Reign the Earth Review: A Powerful Story of Overcoming Relationship Abuse

February 27, 2018 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

Reign the Earth Review: A Powerful Story of Overcoming Relationship AbuseReign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen
Series: The Elementae #1
on January 30th 2018
Source: Publisher
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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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.

Trigger warnings: emotional and physical abuse, marital rape, torture, relationship violence, childbirth/pregnancy concerns

There’s no disputing it – Reign the Earth is a story of abuse. The mental, emotional and eventual physical abuse that Shalia goes through after being married to Calix, the King is incredibly vivid and confronting. And because of that, this is definitely not an easy read. But it’s a rewarding one, that I’m glad I stuck with til the end.

When we first meet Shalia, a much beloved Princess of the desert who is the youngest daughter with four brothers, we see a young, naive girl who wants to please her husband. He orders her around, preferring to call her “wife” rather than addressing her by her name. Calix is obsessed with things like showing people who’s boss, and using his newfound Queen as a display of power rather than respecting her as an individual who can bring peace across the lands.

I’m probably not the first one who would say I underestimated Shalia, wondering why she would withstand such ill treatment from her abuser, but the more I delved into the novel, the more I understood her.

As YA readers, we’re conditioned to think that “strong YA heroines” come with certain attributes – they’re strong, smart, brave and usually a female fighter who can stand up on her own two feet. When we see someone like Shalia who is constantly disrespected and even put in her place by others superior to her, it’s not a stretch to automatically think her as someone who is weak. However, she shows her strength in different ways – she’s a heroine who gets to know people and their wishes, who connects with others, who often puts her own heart and needs behind others…including her emotionally abusive husband.

While we as readers may be quick to write her (and him) off, we can see her constantly and consistently give him the benefit of the doubt. To know that as a King, he is only looking after the people, and that he has to make these tough choices that will result in short term pain but long term fruition. We find out that she only wants peace between the desert where she came from, and the lands that the King owns, and she believes being the ever obedient wife will lead her in that direction.

Little do we know, that Calix is self obsessed and his court are the people who constantly look the other way when he orders Shalia to do his bidding. It’s not obvious at first as he tests the waters with his new wife, which had me questioning whether Calix really was the villain, but it slowly but surely descends into complete disrespect. Horrifying quotes will begin to surface such as:

“You have failed at your own purpose, wife. Where is my child?…Why is your womb still cold? That is your sole value, and you cannot manage it.”

“He’s not wrong, you know. Think of what a reaction I would have if I flung your lifeless body off the battlements for your brother to see.”

The good news is, her giving nature and her caring heart has lead her to connect with others in her court, from her brother Kairos who watches over her, and her brother in law Galen who offers up a shoulder to cry on. With the combination of a rebellion in the midst run by her very own brother, to the elementae beings with hidden powers, things get really interesting towards the end of the book after its slow start. I loved how the book focused so much on family, especially sibling loyalty and how there were so many shades of grey when it comes to family. While Calix is pretty much a straight villain, I found more depth in the familial relationships and Shalia’s character.

After a slow start, I did have to persist with the book, as I struggled with the book’s dark themes not really knowing what it would entail. There isn’t much action that happens in the story and the world building was kind of hazy, which made the abuse stand out even more. I definitely think this book should come with a trigger warning, so that you’d be able to mentally prepare yourself for what’s ahead. But let me tell you – this is a journey that’s definitely worth enduring if you can stomach it.

Reign the Earth had me crying for a good 10 minutes during the end of the book, not because it was sad, per se, but because the story within its pages actually reflects real life. How many women do you hear of who find themselves in abusive relationships, not wanting to leave their partner because they believe they can change? And it’s not because these women are weak. Sometimes they are the strongest people who endure the abuse every day of their lives.

There’s no denying it – Reign the Earth is an incredibly dark book, as it runs into multiple confronting themes that may be triggering for some. But it’s also one that is incredibly rewarding to read, championing the hope in the strength of women standing up to their abusers.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me this book for review! All quotes have been taken from the uncorrected proof and may have changed in the final version.

Reign the Earth is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$16.99. 

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Jeann is an Aussie blogger, gamer, reader who loves to read, write, fangirl, geek out and eat food. You can find me glued to one of my many mobile devices 24/7, or fangirling over the latest YA book, TV show, movie or game. Chat with me on Twitter @happyindulgence

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22 responses to “Reign the Earth Review: A Powerful Story of Overcoming Relationship Abuse

  1. I wasn’t super interested in this one when my review copy came in the mail but your review has certainly convinced me it’s worth the read. It sounds like it tackles real world problems in a fantasy setting, and sometimes that has the most impact on readers.

    Books that highlight different types of strength are so important, and it looks like this book does that really well. Too often strength is shown in only one way, and I love authors who shine light on strength in its different forms.

    I’m sorry that it was hard for you to read this book at times, Jeann <3 Though I'm glad you enjoyed the book and the messages it was putting forward. I hope you like the next book in the series!
    Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity recently posted…Review: Amelia Westlake by Erin GoughMy Profile

    • Definitely, some books just need to tackle these hard topics and I definitely felt like this one did in a great way. It was hard to read because of the level of abuse that I didn’t expect from a YA book but I’m really glad that I did, because it was a really rewarding experience. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts about it Chiara!

  2. Omgg Jeann, your review has actually made me consider picking this one up. Thank you for those trigger warnings as well! (So is Shalia actually pregnant?) I think these kinds of books may be hard to stomach, but are nonetheless so exceptionally important. I also think Shalia’s the kind of heroine that people tend to look over, but has facets that are more reflective of people in real life. Awesome review!
    Aila J. recently posted…February Wrap Up, Penguin Teen Showcase & Book HaulMy Profile

  3. Eeep, I’m hoping to read this one soon and it sounds super gritty?! I’m all for dark books, but I was a bit worried this one didn’t actually sound YA with like abusive marriages?! But anyway. We shall see. I really love it when books show girls being epic in more ways than just being able to hit people with a sword. That’s really needed though!! I’m glad you liked this one. 😀
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…Should You Reread Books? (Ft. A Highly Strung Pros vs Cons List As You’d Expect From Me)My Profile

    • I know, I would’ve been so put off if I went into this book without knowing the abusive trigger, etc. because they marketed it like a magical YA fantasy! Trigger warnings help people. But yes, it’s such an important story!

  4. This sounds like such a beautifully dark book. It seems like it’s deep on sooo many levels and I have most definitely added it to my TBR. Every now and then you need a book that will give you all the feels and leaving you sobbing and I haven’t read one of those in a while so this will be the one! Amazing review! Thank you so much for bringing my attention to this book.
    Lara @ Words With Lara recently posted…February, 2018 || Where Have I Been??My Profile

    • I really enjoyed it Lara, but you have to be prepared for the abuse etc. cos it’s such a difficult book to read! I’m so glad to hear that you’re keen on reading it, I hope you enjoy!

  5. Lovely review, Jeann! I liked it, though not quite as much as you did. I think it was really hard for me to read about Calix- and while I understand that it was kind of the point, I was so upset by him in general. But I definitely was invested and want to read the sequel! I did have some problems with the initial slowness too, but I liked the darkness of the story, no question!
    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted…Book Culling: The ProcessMy Profile

    • Yeah Calix was definitely a hard character to stomach and this really affected my enjoyment but I was so glad that I stuck through it. I’m glad to hear you liked it overall, too!

  6. I didn’t love this book when I read it, as it was very slow and very hard to get through, but you definitely made me think of it in a new light. I didn’t think to compare it to real life, and you’re right, there are SO many women in abusive relationships who are hoping their partner can change. And so they wait it out, even though sometimes it’s a lost cause.

    Beautiful review Jeann!

    • Yay, that’s actually wonderful to hear! I was actually considering DNFing it because I found it such a difficult read with Calix’s behaviour, but oh boy it was worth it in the end. Thank you so much Val!

  7. Wow. Great review. I really want to read this book now. I get how Shalia will be seen as a weak woman cause nowadays women are urged to be strong and not fragile and stuff, but I feel such women who try to keep seeing the good in terrible people and put others before themselves and endure abuse are actually the strong ones who are most times just trapped in those situations.