Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Childrens for giving me a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review. (And also thanks to Brianna and Angelina at Fable’s Library for passing along the physical ARC. 🙂 )
Title: Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion #1)
Author: Rosalyn Eves
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House Childrens)
Release date: March 28, 2017
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, fantasy
Length: 419 pages (finished hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) “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.”
This book is pitched for fans of the Red Queen, and while I like RQ, I’m not over the moon about it as I am about other series. I think I feel the same about Blood Rose Rebellion, though I lean more toward this book as it has a lot of things I love about a book: magic, Victorian England, and a slight forbidden romance trope. I also love learning about cultures that aren’t my own, so while the beginning of this book took place in England, a majority of the book was in Hungary with the main character’s mother’s side of the family. This is one of the few YA books I’ve read that features an eastern European country, and probably one of the even fewer that have Romani characters.
After ruining her sister, Catherine’s, debut, Anne Arden is sent to Hungary with her grandmother, away from the mysterious Circle, a group of nobles in charge of the Luminate, those with magic. Anne is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells, but she has the strange ability to “break” them. In Hungary, she’s unsure, especially about meeting her cousins for the first time, and while things start out rocky, Anne eventually finds her niche. She meets a Romani named Gábor with magical abilities of his own, and gets thrown into the buds of a revolution: Hungary seeks independence from the ruling Austrian Hapsburgs, and radicals seek to break the Binding spell which restricts who can or cannot have magic.
I definitely enjoyed the alternate historical twist. I don’t know much about Hungary or how they gained independence, but I read the author’s note in the back of the book, and it’s obvious Eves did her research when it came to this aspect. I loved how she wove together the working magic and facts about Hungary’s independence. Anne was a bystander to the Hungarian cause, and while she’s initially unsure on whose side she ought to be on, her indecisiveness also comes into play when she’s approached and asked to take measures that could turn her world upside down. Some of my favorite parts were Anne’s encounters with the mystical and magical beings from the otherside (otherworld?). I also found Anne’s true nature interesting, and it definitely kept me reading as the book progressed.
However, I did find her romance with Gábor almost…forced. Or maybe that’s just me being slightly unconvinced of their feelings. Sure, I can understand the author’s purpose of throwing these two together as Gábor is Romani and this tumultuous time affects more than just Hungary. The Romanis are an oppressed people group during this time period, and Anne becomes involved with them, first in an event that also involved her cousin Matyas, then with Noemi, and also with Gábor. I can certainly understand both Anne and Gábor’s need to fit in somewhere, Anne with her own people and Gábor within society, not as a Romani but as an articulate and generally smart person–he wanted to break down the walls with which other people put up against his own kind. (I, in no way, can say the Romani representation in this book is accurate as I myself an not Romani, nor do I know anyone who is.)
While there were times the world-building was confusing, overall, I liked the characters. When we discovered who (what?) Anne actually was, I was even more enticed. I will definitely keep an eye out for the next book in this series.