Hello! This will be my first scheduled post on this blog! I won’t have access to my computer until the end of August, and so I’m writing this review on August 4th. One of my goals for this summer was to post at least twice a month, and I’ve done quite well so far, if I do say so myself. I also think this is the first negative review I’ve posted here. Honestly, when I dislike a book, I am quite the harsh reviewer, so I’m sorry in advance. Enjoy!
Reign the Earth by A.C Gaughen
~ 2.2/5 stars
~ ages 14 to adult
~ 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.
~ MAJOR SPOILERS
I’ve heard a lot about this book, and while I’m not disappointed, exactly, I think the hype surrounding it was unnecessary. After reading the 450 pages that was this book, I was left confused. As I will talk about further on, the writing left little to be desired, and the plot was flimsy and incredibly predictable. I enjoyed reading this book, more because I had fun making fun of this book than anything about the book itself.
The first and most important aspect: characters! I truly did not care about any of the characters, which is quite rare for me. Shalia was weak and lacked any actual personality. Her signature trait was literally that she cared about people. Seriously?! She had absolutely zero conviction about anything in her life. I was totally uncertain about where she stood; did she support Calix, did she want peace, or to help the Resistance, or what? Throughout the whole novel, even after her awful husband abused and raped her, and committed genocide, she couldn’t see him as evil. I wish that she had taken things into her own hands, (especially after she became pregnant), and killed Calix. I disliked Shalia, but she wasn’t the worst part of the book. What annoyed me the most was that I think she was meant to be portrayed as a strong female character, and instead was the opposite. The one thing I appreciate about her is that she did finally see how disgusting Calix was, and left him in the end.
I feel very similar things about Galan. He lacked any deep personality, and again made infinite excuses for his brother. If my brother became a murderous and abusive idiot, I would personally move against him. I wouldn’t be able to kill him, but I would do something about the situation- especially if I was the head of the freaking Resistance! I also found his relationship with Calix very strange. Galan was clearly treated as Calix’s inferior, but was still allowed to punch him and yell at him for hitting his wife. He and Shalia were given strange amounts of leeway on different things by Calix, which I suppose matches up with his brand of insanity.
The only characters I liked were Shalia’s guards. They felt like real human beings, unlike everyone else. Shalia’s brothers were like cardboard cut-outs created to make her look more interesting and serve as tragedy for her to get over. And finally Calix- even though he was a carbon copy villain, I felt some kind of emotion towards him (hate), which was a nice change. Overall, the characters were nothing special, and that means a lot coming from me because I normally fall in love with characters at the drop of a hat.
On to the next point! I liked the idea of this book, but the actual plot and direction of the novel was confusing and boring. The book begins with Shalia and her best friend discussing the Elementae people (which is honestly the most cop-out/repetitive magic system ever) and Shalia’s marriage in this magical lake place. Normally, the story would be set up here, with them talking about the history of the place; the genocide, relations between the two countries, the war, and the background of Shalia’s family (especially her brother’s involvement in the Resistance). None of that happened, and it never happened throughout the whole story. It was centered around Shalia’s life with Calix instead of the things I was actually interested in.
The story jumped from her involvement in helping women to work, to her Earth powers that just appeared, to the romance with Galan, to the murder of her family and her torture. This was what I found the strangest about the book. There was no buildup to a specific point, it was just a long wave of words until this weird tragedy hit in the end. It went from like a 2 to 1000 within a chapter. I couldn’t even properly feel sad about her family dying because they were overshadowed by Shalia’s powers and kidnapping. Then came the culmination of the romance between Shalia and Galan. I agreed with Shalia’s brother. What were they thinking? I felt that there was no chemistry between the two, and it bothered me that Shalia immediately went to another guy after leaving her husband. She could have been a strong, independent, single mother without a love interest, and I would have appreciated that more.
Obviously, the sexism and awful abuse towards Shalia absolutely boiled my blood, and I was so glad that she finally left him. The writing wasn’t bad, but so many things were left unexplained. Here’s a few of the questions I was left with:
What’s the deal with these hand maidens and High Priest vitali people? Are they gunning for the throne? Do they hate the Elementae people, or were they just convinced by their king to hate them? I had no idea what was going on with a lot of things, especially the people in Calix’s country. Also, what’s the deal with Shalia’s nomadic desert people? How do they have so much power (enough to fight a war against Calix) when they had such a small population size? Who are these Elementae and where does their power come from? Is Shalia really powerful? Why doesn’t her power emerge sooner (and only conveniently after she’s married the murderer)?
All in all, I really disliked this book. While it was fun to read, and mildly gripping, there were so many problems- the characters, plot, flow, and unanswered questions. I will most likely not be reading the next one, and I would not recommend this book to you. There are a lot better YA fantasy series out there with actually complex magic systems and interesting characters. If you agreed or disagreed with me, please let me know in the comments! I would love to hear your opinions.
Thank you so much reading! Follow my new Instagram account @brilliantbookreview for more updates on what I’m reading and following!