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Ratings and Book Reviews (1 3 star ratings
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4.3 out of 5
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    Enjoyable fantasy with distinctive magic system

    I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for review consideration. When I received this book, I went into the Goodreads review section and was a little worried, as there seemed to be quite a few DNFs. But I really enjoyed it! The plot moves quickly, uncovering secrets and finding new problems, as Elanna travels across her world, visiting places both familiar and unfamiliar. Elanna, as a character, really worked for me. I particularly enjoyed her internal frustration and turmoil each time she found another lie she'd been told or another layer of corruption was discovered. In recognising and acknowledging her own naivety, she seemed very realistic to me. The magic system in the book was fascinating and unlike anything I've read before. As the book progressed, it did get a little overwhelming, and Elanna's powers did seem to grow and change a little randomly, suddenly giving her the ability to do something at a very convenient moment in the plot. But I would be interested in seeing how that all develops in the sequel, and hopefully as she learns more about her powers and how to use them, there might be a little more structure to what she can and can't do, and exactly how it all works. There's a fairly large cast of secondary characters in the book - some better developed than others. Elanna has female friends, which I really liked, and I would like to see more of them in future books, as well as more character development for them. Some of the family members and family friends/supporters seemed a little one-dimensional to me though and again, in the second book, I would like to see more development for some of them, and maybe a reduced number of supporting characters overall, so we have more time to get to know the truly important ones. The romantic storyline was not what I was expecting, largely in a positive way! Some of the frustrating YA clichés were there - a little bit of insta-love, some 'oh no, my friend and I like the same guy' - but overall, I think Bates did a good job of creating love interests that I was interested in, and an outcome to the romantic storyline that was by and large satisfying, and left me interested to see where those relationships would go in the next book. All in all, I found The Waking Land to be a really enjoyable read with a distinctive magic system and an appealing heroine. I was swept along in the action all the way through, and am looking forward to getting hold of the second book. If you're looking for YA with good female characters, interesting magic, and a focus on nature that ties everything together, give The Waking Land a read.
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