Early Review: Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen (The Elementae #1)


Reign the Earth by AC Gaughen // VBC ReviewReign the Earth (The Elementae #1)
A.C. Gaughen
Published: Jan. 30, 2018 (Bloomsbury)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars

Shalia is a daughter of the desert and after years of war she has agreed to marry Calix, the King of the Bone Lands, in order to broker peace for her people. What she learns after the marriage is that Calix, due to a personal vendetta, is bent on destroying any and all Elementae—people with power over the elements—of which Shalia is an Earth elemental.

Still hoping for peace and to quell rumors of a rebellion, Shy works hard to keep her powers hidden all while trying to convince her husband that violence is not the answer. As Shy learns just how deep and twisted her husband’s machinations run, she’ll find respite in her deepening friendship with the Commander of the King’s army—also known as the King’s brother.

When I started Reign the Earth I felt like I had missed a prologue or a novella somewhere. The initial set-up was a bit disjointed for me. The idea of a marriage of convenience—or in this case of marriage for peace—is pretty straightforward. It’s the background on why there needs to be peace in the first place that left me a little baffled at times. I would have indeed loved to have that novella and/or prologue to give me all the details ahead of time. Not only would this have helped in understanding where all the characters were coming from, but it would have made the introduction of the Elementae clearer as well.

I think background information gets a bit muddled because it’s clear from the onset that Reign the Earth is an introduction to Shy and her strengths and struggles, and oh, the struggles. Those who have read A.C. Gaughen’s debut series, Scarlett, will be all too familiar with the hellish trials and tribulations of our main heroine.

Shy’s kind heart and her strength of character in the most devastating of circumstances is what this book really showcases. There’s clear care taken in addressing abuse; especially coercion, abuse of power, and abuse within a consensual relationship. Right now these are topics that are seemingly everywhere in the media which makes Reign the Earth’s publication seems rather timely, and A.C. Gaughen pulls this off, dare I say beautifully. From the onset Shy can see what’s her husband is, even if she doesn’t know all that he’s capable of just yet or she can’t yet fully admit it to herself that he’s a monster. It’s almost unfortunate that I felt like Calix was presented more as a caricature of what a monster should be. As though many of his actions and reactions were purposefully exaggerated to hit home this very idea, when that was completely unnecessary. The most chilling scenes come when least expected, and I think sometimes the over-the-top, maniacal motions took away from those more subtly crafted manipulations.

Reign the Earth could have benefitted more, in my opinion, from omitting the romance. Or have the romance as more of a slow-burn to extend into future books. I wanted Shy to be able to stand on her own a little without being besotted by the King’s brother. Instead, I would have gladly welcomed more emphasis on familial bonds as they are a strong thread throughout the book, especially for Shy. It’s these secondary familial characters and how Shy opens her heart to fit them in her life that really stood out the most for me and what I look forward to continuing the most in the next book.

Despite its darker tone, Reign the Earth gives us a great new strong heroine to root for this year. While the vagueness surrounding the history was irksome, I’m hoping it will become more comprehensible as the series progresses.

Sexual content: references to sex, implied non-consensual sex, emotional and physical abuse.

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