Series: Blood Rose Rebellion #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on March 28th 2017
Source: Author Review Copy
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Romance, Young Adult
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The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.
Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.
Her life might well be over.
In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.
As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.
So you’re probably thinking, “Another rebellion, Aila?! When will you get over these things.” The answer is: NEVER. I love revolution, innovation, and movements. I love seeing changes and the way small feats can make grand progress. In the midst of all these magical rebellions and ending the ways of a social hierarchy, what makes Blood Rose Rebellion stand out? There are many things I found similar to similar fantasy YA books out there, but there are also minute details that the author adds that added a bit of spice in the story. I actually hovered between a 3 and a 4 stars for this one, which usually is the deciding line between a ‘good’ book and a ‘great’ one on my rating scale. Suffice it to say, that latter third of Blood Rose Rebellion really cemented my feelings.
We begin the book seeing Anna’s misconduct in the face of British society. Not only does she not have magic, but she behaves inappropriately. When she accidentally (maybe subconsciously purposefully) botches her sister’s coming out to the other magical peers, or Luminates, she’s met with scandal. As a consequence, she gets sent to her family’s native Hungary until the news dies down and she can safely go back to society. However, what Anna finds in Hungary is far more than she could have expected.
Sometimes I wished I could fold up all my unladylike qualities – my obstinacy, my temper, my wanting too much, my inability to stay still and quiet – like a handkerchief and stow it in my valise until needed.
When we first meet Anna, she’s a confused girl who doesn’t really have a place in society, since she can’t use magic like all the other high elites. She’s extremely naive and hesitant, which carries on when she goes to Hungary. But throughout the book you can really tell that she learns a lot. Anna realizes that while she may not be able to fit in with the Luminate society, she can fit in other places elsewhere. It’s actually a really nice experience to see her interact with people who accept her for who she is and not the kind of prestige and wealth her family name or magical abilities would bring. I thought that her character development was phenomenal and that she was just so real. A lot of times in books where the future of the world is resting on one character’s decision, it’s easy for them to make the “right” choice. But Anna battles opposing sides as she figures out whether or not she should use her abilities to break the Binding, a force that limits magic to the nobility. There’s a lot of exploration within her moral obligations and the philosophy that releasing something unknown would bring more change than staying still. I found this really invigorating, as you could see Anna’s hesitation and the deep thought she took on how what she could do could affect the people around her. It just made the characters extremely easy to connect to and added dimension.
‘Everyone feels that way who does not fit neatly into the role society gives them. I do. But it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, only that you are bigger than they can imagine.’
Okay but regarding the Special Snowflake syndrome that is blatant, even within the blurb: it wasn’t as grating as I thought. Believe me, I am no fan of “one savior saves us all,” but Eves does a great job in making sure that wasn’t so. Anna may have unique abilities that readers eventually discover in the book, but it wasn’t her that sparked the revolution fully. She wasn’t the starter, nor was she particularly overpowered throughout it all. She was just an intelligent person with convenient powers that joined in. Yes, there will be some cheesy lines about accepting her ability and the choice she has to make. But no, there are other characters that have an extremely monumental role in the whole plot. In fact, I really liked the camaraderie Anna develops with people like her mischievous distant cousin Mátyás, his mysterious sister Noémi, the radical William, and intriguing Gábor.
I was different.
But that difference did not mean I was weak or helpless. I had learned to fear my ability to break spells, but it did not have to be a curse. I could choose to see it as a gift. I could embrace my own power.
I could change the world.
One of my major complaint would be the pacing of the story, which was rather sedate in the beginning and middle of the book. I wasn’t all too impressed with the whole fallout from society in the beginning (where have I read that before?), and the middle had a lot of thinking/talking and not a lot of action. But oh boy, that last third really caught my attention. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the pages while seeing the spark of revolution grow into a full blown fire. There are so many facets to the revolution that springs up, I can tell this marks only the beginning. First, we have the Hungarians hungering for independence from the Habsburgs that rule them. Then we see the discrimination of minorities such as the Romani, Jews, and Croats, all of whom want their own voice. And then there is the release of magic from just the elite few to everyone else. Finally, there are mysterious creatures captured in the Binding that want their own freedom. There’s so much going on, and Eves organizes it quite brilliantly. While discovering all these aspects was a bit mundane (see: my thoughts on the beginning and middle), when we’re thrust in the action, everything just keeps rolling until the very end.
I also really liked the way that the historical setting is written into the story. There are actual historical figures that appear, and the time length (the year of 1847) also matched history, where the events from this year stimulated the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Eves does a wonderful job in weaving together the intricacies of society and the magical creatures that are only known from folklore, such as boszorkány, or wood witches. The blend of history and folklore and magic was extremely enchanting to read about. I really hope to read more about these creatures in the next books!
While the beginning and middle totally dragged for me, I’m thankful for them as they were a setup towards the heart-pounding climax. There’s a linear romance with the Romani, Gábor, that was cute, but I never really got into it. It moves from a relationship of distrust to begrudging friendship and respect, to finally more. Although usually I would be all over this kind of romance, I was kind of indifferent to it, other than the fact that it made a cute addition to the story. What really set this book out from the other YA rebellions was the historical tie-ins it had to it, the magical creatures just begging to be introduced, and a heroine who was surprisingly down-to-earth despite Special Snowflake status. This book had a conclusive ending, but definitely leads things up in the air for the next books in the trilogy. I will definitely be anticipating them! I’m not too big of a fan of Red Queen but despite it all, really managed to enjoy Blood Rose Rebellion despite the comparisons. If you like characters who think for themselves, go through immense development, and create important friendships, then definitely consider checking this one out. What can I say? Vive la Revolution!
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you Cat from Let the Pages Reign for lending her copy!