of place and came out of nowhere) and those who enjoy books that focus on magic and nature may really love this. Sadly it just wasn’t in the cards for me this time! There isn’t any particular reason I felt this way about The Waking Land (ie, the main character wasn’t annoying, the writing was good, the setting was interesting), but I just felt removed from the entire book. Bummer.

Bottom Line: Not for me. I couldn’t connect to the story or the characters, and struggled to finish this one.


Links to The Waking Land on   Amazon |   Goodreads

Have you read The Waking Land? Does Elanna’s magic intrigue you? Do you ever stop reading books that you aren’t enjoying? Do you always finish ARCs even if you aren’t enjoying them?


25 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Waking Land by Callie Bates

    1. I know! I was so excited when I was approved for this title on NetGalley, and was really disappointed it was so bland. But, I do think that there is an audience for this book out there, it just wasn’t me.

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  1. The cover was sooo beautiful I felt immediately compelled to read the synopsis, and I really liked it! I didn’t request it as I already had a couple ARCs to go through but I kept it in the back of my mind for later. Such a disappointment to find out it isn’t that great :/
    I really like the nature/magic aspect of it but Elanna sounds like a really weak character and I think I might have a difficult time connecting with her, also. It’s too bad because the story really sounds interesting! But I won’t pass on judgement before getting reading it myself.
    Amazing review, Ami 🙂 And I hope you get to read a much better book soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sophie! Yeah, the cover is so gorgeous – really draws you to the book and I think it portrays the book nicely (the green, nature, etc). Looking forward to hearing your thoughts once you get to this one!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If you do like fantasy with magic, I would recommend you check out the Brigid trilogy by Sheila Lamb. It’s basically about how Ireland went from a society that believed in gods and the power of nature to Catholic by the end of the third book. I just wrote to the author, and she’s happy to send you a free e-book if you are interested.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow, that series sounds really interesting! I think I’ll have to pass on the e-book for now, as I’ve got a lot of stuff going on and I’ve been very bad about accepting any books but ones from NetGalley for review for several months now! Is the first book of the series called Once A Goddess? I’ve added it to my TBR. It is reminding me a bit of Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series, which is also set in Ireland.

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        1. Ah, so that’s why they are only available from a third party on Amazon. I’m torn, because it sounds like a good series, but then on the other hand, whenever I get things that people give me I feel all this pressure to read. So, I still think I must pass. But thank you!! 🙂 I’ve honestly got too much stress, and I know it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but having a copy would just stress me out. It’s honestly why I’m seriously debating not accepting any more review requests. But, since I do still do a few NetGalley’s here & there (I’m winding down on those), I haven’t “closed” my review policy yet, but I haven’t accepted any books in months. I’m feeling the blogging burn-out a bit – as much as I do love it! I’ve got to whittle down my TBR. Too many books, too little time!

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          1. I definitely felt a lot more stress when I accepted review copies, especially since GTL was started to promote small presses. The biggest snag was when I was reviewing books honestly, and the small presses and small-press authors weren’t happy because I didn’t shout glowing rainbows about their books. Then it felt like I was being used. I’m on my last–LAST–review copy this summer. I don’t think I’ll open submissions again, but I do ask for review copies here and there (very quietly!) on the side if something sounds interesting.

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            1. That’s so sad to hear that the small presses & small press authors were giving you difficulty. That’s really terrible of them. I haven’t had that issue yet, but it’s always something that I think about when reading my review requests and deciding whether or not to read the book. I’ve heard of self published authors being upset, or asking for corrections, but haven’t heard of the small press doing that! That is really bad!

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              1. I had a self-published author who e-stalked my reviews for about a year. The small-press folks are so friendly that they seem to think anyone they talk to (and they will talk to you because they friend you on every social medium) is their real-life friend. Thus, if you don’t love their book, they act betrayed. There’s also the suggestion that a bad review is meant to hurt the small-press community instead of being an unbiased review, just like all the rest. I ended up removing every author from my Facebook page (with the exception of 2 or 3) and feel better. A lot of writers tend to be social activists, too, so most of their Facebook content is screaming about politics. I can’t get my news from every medium I read. I’ll save that for NPR!

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                1. Yikes! I actually like reading reviews where the reviewer didn’t like the book. I find them more interesting, and I’m more apt to remember that review than either a so-so rating, or a wow! rating (unless that wow! rating really sounds like a fabulous read). That’s really a shame about the authors, and yeah, I have noticed a lot talk about politics, which I usually just ignore all those posts, as there is sooo much politics everywhere I look it’s ridiculous.

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                  1. Writers like JK Rowling and Stephen King can be political, but it’s not incessant. Small-press writers feel marginalized in so many ways that they tend to be politically active in a BIG way.

                    That’s interesting about you liking negative book reviews more. Now that I think about it, I tend to remember negative reviews, too. Then, if I see a positive review of the same book after so many negative reviews, I’m EXTRA interested in the positive review! That happened for me with the book After The Fall.

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                    1. Totally agree about seeing a positive review after all the negative ones, & vice versa. I don’t like to read the same “everything was wonderful, I loved it” over and over on the popular books.

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