This fantasy has some unique aspects, mostly related to the power of the main protagonist, Elanna (“El”) Valtai. El discovers that she not only has magical abilities, but she is the designated “Caveadear” – someone who can “wake the land” after having taken certain ritualistic steps. For instance, she needs to drop her blood on the land and stones from time to time. On certain occasions, such as the Day of the Dying Year, a sort of Halloween, when the veil is thinner between this world and the world beyond, she must actually “wed” the land. Oddly, this means having sex outdoors. Okaaaaay.
El was captured from her home land of Caeris when she was five and taken to Eren, a rival kingdom. But shortly after the story begins, the king who protected her for 14 years is murdered; his evil daughter Loyce has taken his place; and El is suspected of regicide. With a little help from sympathizers from Caeris, El escapes, and begins a new life.
At first she fights her saviors; she is 19 but acts more like a typical 16-year-old protagonist: bratty, self-centered, ungrateful, and a know-it-all. Gradually, she is deprogrammed from the propaganda of the Ereni, and taught to be the Caveadear. She also jumps right into the sex in the park idea, even though she has been inexperienced up until this time.
Eventually, the forces of Caeris and Eren come to a head, and El must waken the land and save the day. This she also jumps right into, suddenly able to speak to the mobs of people and change their centuries of loyalties. She grows up fast, it appears. But not everyone survives the confrontation.
Discussion: There are some pretty sketchy plot threads in this book, as well as some likable elements.
One of the “bad guys” is actually nuanced, but the rest are quite caricatured. The whole idea of having sex on the ground to wake up the land struck me as absurd, as did El’s instant metamorphosis from bratty teen to world leader. Her love interest, Jahan, was pretty much perfect however, and El’s female friends are much better and more admirable characters than she. But she was such a big baby for most of the book, and so improbably changed at the end, that it all seemed silly. At one point she even declares: “The land is awake. The city is mine. Lord Gilbert is mine. Caeris is mine.”
Moreover, the whole back-story about how a Caveadear comes to be didn’t hold up; according to the book, Ancient King Ossian was supposed to name the next one to hold this position, but he was dead. El just somehow came into the power after a two-hundred year hiatus with no explanation. Finally, the ending seemed overly contrived to me.
Evaluation: I thought the plot had a lot of holes, but there are many positive reviews for this book, and in any event, one must applaud the gorgeous cover.
Published by Del Rey, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House, 2017