Reign the Earth (The Elementae, #1)by Published 30 Jan 2018
|Reign the Earth (The Elementae, #1).pdf|
Shalia is a proud daughter of the desert, but after years of devastating war with the adjoining kingdom, her people are desperate for peace. Willing to trade her freedom to ensure the safety of her family, Shalia becomes Queen of the Bonelands.
But she soon learns that her husband, Calix, is motivated only by his desire to exterminate the Elementae—mystical people who can control earth, wind, air, and fire. Even more unsettling are Shalia’s feelings for her husband’s brother, which unleash a power over the earth she never knew she possessed—a power that could get her killed. As rumors of a rebellion against Calix spread, Shalia must choose between the last chance for peace and her own future as an Elementae.
This intense, richly drawn high-fantasy by the author of Scarlet will hold readers spellbound.
"Reign the Earth (The Elementae, #1)" Reviews
As a means of protection for my heart, soul, and sanity, I’ve been prepared to be disappointed by every book I read. But?? This book did NOT disappoint??? I’m actually shook about how much I ended up liking this???
First of all: This book has very heavy themes. It’s the reason I thought I wouldn’t end up enjoying this as much as I did. For anyone who wants to read this book but isn’t sure about the triggers, I’m putting a trigger warning for rape, physical & emotional abuse, torture, and [spoilers removed]. But the abuse is not glorified in any way, and the romance is not with the abuser.
It was all very,, uncomfy to read about, and from other reviewers’ experiences, I thought I’d have a hard time reading it?? But no. I actually LOVED the book so I’m kind of ??? @ myself for being able to have such a fun time when there were so many dark themes.
Reign the Earth is a novel about a girl named Shalia who marries Calix, the king of a neighboring nation, in order to establish peace. But Calix seeks to kill all Elementae—people who have powers that can control earth, water, fire, or air—and it turns out that Shalia herself is an Elemental. (Not a spoiler.)
Shalia is a SUPER strong character. In the beginning, I was very “meh” with her?? I didn’t love nor hate her, just in the middle. But as the book went on and her character became stronger, I ended up liking her more and more. She was a flawed character and I became super invested in her & her emotional struggles. And there were SO many amazing quotes that I loved that showed her strong character.
“My honor has nothing to do with what man is married to me, or touching me, or loves me. I will not be broken or diminished or belittled by the choices of men around me.”
WHAT! A! QUEEN!
(And not because, you know, she’s an actual queen… I’M SORRY.)
Calix is a VERY unlikeable villain and I just feel very ?!??#[email protected]?$?! about him. He had so much potential for complexity to his character, but of course it went the cliche way of “oh my heaaaart my one true love just betrayed me!!!! so now I’m going to turn eviiiiiil”.
And not only was he unlikeable because of that and seeming to be very 2-dimensional, but it’s also because he abused Shalia and behavior like that is not to be excused!! And also tortured other people!! And killed other people!! 0/10, will pass.
The romance was,,, okay?? I’m not a fan of sappy romance, and while this was slow-burn and DEFINITELY not insta-love, I just ?? didn’t love it ??? I’m fine with it, and I don’t hate it, but whenever characters kiss passionately and say “I love you” a lot, my heart just kind of crawls out of my body so I’m literally just reading the book with no feeling whatsoever. Because while I’m a complete sap, I hate reading sap.
The worldbuilding for this book was pretty good. Since I had the ARC version, I didn’t have the map available (WHICH MAKES ME SAD BECAUSE I LOVE MAPS), but I was able to clearly visualize what the world looked like in my head which I think is a great accomplishment for someone who can barely visualize what a simple character looks like!!!
Also, the book was pretty fast-paced, and though it took place over a couple of months, I don’t feel like it lagged anywhere?? It was exciting and fun and suspenseful, and it was just SO easy to read for me. I usually take about nine minutes to read 10 pages, but then I took six minutes per 10 pages for this book and I’m ?? shook ???? Where are my superhuman reading abilities for other books.
(But again, the heavy topics can be hard to read at times. I found myself flying through the book, but that was just my personal experience.)
I cannot speak on the accuracy of the representation, though as far as I could tell (which is not much!), there seemed to be nothing offensive or harmful concerning the rep of the desert tribes. (Also!! How great is it that there is a WOMAN OF COLOR on the cover!!!)
I also want to point out that I read the author’s note, and I recommend doing that as well, because it brought so much more perspective into her story and how much this book means to her! It made the book even more special.
This was definitely a surprising read, one that I ended up actually enjoying more than I thought! While it handles heavy topics, it was fast-paced and exciting to read, and the character development was fantastic. I’d definitely recommend this if you think you can get past the darker themes!!
thanks to my fav Ju for sending me this!!
all quotes were taken from an advanced copy and may differ in the final publication.
Prepare yourself for extremely heavy topics such as physical and emotional abuse, including unconsented physical relations in an arranged marriage and pregnancy [spoilers removed] I'm not saying the author didn't handle them well, but they are definitely a prominent part of the book as a whole. It isn't a scene you can skip, it buries itself deep into the theme. Just be aware!
Because of this, it was a VERY difficult book for me to finish, let alone review.
Shalia is a strong heroine who agrees to an arranged marriage to bring about peace. However, her husband is extremely cruel and itches for war. Shalia tries to change his heart and weave peace into his rule, but almost everything backfires. It doesn't help that Shalia's brothers are involved in the resistance, and if her husband finds out, she will pay the price (and oh, she does.)
The writing was lovely and there were some truly outstanding characters including Shalia's brother Kairos. In fact, I really admire her whole family though they were quite sparse.
I really can't say it enough though - this is not a happy book. I had to walk away from reading it a few times just for a breath of fresh air. Just be prepared if you decide to read it. The author does NOT glorify any of the abuse, but it is still difficult to read. Also, I want to note that the romance does not involve the abuser.
I guess I don't really know what else to say. This is different than your average fantasy for sure and involves lots of political strategizing/etc. The plotline is unique. I can't speak to the representation but I liked the richness of the tribes, though most of the book isn't actually spent amongst Shalia's family in the desert, despite what the cover suggests.
Lastly, I would like to point out that I read the authors note and I recommend everyone else do the same. I relate so much - the author has been fighting a very rough battle, one that I completely relate to. I have a different illness, but props to her for writing a book of this caliber while dealing with all that. I'm in the same boat, I'm writing a book despite there being days I can't even hash out a sentence, let alone look at a screen. I have a ton of respect for her and I'm so glad she shared her story in the back.
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This had a LOT of fantastic stuff going down in it, but it somehow didn't quite light up my earth. But it had magic! And a really Soft Sweetheart™ of a narrator, who I thought was coming across kind of insipid at first but then?? There is such strength in being loving and kind and I loved how the book ended up capturing that!
+ I have to admit: it feels adult.
I personally feel like YA's heart is like teens discovering who they are and learning to be independent etc. etc. Coming of age. Acne. All that fun stuff. But this book is like about abusive marriages, pregnancy, and politics and I just...well. If you'd said Shalia was 20, it would've worked. (I'm actually not sure who old she was??) But it's just, I came here to read YA, not about MARRIAGE. So, for me, that was a huge downside. Not necessarily a fault of the book, just something I, personally, am not keen on reading. I thought the book wouldn't revolve so heavily a round it tbh.
+ The setting was great though! Magic and deserts and the sea!
I think the world had a lot of building and attention to detail and actually worked on building cultures through food and dress and religion and #YES. This pleases me. It's so tiiiiring when fantasy worlds are weak, but this felt rich and dynamic.
+ Also there's plenty of elemental magic to knock your socks off.
Shalia is, SURPRISE, able to control the earth. But her arranged-marriage-asshat-husband would kill her if he found out. So I feel the love. Can you feel the love? It's literally everywhere. I really reallllly liked how her power centred around love though! Like she loves someone + freaks out = magic happens! Super sweet. Everyone wants rocks falling when someone falls in love with you.
+ It is dark, but I actually expected darker haha.
[crowd pauses to wonder about paperfury's well being]
Sorrrrry. I read a lot of dark books okay?! It does feature (heavily) an abusive relationship and parts made my stomach roil. There's also a bit o' torture and plenty of death and limbs being blown off occasionally. So it is NOT a sweet story. I appreciated that it showed war as gnarly and nasty. And the sex scenes weren't graphic, just more stated that they happened. But they were awful tho, because Shalia didn't love him.
...which kind of brings me back to my idea that: this isn't really YA??!? I mean, ALL of these themes weren't done badly or too graphically, per se, but they're just...well.
+ The characters were complex and interesting though!
Calix = a horrific tOADSTOOL and I hated him so much
Shalia = soft and pure but spent the whole book being a damsel so that was tiring
Galen = look I read a book with a mermaid named Galen in it and I couldn't get rid of that image BUT THAT ASIDE he was a great but I'm not sure his personality particularly
Zeph = some random guard who was also freaking hilarious
Kai = sneaky brother of Shalia and I like! I wish we had more of him!
2 billion other characters = I DON'T EVEN KNOW. I'M NOT GOOD WITH SO MANY PEOPLE.
+ But it's honestly SLOW and HUGE and I was really emotionally uninvested.
Obviously this is just a *me* thing and I know tons and tons of people who've adored it! But I found very little to relate to/get engaged with...particularly with how many scenes were just getting dressed for dinner or some other frikkin' boring thing.
So basically? It's a slowly woven political fantasy, that unpacks poisonous relationships and oppression. It had a LOT of great things, like with the world and the themes. It just didn't grow flowers in my world or anything anddddd I have the attention span of a refried gnat so it was just a bit slow. I'll show myself out, it's ok.
Disclaimer: I did skim several parts of this book because it became way too heavy, dark, and depressing. Sometimes I leave ratings off if I feel like I might have missed something crucial during the skimming, but I'm pretty confident in my rating here.
I've been dismissed before as "weak" or "sheltered" for not wanting to endure endless pain and suffering in stories. But that's my honest opinion aaaaand I read for fun/to escape. I'm not here to test my endurance level for the miserable aspects of reality even further.
And obviously I can handle some heavy stuff in stories because of course there needs to be conflict, threats, something to overcome, etc. BUT I also need... a break from that too? Some hope to get behind? Topics like questionable rape, abuse (both physical & emotional), torture, the trauma of a miscarriage, and a general lack of power were such a central part of this story that it's not something you can just read around. But at least the author wasn't supporting any of that... like Shalia doesn't excuse her cruel husband's actions and fall in love with him (thank goodness). But it was still hard to sit through for so long.
And I can't really speak for the rep in this book, but the diversity was definitely great to see! I wish the story had spent more time with the tribes in the desert because the beginning was awesome.
So this was not a book I personally enjoyed, yet I can't bring myself to give it less than 3 stars because the writing is good, the worldbuilding is strong, there's a creative system of elemental magic, there's a solid plot that's easy to follow, and there are some truly wonderful characters. The story just turned out to be a lot different than I was expecting... it's not the magical adventure that the cover sounded like. It's more like a lot of suffering for both the reader and characters. But I think others who are looking for more intense stories would still enjoy this!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC.
Having never heard or read anything by this author before, I had no idea what to expect going in. I feel really foolish for setting my bar low because this story was seriously awesome! I was intrigued when I first read the blurb but the cover left the impression that this would be some light hearted fantasy, and that certainly was not the case at all.
Despite the misleading cover, this book is not for the faint of heart. It's raw, dark, gritty, and unfiltered. I realize this book has garnered some negative attention based on it's hard topics - if you're at all a sensitive or squeamish reader then this probably isn't going to be the book for you. The story does revolve around an arranged marriage - you can expect to find domestic abuse, undesired sexual advances, and violence in general. The author doesn't skate around these issues, but neither romanticizes them. If you're not bothered or think you can get past all that then I believe you will really enjoy this read.
I am extremely intrigued by any mention of elemental magic and was quite happy to see that here. I would have liked to delve more into that aspect of this world but I do believe that we've only hit the tip of that iceberg. This book really has it all - strong world building, family dynamics, friendship, romance, political intrigue, easy to follow plot, and heartbreak. Oh the heartbreak.... I won't lie, some parts really hit me in the feels and I may have shed a couple tears. Through all the hardships our protagonist has to go through, the underlying message is always clear, there is hope at the end of the tunnel.
This book is so well written and I really can't recommend it enough! An excellent start to what I'm sure will become a favorite series. I cannot wait to see what comes next!
*ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*