Tomorrow’s Kin, Nancy Kress’ latest novel, is the first installment in a science fiction trilogy expanding on her superb Nebula Award–winning novella Yesterday’s Kin (my review). In its entirety, this novel spans about ten years: the first part contains the previously published story, which revolves around a geneticist whose interesting (though rather unremarkable) discovery leads to her being among the first to meet aliens, and the last two thirds continues after the end of the original novella. Though I did feel that the first third was stronger than the new additions, Tomorrow’s Kin as a whole is both smart and engaging—once I started reading it, I had a difficult time putting it down!

Four months ago, humanity was divided between relief and panic: the object heading toward Earth originally thought to be an asteroid actually turned out to be an alien spacecraft. For some time, the ship remained near the moon and the aliens remained out of sight, only communicating with the United Nations via mechanical voice technology. Though the public knew little of these discussions, the visitors’ response to being asked why they came was heard around the world: “To make contact with humanity. A peace mission.”

After two months of tranquil relations, the aliens received permission to launch a floating embassy in New York Harbor in exchange for sharing the physics of their star drive. However, they continued to wait to show themselves to the world even after settling on Earth—until two months later, when they requested a face-to-face meeting with some United Nations ambassadors and Dr. Marianne Jenner, a geneticist of little renown.

After two years of hard work and research, Marianne is finally celebrating the publication of her paper on the thirty-first haplogroup of mitochondrial DNA she discovered. However, the party honoring her success is abruptly interrupted by FBI agents following orders to take her to UN Special Mission Headquarters, though they cannot provide any further information as to why. Marianne can only conclude it’s related to the aliens and her research, but she has no idea how the two are connected: while proud of her accomplishment, she’s aware that her discovery is not exactly an earth-shattering scientific breakthrough.

When the aliens reveal themselves for the first time, everyone is shocked by the revelation of who they truly are and the warning they bring—a disaster is heading for Earth, and the scientists who may be able to help only have ten months to find a solution…

Like Yesterday’s Kin before it, Tomorrow’s Kin is exemplary of why Nancy Kress is one of my favorite authors of science fiction: once again, I find myself in awe of her ability to seamlessly blend science and fiction together to create a book that’s both intelligent and compulsively readable from beginning to end. Science, particularly biological fields such as genetics and ecology, is integral to the plot and woven in without overwhelming the story with dry infodumps. As well done as this is, the novel’s biggest success is its focus on humanity and the main protagonist at its center—Dr. Marianne Jenner, a geneticist, mother, grandmother, and overall fully rounded character complete with strengths and flaws.

Tomorrow’s Kin is quite believable and thoughtfully plotted, and it’s easy to envision events unfolding as they do as a result of aliens visiting Earth. The work of scientists is essential to the plot, and scientific explanations are clear, concise, and important to the story—they are not window-dressing to make it seem more like “science fiction.” The way it’s incorporated into the novel is fascinating without being too detailed or dry, and part of the reason it works so well is that it also explores how events effect societal groups and individuals. Different groups and people have different beliefs about the aliens even if they agree on the basics. For instance, Marianne’s daughter Elizabeth and son Ryan are not fond of the aliens but for different reasons: Elizabeth is a border patrol officer devoted to American isolationism and Ryan is an ecologist who views them as an invasive species. Throughout the novel, there are different factions and responses to circumstances, including those who ignore science and the facts, and some people change their views based on new experiences while others remain steadfast in their beliefs no matter what.

In addition to its plausibleness and sheer readability, one of the best aspects of Tomorrow’s Kin is its main protagonist. Marianne is around fifty years old at the beginning of the book’s ten-year span, has three grown children and a grandchild on the way, and is a geneticist working at a second-rate university—in other words, she’s a fairly ordinary person, not an action heroine or the world’s only hope for salvation as one of the best scientists in the world. She makes a not-particularly-momentous discovery that leads to a rare opportunity to be involved in some major events, but she doesn’t even specialize in a branch of science that would allow her to save the world from the calamity it will face. I loved that is focused on a very real heroine who has successes and failures, who has struggles and makes mistakes, and continues to learn and grow, but never becomes anything other than who she is to suit the story. Though Marianne does not follow the same career path through the entire story, she still follows a path that’s natural to her background, using skills she would have learned as a lecturer to stand up for what she believes in and make her voice heard, and there’s still plenty of tension and excitement to be had when following a heroine who is the center of the story but not the universe.

Though many of them had interesting qualities, I didn’t think the other characters were anywhere near as multi-dimensional as Marianne (which is probably inevitable since she’s the only character with a lot of focus in all three sections of the novel). For the most part, this didn’t bother me since Marianne was such a fantastic character, but I did think a couple of characters’ arcs could have been handled better: there are one notable gay character and one notable black character, and it was rather glaring that both of their stories follow such similar courses.

Other than this, I just have one other criticism: the first third (the original novella) did seem a little stronger than the two parts that followed, although I found all of them rather compelling. The first section is more focused on the Jenner family as a whole, and I found Marianne’s complex relationships with her three adult children one of the more memorable aspects. In the second part, Marianne’s family does not play as big a part and that lack was noticeable, even though I did find learning about the aftermath of the aliens’ warning quite intriguing. The final section has more focus on the family, mainly following Marianne and one of her grandsons as it delves into the aftereffects for the generation of children born after this event, and this section also has more mystery and excitement than the middle portion.

Tomorrow’s Kin is a skillfully written novel: while it’s not an action-packed book, it’s extremely readable, and the science is incorporated into the novel naturally without slowing it down or making it into a slog to read. The simple but effective prose helps it move quickly, and it follows an interesting, true-to-life heroine. Though the book is not without its flaws, it’s thoughtfully plotted and entertaining, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the publisher.

Related Links:

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Another week, another set of intriguing books! Though there were no new reviews last week, my review of Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress should be going up this week.

Now, the latest books!

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3) by N. K. Jemisin

The final book in N. K. Jemisin’s phenomenal Broken Earth trilogy will be released on August 15 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook). Both of the previous books in the trilogy, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, were Nebula Award nominees, plus The Fifth Season won the Hugo Award and The Obelisk Gate is one of this year’s Hugo Award finalists.

The Stone Sky has the distinction of being one of the 2017 releases I was most looking forward to reading, if not the most anticipated. The Fifth Season (my review) is a brilliant book, and I absolutely loved The Obelisk Gate (my review).

Excerpts from the first two Broken Earth books are available on the publisher’s website:

  1. The Fifth Season
  2. The Obelisk Gate
 

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

The remarkable conclusion to the post-apocalyptic and highly acclaimed trilogy that began with the multi-award-nominated The Fifth Season.

The Broken Earth
The Fifth Season
The Obelisk Gate
The Stone Sky

Halls of Law by V. M. Escalada

Halls of Law (Faraman Prophecy #1) by V. M. Escalada

This epic fantasy, written by The Sleeping God author Violette Malan, will be released on August 1 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from Halls of Law (the “Look Inside” link below the cover image).

 

The first book in the Faraman Prophecy introduces a world of military might and magical Talents on the brink of destruction 

The Faraman Polity was created by the first Luqs, and has been ruled for generations by those of the Luqs bloodline. It is a burgeoning empire maintained by the combined efforts of the standing military force and the Talents of the Halls of Law. While the military preserves and protects, it is the Halls’ Talents—those gifted from birth with magical abilities—who serve as the agents and judges of the Law. For no one can successfully lie to a Talent. Not only can they read people by the briefest of physical contacts, but they can also read objects, able to find information about anyone who has ever come into direct contact with that object. Thanks to the Talents and the career military, the Polity has long remained a stable and successful society. But all that is about to change.

Seventeen-year-old Kerida Nast has always wanted a career in the military, just like the rest of her family. So when her Talent is discovered, and she knows she’ll have to spend the rest of her life as a psychic for the Halls of Law, Ker isn’t happy about it. Anyone entering the Halls must give up all personal connection with the outside world, losing their family and friends permanently. Just as Kerida is beginning to reconcile herself to her new role, the Polity is invaded by strangers from Halia, who begin a systematic campaign of destruction against the Halls, killing every last Talent they can find.

Kerida manages to escape, falling in with Tel Cursar, a young soldier fleeing the battle, which saw the deaths of the royal family. Having no obvious heir to the throne, no new ruler to rally behind, the military leaders will be divided, unable to act quickly enough to save the empire. And with the Halls being burned to the ground, and the Talents slaughtered, the Rule of Law will be shattered.

To avoid the invaders, Kerida and Tel are forced to enter old mining tunnels in a desperate attempt to carry word of the invaders to Halls and military posts that have not yet been attacked. But the tunnels hide a dangerous secret, a long-hidden colony of Feelers—paranormal outcasts shut away from the world for so long they are considered mythical. These traditional enemies of the Halls of Law welcome Kerida, believing she fulfills a Prophecy they were given centuries before by the lost race of griffins. With the help of these new allies, Kerida and Tel stand a chance of outdistancing the invaders and reaching their own troops. However, that is only the start of what will become a frantic mission to learn whether any heir to the throne remains, no matter how distant in the bloodline. Should they discover such a person, they will have to find the heir before the Halian invaders do. For if the Halians capture the future Luqs, it will spell the end of the Faraman Polity and the Rule of Law.

To Guard Against the Dark by Julie E. Czerneda

To Guard Against the Dark (Reunification #3) by Julie E. Czerneda

The final book in the Reunification trilogy will be released on October 10 (hardcover, ebook).

Julie Czerneda answered some questions about creating aliens in science fiction as part of the blog tour for the first book, This Gulf of Time and Stars (my review).

As part of the blog tour for the next book, The Gate to Futures Past, Julie Czerneda wrote a guest post about her experience with moving in the midst of book deadlines.

 

The final book in the hard science fiction Reunification trilogy, the thrilling conclusion to the award-winning Clan Chronicles

Jason Morgan is a troubling mystery to friends and enemies alike: once a starship captain and trader, then Joined to the most powerful member of the Clan, Sira di Sarc, following her and her kind out of known space.

Only to return, alone and silent.

But he’s returned to a Trade Pact under seige and desperate. The Assemblers continue to be a threat. Other species have sensed opportunity and threaten what stability remains, including those who dwell in the M’hir. What Morgan knows could save them all, or doom them.

For not all of the Clan followed Sira. And peace isn’t what they seek.

Additional Books:

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

There are no new reviews from last week (though I am working on a review of a book I mentioned in last week’s Leaning Pile of Books post, Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress), but the week did bring a few intriguing books to cover today!

The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen

The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen

This short story collection by Nebula, Word Fantasy, and Mythopoeic Award–winning author Jane Yolen will be released on November 14 (trade paperback, ebook). It includes an introduction by Holly Black plus some notes on these stories and poems by the author.

 

Where is Wendy? Leading a labor strike against the Lost Boys, of course.

A Scottish academic unearths ancient evil in a fishing village. Edgar Allan Poe’s young bride is beguiled by a most unusual bird. Dorothy, lifted from Kansas, returns as a gymnastic sophisticate. Emily Dickinson dwells in possibility and sails away in a starship made of light. Alice’s wicked nemesis has jaws and claws but really needs a sense of humor.

In Jane Yolen’s first full collection in more than ten years discover new and uncollected tales of beloved characters, literary legends, and much more. Enter the Emerald Circus and be astonished by the transformations within.

Table of Contents

Andersen’s Witch
Lost Girls (Nebula Award Winner)
Tough Alice
Blown Away
A Knot of Toads
The Quiet Monk
The Bird  (Original story)
Belle Bloody Merciless Dame
Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown
A Gift of Magicians
Rabbit Hole
Our Lady of the Greenwood
The Confession of Brother Blaise
Wonder Land
Evian Steel
Sister Emily’s Lightship

The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

The Tethered Mage (Swords and Fire #1) by Melissa Caruso

This fantasy debut novel, the first book in a trilogy, will be released on October 24 (trade paperback, ebook).

 

In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army.

Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.

But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.

The Tethered Mage is the first novel in a spellbinding new fantasy series.

The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett

The House on Durrow Street (Mrs. Quent #2) by Galen Beckett

I recently read and reviewed The Magicians and Mrs. Quent and found it thoroughly engrossing. In fact, I immediately ordered the rest of the trilogy after I finished reading it!

 

Her courage saved the country of Altania and earned the love of a hero of the realm. Now sensible Ivy Quent wants only to turn her father’s sprawling, mysterious house into a proper home. But soon she is swept into fashionable society’s highest circles of power—a world that is vital to her family’s future but replete with perilous temptations.

Yet far greater danger lies beyond the city’s glittering ballrooms—and Ivy must race to unlock the secrets that lie within the old house on Durrow Street before outlaw magicians and an ancient ravening force plunge Altania into darkness forever.

The Master of Heathcrest Hall by Galen Beckett

The Master of Heathcrest Hall (Mrs. Quent #3) by Galen Beckett

The third book in the Mrs. Quent trilogy showed up in time for last week’s post, but I saved it for this week since the second book hadn’t arrived yet. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

 

Even as her husband is about to attain undreamed-of power, Ivy Quent fears for her family’s safety. With war looming and turmoil sweeping the nation of Altania, Ivy finds the long-abandoned manor on the moors a temporary haven. But nowhere is really safe from the treachery that threatens all the Quents have risked to achieve. And an even greater peril is stirring deep within the countryside’s beautiful green estates. As Ivy dares an alliance with a brilliant illusionist and a dangerous lord, she races to master her forbidden talents and unravel the terrible truth at the heart of her land’s unrest—even as a triumphant, inhuman darkness rises to claim Altania eternally for its own.

Additional Book(s):

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last one of these posts went up due to the holiday weekend so this post includes books from the last two weeks (other than one book I am saving for a later post because I’m waiting for a related book to show up!).

Before covering the latest books, here are the posts from the last couple of weeks in case you missed any of them:

And now, recent books in the mail!

Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Snowspelled (The Harwood Spellbook #1) by Stephanie Burgis

Snowspelled, a fantasy novella, will be released on September 4 (ebook, paperback). The recent cover reveal at The Book Smugglers includes Stephanie Burgis’ commentary on the cover and a giveaway of a print of the cover art (the giveaway ends in four days).

Stephanie Burgis described this as her “escape-/just-for-fun/comfort-writing project” on Goodreads, and it does indeed sound like fun!

 

In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules…

Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life.

Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good.

But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks…and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago.

To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.

A witty and sparkling romantic fantasy novella for adults that opens a brand-new series from the author of Kat, Incorrigible, Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets.

Volume I of The Harwood Spellbook

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Provenance, a standalone novel set in the same universe as Ann Leckie’s multiple-major-award-winning Imperial Radch trilogy, will be released on September 26 (hardcover, ebook).

 

Following her record-breaking debut trilogy, Ann Leckie, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke and Locus Awards, returns with an enthralling new novel of power, theft, privilege and birthright.

A power-driven young woman has just one chance to secure the status she craves and regain priceless lost artifacts prized by her people. She must free their thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned.

Ingray and her charge will return to her home world to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray’s future, her family, and her world, before they are lost to her for good.

Tomorrow's Kin by Nancy Kress

Tomorrow’s Kin (Yesterday’s Kin #1) by Nancy Kress

Tomorrow’s Kin, the first book in a new trilogy based/expanding on the Nebula Award–winning novella Yesterday’s Kin, will be available on July 11 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The first third of the book is the novella Yesterday’s Kin, and if you haven’t read this yet, you can read chapter one on the Tor-Forge blog. Tor.com has an excerpt that picks up right after Yesterday’s Kin ends, but of course, this will spoil the first part if you haven’t already read the novella!

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year since I thought Yesterday’s Kin (my review) was excellent, and I’ve already finished reading Tomorrow’s Kin—I couldn’t put it down!

 

Tomorrow’s Kin is the first volume in and all new hard science fiction trilogy by Nancy Kress based on the Nebula Award-winning Yesterday’s Kin.

The aliens have arrived… they’ve landed their Embassy ship on a platform in New York Harbor, and will only speak with the United Nations. They say that their world is so different from Earth, in terms of gravity and atmosphere, that they cannot leave their ship. The population of Earth has erupted in fear and speculation.

One day Dr. Marianne Jenner, an obscure scientist working with the human genome, receives an invitation that she cannot refuse. The Secret Service arrives at her college to escort her to New York, for she has been invited, along with the Secretary General of the UN and a few other ambassadors, to visit the alien Embassy.

The truth is about to be revealed. Earth’s most elite scientists have ten months to prevent a disaster―and not everyone is willing to wait.

Additional Book(s):

Since the beginning of 2016, I have been reading and reviewing one book a month based on the results of a poll on PatreonAll of these monthly reviews can be viewed here.

July’s theme is standalone novels. As much as I love a good series, I was finding the idea of potentially starting yet another one a bit daunting so I gathered some books without sequels for this poll. This month’s book selections were as follows:

The July book is…

In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip
In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip

Returning from war, Prince Ronan of Serre accidentally tramples a white hen in the road— and earns a witch’s curse. Her words are meaningless to a man mourning his dead wife and child, but they come to pass all the same; Ronan has not been home a day before his father insists on an arranged marriage. As he gazes into the forest, desperate for a way out, Ronan glimpses a wonderful firebird perched on a nearby branch. He follows where it leads him—into a sideways world where his father’s palace no longer exists. But his intended, the beautiful Princess Sidonie, is on her way to the palace. And her fate depends on Ronan wanting to find his way home. . . .

As always, I’m excited to read any book written by Patricia McKillip—I love her writing!

The Waking Land, Callie Bates’ debut novel, is the first book in a new epic fantasy trilogy featuring a heroine with conflicting loyalties and the power to wake the land like her ancestors of old, an ability last possessed two hundred years ago. Though I can understand why this new release is often compared to Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale due to its wild magic and the heroine’s connection with nature, it’s not a comparison I would make: The Waking Land does not have the same fairy tale quality as either of these, and in my opinion, it falls far short of both these novels.

When Elanna was five years old, the royal guard barged into her nursery, murdered her nurse, and brought her to the adults’ interrupted dinner party, where she witnessed King Antoine pointing a gun at her father, the Duke of Caeris. The king then placed the weapon against Elanna’s head and accused her father of betraying the crown but, since there was a lack of concrete evidence of wrongdoing, he also declared he would be merciful. Instead of having the duke tried and executed, he took his frightened young daughter as a hostage, promising to treat her well—that is, as long as her father remains loyal to king and country, of course.

Fourteen years later, Elanna has come to love King Antoine like a father and feels that she may even have a stronger relationship with him than his own daughter. She’s grateful that he rescued her from life in the unrefined backwater in which she was born and enabled her to be raised in civilization with a proper education, especially since he’s encouraged her desire to study botany. Since she was a child, Elanna has been able to make plants grow simply by touching them and awaken specters from the stones simply by dropping her blood upon them, though she hides these abilities and immerses herself in science instead as witchcraft is strictly forbidden. However, once a year she allows herself to sneak away from the palace to visit an old circle of stones, where she spills her blood and witnesses its power to conjure apparitions.

After Elanna returns from her latest annual trip to the stones, she goes to the greenhouse but finds it odd that she can’t find her mentor or the deadly mushroom she’s observing as part of her studies. She soon receives news that the king has been poisoned, and her teacher has been taken prisoner due to his knowledge in this area—but when the king dies, suspicion falls on Elanna, forcing her to flee her home.

Though she’s soon found by her father’s people, Elanna doesn’t trust Caerisians or the family she’s not heard from since the night she was taken hostage, nor does she want to become a pawn in her father’s revolution. Yet if Caeris is to gain its freedom, its only hope may be Elanna and her power of waking the land.

The Waking Land had potential to be a captivating novel, and I appreciated that the author added an unusual spin to the story through Elanna’s characterization. Despite a strong opening, I did find myself considering leaving the book unfinished a few times during the first fifteen percent due to the first person present tense narration and the main character herself, but it soon became difficult to put down. Unfortunately, I found myself rushing through the last quarter in order to finish it and move on to the next book, and I ended up feeling that it failed to deliver a novel that was worth the time spent reading it. Though the history and lore of the world stand out to an extent, it incorporated a lot of common fantasy tropes with forbidden magic, old magic reappearing, and revolution, and there was not much that I found memorable besides Elanna’s internal conflict.

At first, Elanna seemed fickle since one moment she’d be sneaking away to do magic and the next she’d be reflecting on magic as evil and unsophisticated. However, it seems as though she’s trying to convince herself this is what she believes because it’s much easier to survive in a country rife with witch hunters if she stifles that side of herself. Even aside from that, it seems as though it would be difficult for her to shake these ideas: she was taken from her home when she was only five years old, and she’s grown up hearing this and knowing that there are severe consequences for witchcraft. She has few memories of her own family, and she’s forgiven King Antoine for holding a gun to her head when she was young since it was a political move that saved the country, and he’s been nothing but kind to her since that day—plus she feels abandoned by her parents since they never rescued her or contacted her, and I suspect that also made it easier for her to replace them with the king who threatened her as a child. Furthermore, she’s struggling with guilt over a mistake innocently made when she was too young to understand what she did. Her feelings and life are quite complicated, and I thought this added some interesting dimension to her character. She didn’t always make the best decisions, but I could understand the fears and psychology that drove her to behave as she did.

The aspects of the novel that are not focused on the complexities of Elanna’s mindset were not as compelling, though, and other than that, The Waking Land is a rather average book at best. Elanna is recklessly brave and compassionate in a way that is familiar for main protagonists, and her narrative voice is not particularly engaging, even irritating at times because of being told in first person present tense. It also seems as though the people around her think far more highly of her than she deserves (unless they are antagonists, of course), citing that she may have some ability to be persuasive because she is ‘charming and well spoken.’ In no way did I feel she proved herself to be either of these, and it’s not possible they saw another side of her not shown to readers: those suggesting she possessed these qualities had either just met her or become reacquainted with her for the first time since she was taken hostage.

Most of the other characters are not terribly compelling either, and if they are, it’s mainly because they have mysterious motivations or secrets rather than because they possess depth and personality. There is a romance between Elanna and one of these characters, and though it’s understandable why the two would be drawn to each other given some similarities between them, it also seems too quickly developed given the amount of time they spend together and their interactions. Despite some commonalities, their romance seems to primarily be based on physical attraction, which certainly isn’t unrealistic but also doesn’t make a relationship interesting to read about.

Though The Waking Land does have some positive qualities—a strong beginning, a deeply and understandably conflicted heroine—and was even a page-turner at times, it didn’t manage to hold my attention all the way to the end. It grew into a more standard, predictable tale, and even the epic finale fell flat for me because I didn’t find the characters, prose, or world fascinating enough to make up for this.

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the publisher.

Read an Excerpt from The Waking Land