The Waking Land follows the story of a girl who was taken hostage by a king at five years old. That king chose to raise her like his own daughter, and she grew to love the kingdom she grew up in. But when the king is murdered, she stands accused, and has to flee back to the homeland she despises.
It’s an interesting premise, and readers won’t be let down; Lady Elannna’s story has magic, politics, daring escapes and more.
The magic in The Waking Land is a little unique, especially Elanna’s, and the folklore that she has to sift through makes the reader more involved. The story itself never rests; there’s always something happening, which kept me up late reading a few nights in a row. I loved the way Bates wove the story back and forth, taking Elanna off-course only to find herself where she needs to be.
Overall, The Waking Land is an engaging and unique YA fantasy that many will enjoy. Plus, this book is a standalone! That’s great news for those who want a change of pace from the countless series in the YA market right now. Sometimes it’s nice to read a book and not have to wait for a sequel.
So, why did I give it four stars instead of five?
Ultimately, because there were some issues with the writing itself — near the beginning, when Elanna is riding back to her homeland, her fellow rider keeps commenting on how she’s basically been brainwashed and fed false facts by her tutors. When she finally asks him what the truth is if not what she was taught, he launches into the entire history of the countries the book is set in. This is a common way to insert worldbuilding facts via dialogue, but it was literally just a page of Hugh rambling about history. No breaks, no real reason for him to go so in-depth. It seemed like an editor said, “There needs to be more context here!” And Bates just stuck it all on one page so she wouldn’t have to rewrite the whole beginning to include more context.
That’s honestly one of the biggest issues I had with this book, and I still really enjoyed reading it. There were other more minor things — Elanna’s mother could literally be cut out of the story and it wouldn’t matter; there’s a part where a battle breaks out seemingly out of nowhere with little context — but, honestly, nothing that made me wrinkle my nose and want to put the book down. I thoroughly enjoyed it.