February 12, 2018

Grounded in Power • Reign the Earth

Were it not for the intervention of my BFF Rachel, I probably wouldn't haven't picked up Reign the Earth until a much later date. That, my friends, would have been a total travesty. This book is so, so, so very good. It's incredible, at least to me (and to Rach, of course), for many reasons - the story that unfolds, the characters that inhabit these pages, the themes and traits woven into the tale, just to name a couple. I was sincerely impressed by A.C. Gaughen's series starter, and now I'm basically just dying to get my hands on the second book to find out what happens next.

Before I gush any more about Reign the Earth, it would probably be most sensible for me to tell you a little about it. Shalia, our main character, is a daughter of the desert who brokers peace between the desert folks and the inhabitants of the Bonelands by agreeing to marry the king. Caught up in a web of politics and power plays, vendettas and violence, Shalia is forced to decide what she is willing to do to attain peace - for her people and for herself. I've simplified the plot a whole lot here, but trust me, this is essentially it... only obviously, you know, better and more detailed in the actual novel.

Reign the Earth was such a pleasant surprise, and earned itself a place as my first five star read of 2018. It had really strong world-building, particularly when it came to the magical abilities (I'm a sucker for elemental magic) and the political structures that shape Shalia's world. Both contributed to the plot, which was so compelling that I couldn't put this book down for very long! It felt like there was a little bit of everything I enjoy - action, confrontation, romance, friendship, family, banter, mystery - and it was done in a way that felt completely organic. 

As if the excellence of both these elements wasn't enough, Gaughen also did a fantastic job bringing to life a large cast of complex personalities. She was able to integrate their strengths and weaknesses in a way that made them seem like real folks, and I enjoyed all my encounters with them on the page (but most particularly Shalia, Galen, Kairos, Zeph and Danae, who were intriguing). Shalia, specifically, was such a great heroine. It was interesting to me to see that she wasn't your typical badass warrior girl (don't get me wrong though, I love those gals as well), and that she was more of a girl who could maneuver her way through society and politics to gain the advantage. Her loyalty, her kindness, her vulnerability - these things also shown through and I loved her even more for them all.

One thing I do want to say about this story overall: it's dark. Terrible things happen to people throughout the entirety of the tale, and I'd go so far as to mention that folks should know going in that abuse and violence are portrayed in spades. It fits in with the world and the personality involved, mind you, but if those are things that you'd rather avoid in your reads, then you might want to skip this one.

Still, I personally really loved Reign the Earth, and would certainly recommend that fantasy readers (and perhaps fantasy newbies as well) check this one out ASAP. It's definitely a strong start to Gaughen's fantasy series, and I can't wait for book two!

Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen | Series: The Elementae #1
Publisher: Bloosmbury | Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Source: ARC borrowed from Rachel (Thank you!)


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