After years of devastating war with the adjacent kingdom, Shalia’s people are desperate for peace. To achieve this, Shalia marries Calix, the King of the Bonelands to establish peace between their peoples and ensure the safety of her family. Yet Calix is motivated by his desire to exterminate the Elementae, mystical magic-holders, and Shalia holds a dark secret.
She is one.
Hiding her own powers and her feelings for the king’s brother prove dangerous enough, but with the addition of rebellion in the Bonelands from her brothers, the peace Shalia worked hard to establish may very well shatter.
This book is a lot darker than you might expect, and this lies between two words. Domestic abuse.
You might be misled by this novel’s typical fantasy cover and its description, but it’s definitely very important to be aware that there are strong domestic abuse themes within this story and Shalia and Calix’s relationship.
I was fortunately aware of this when going into this novel, but I know others weren’t as aware, and it definitely took some people by surprise.
But I really enjoyed this part of the novel, although it was unexpected.
I honestly think it was one of the strongest points–the portrayal of abusive relationships.
Shalia was an okay character. In the beginning, I was feeling more of a solid 3 stars for this book because Shalia was so…bland. She didn’t have very much personal thought except “Let me marry this guy to get peace.” I wanted more from her–overall, she didn’t have very many unique thoughts or personal character.
I feel like Shalia could have been built with more finesse because she was somewhat bland, although she got better as the book progressed.
I really enjoyed the other characters though, such as her brother Kai and even King Calix and his brother Galen. I felt like even though some of these people were terrible people *cough*Calix*cough* but I felt like they were developed much better than Shalia.
Kai, her brother, was very complex and I feel like there is much more to him than Gaughen let on in this book. He’s got quite a lot of potential and his motivations and complexities made him a very interesting character.
Calix, although I hated him with a burning passion, did a very good job of portraying the abuser in an abusive relationship and showing why people keep returning to these types of relationships despite misdoings. He was cruel and domineering a lot of the time, yet switched to make grand gestures and try to keep Shalia within his hold. I got the chills from him and didn’t like him, but I thought he was written very well.
Galen was definitely an interesting character, although I had mixed feelings about him and how he was involved with the plotline.
I felt like Shalia’s romance with Galen wasn’t very necessary and I feel like it detracted from the story a bit. It was a good juxtaposition when the reader compares Galen and Shalia’s relationship vs. Shalia and Calix’s, but I think it took away from the severity of what was happening between Shalia and Calix.
A lot of the time, women who suffer from these types of situations don’t normally get the chance to interact as closely as Shalia did with anyone, and I feel like it kind of hinted at the idea that falling in love with someone else would pull you out of an abusive relationship, which is not always the case.
I feel like Shalia definitely wouldn’t have had as much of an inclination to leave Calix if Galen wasn’t there. This is a very niche abusive relationship because many times, it’s very hard for women to leave these relationships or reach out to someone to help them leave a circumstance like this.
This didn’t really affect my perception of the story very much, but I was considerably more irritated that Galen “triggers” Shalia’s powers and I felt like this was an unnecessary detail to the story.
But other than this, I really enjoyed the plotline. It was engaging and entertaining and paced well and filled with all sorts of delicious darkness and conflict. There were some amazing themes about persecution as the Elementae are persecuted for their “unholy” powers and this was another interesting theme to the story.
I think Reign the Earth is a very impactful novel that handles lots of important, relevant themes skillfully in a fantasy setting. I would definitely recommend this to readers who like any genre who are looking for a more meaningful read about important, relevant topics.
Thank you to Bloomsbury & Netgalley for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!
You can preorder Reign the Earth now or buy it in stores at any major bookseller on January 30th!
Have you read any books on domestic abuse? One of my favorites is It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover, which was a surprisingly deep and meaningful read from an author I previously perceived as “just romance.”