Series: The Elementae #1
Published by Bloomsbury (1.30.2018)
Genres: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover, 438 pages
Source: I own it
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 Scarletwill hold readers spellbound.
To touch upon the topic of abuse: I feel Gaughen handled it very well. It was never romanticized – in fact, our main character didn’t let it happen or pretend it didn’t happen. She stood up against it the best she could – knowing that she couldn’t really do anything because she was basically trapped – and verbalized against it. She didn’t forget about it and go on pretending it didn’t happen. View Spoiler »After Calix struck her, Shalia refused to let him touch her again. Refused to believe any of his half-assed apologies or attempts to “fix” it. « Hide Spoiler I loved that about her – I’ve read plenty of books with abusive relationships where it was romanticized and the MC was basically like “oh, you’re sorry, so I guess it’s okay.” NO. It is NEVER okay, and sorry never makes up for it. Bravo to Gaughen and Shalia for broadcasting that.
The sexual scenes between Calix and Shalia made me very uncomfortable. It was like Daenerys and Khal Drogo all over again (cringe). Despite the fact that they were married, it was still rape. Overall, Calix was a really horrible person. He was basically a petulant child in the body of a man. He threw tantrums, manipulated, and lied. It’s been a long time since I hated a character so much. Even when he was being “nice” I despised him and wanted him to die, oops.
I did really enjoy the magical world, the Arabian feel, and the idea of the Elementae! I was actually quite hooked in the beginning by the concept and the world building, and somewhere along the way it lost some of that magic. I can’t quite put my finger on why, though. Despite the interesting premise, it didn’t feel particularly unique. The plot felt kind of generic, actually. Like many other stories I’ve already read.
I also didn’t really connect to this story. Lots of horrible things happened and I felt nothing? I swear I’m not a monster. It just didn’t do it for me. View Spoiler »I mean, her parents DIED and I didn’t bat an eyelash. I kind of saw it coming, too, that didn’t help. « Hide Spoiler
The romance was okay. It didn’t do anything for me, but it wasn’t obnoxious and it didn’t ruin the story for me. It did irk me that Shalia was batting her eyelashes at Galen suddenly after he saved her, when she hadn’t noticed him before that. That made me roll my eyes. But overall, it took a really long time for the romance to develop and I liked that. It was obvious from the beginning that there was going to be a romance between Shalia and Galen, but it didn’t feel rushed.
Overall, this book was worth the read but didn’t wow me like I’d hoped it would. It wasn’t particularly memorable. I am curious to see where things go in the sequel, though!
Writing style: 3.5/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5