cover image The Waking Land

The Waking Land

Callie Bates. Del Rey, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-0-425-28402-5

This superior novel blends passionate romance and sweeping magic in the first-person, present-tense narrative of a young woman struggling with her destiny in a magical analogue of 13th-century Britain. Elanna was only five when King Antoine seized her as a hostage to stop her father from plotting revolt. She’s 19 now, saturated with the attitudes of the royal court but still drawn to the ancient stone circles where the forbidden magic of her northern homeland lurks. Elanna has been taught to deny everything she is, or could be; she knows that she has a special kinship with plants and has the power to control them, but she has subsumed that into planning a career in botany. All this must change when the king is poisoned, she is accused of the murder, and she flees from smothering safety to the wild, free danger of her potential role as “steward of the land.” Throughout, she is aided, tempted, and intoxicated by Lord Jahan, a conflicted sorcerer himself. Watching Elanna’s gentle desires merge with the angry needs of her oppressed people is fascinating, and Bates has a delicate, precise touch with human and superhuman relationships. (July)