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The Waking Land
by Callie Bates
Del Rey, $27.00, 384 pp
Published: July 2017

This is a terrific first novel from Bates. It is brisk and inventive; I couldn’t put it down.

It’s the story of Elanna Valtai who at age five was kidnapped at gun-point from her parents and kept in the court of neighboring King Antoine to stop her father’s rebellion.

But by the time she reaches 19, things are on the move again and rebellion is once more in the air. King Anotine is murdered and because Elanna knows a lot about botany she and her teacher Guerin are suspected of poisoning the king.

The new Queen Loyce, the king’s daughter, really doesn’t like Elanna and has consistently made her life a misery at court.

Elanna escapes the palace with the help of the mysterious Jahan Korakides—a sorcerer. Once free of Queen Loyce she meets the other major players: her friend Victoire, Hugh Rathsay (who was her father’s spy master) and Finn, a king-in-waiting and someone she has been betrothed to marry before she was five. All these folks are anxious to put Queen Loyce and her expansionist desires to an end.

While the rebellion is being organized and others are brought into the inner circle, Elanna is told she is the Caveadear, the steward of the land.

Elanna has always had an affinity for plants, can make them grow—she can feel their life, actually the life force of the earth. But she had no idea she was one of the three Stewards of her people. The lands of Caeris and Eren have been divided for a couple of centuries and it’s time to bring them back together. And more importantly by using the magic that is inherent in them. The current rulers of the lands around them have witch hunters to track down and destroy anyone using magic.

Elanna finds herself the reluctant figure head of a revolution. And it’s not something she’s comfortable being. She just wants to be a botanist.

While the skirmishing escalates, she is persuaded to have a meeting with the reclusive mountain folk tucked away in a far corner of Caeris who still actively believe in the magic of the land. Rhia Knoll as a representative of her father, the warden of the mountains, has come to bring her to the craggy fastness of Dalriada where magic is still taught and used. Here Elanna will find out the truth of who and what she is. And while there, Elanna needs to convince them to join with the rest of Caeris in the rebellion.

It’s a great story. The characters are interesting, complicated and not always what you think they are.

Elanna learns so much about her history and how the land responds to her as the Caveadear.

It’s a terrific novel of change and growth and magic and romance. There’s a strong flavor of the Gaels about this book, about returning to the land and embracing the magic therein instead of destroying it and eradicating those who can do magic.

Bates’ style is very solid and assured especially for a first time author.

Though this book has a very satisfying ending, I am hoping there will be more, because I look forward to reading them.  ~~ Sue Martin

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