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
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.
Actual rating: 3.75
I absolutely adored Gaughen's Scarlet series which is why I picked this up without any hesitation at all. Add in the cover and that description and I knew I would get something different, something fun, and something well written.
And I did get those things but yet I can't help but feel somewhat..... disappointed.
Don't get me wrong, this was a good story but it some how fell lacking from the greatness that was Scarlet.
It was a bit slow and even dragged in places and the love interest and storyline were predictable at best and even, I hate to say it, a tiny bit cliched. But, there is a but here, it was still a really good and interesting (and most of the time entertaining) story and one I am glad that I took the time to read. I definitely won't be giving up on this author or any of her stories because she really does know how to create a unique twist on something that isn't unique at all and that is always worth a try.
*ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
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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*Review contains mild spoilers (as it was difficult to talk about this book without touching on certain points).
Reign the Earth is a story that had me gasping and praying at every turn. Featuring a strong heroine, a diverse world and an intense storyline this book packed an emotional punch.
At over 400 pages Reign the Earth took its time introducing the characters and the world. Though the pacing was slow a lot happens. It's important to note that Reign the Earth is a bit darker than most other YA fantasies I've read. The book tackled some very serious issues which I thought were done in an efficient and realistic manner. "You choose your fate with every decision." (ARC, p. 154).
Shalia's character growth was empowering. She endured unimaginable horrors and losses at the hands of her husband Calix. His hot and cold attitude towards her gave me chills. Any goodness he showed only served to amplify his cruelty every time he lashed out at her. My heart ached for all her sufferings. Yet through it all she remained on her feet. "True power does not force others to make themselves smaller." (ARC, p. 137). He couldn't break her because she was loved and she loved fiercely.
My heart pounded for the forbidden romance between Shalia and Galen. He may be her brother in law but he cared much more for her wellbeing than his brother ever did. Galen's actions spoke louder and stronger than Calix's honeyed words ever would. No love triangle as Ms. Gaughen does an excellent job illustrating Shalia's romantic feelings. It was clear who belonged together (and who should rot alone in the fiery depth of hell).
The bond between Shalia and her family was everything. They were everything to her. I loved seeing her faith in her father. Her mother's words were constantly on her mind. Her older brothers were her support beams while her younger siblings lit up her life. Such a beautiful family who deserved way better.
Reign the Earth wraps on a hopeful tone and while I wouldn't call the ending a cliffhanger it does leave you hanging on a few things. I'll definitely be adding A.C. Gaughen to the list of authors to look out for.