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.
Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, to be published March 28th, 2017, via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.
These sentiments have been echoed by previous reviewers, but all I can say is what happened? I’m honestly not quite sure what to make of Blood Rose Rebellion. I was expecting much more from it, but it ended up falling short in every aspect. If you want to know what I’m talking about, imagine The Crown’s Game… without the game and the rich world. Or The Young Elites, except all the characters have been stripped of their personalities. Other titles that have been mentioned include Red Queen and Shadow & Bone, both of which I can definitely see in the novel. (Les Misérables was also mentioned, but I’m ignoring that because Les Mis is one of my favorite books, and I can’t see the likeness at all.)
The long and short of it is that there are so many books that do these concepts better than Blood Rose Rebellion, and life isn’t long enough to read everything. You should read the books that do it best, and unfortunately, that’s not this one.
The main reason for that was the plot and writing. Nothing happens. The pacing is slow, the plot is dry, and there’s only about one paragraph per page that’s consequential. And when things did happen, I couldn’t bring myself to care about the characters.
Maybe it’s just me, but I wasn’t particularly partial to Anna. Her narration made me feel like I was on the outside looking in, and she was really immature. The story opens with Anna ruining her sister’s one shot at happiness because of petty jealousy. In the beginning, I was excited by this because I thought that the story may go the way of The Young Elites, but everything felt off. Anna didn’t have any of the fire of Adelina, and any momentum that was built up was quickly burned down by descriptions of the awkward world-building.
Historical fiction and magic is, well, magical when it’s done well, but I wasn’t consciously aware that this was historical fiction until Anna really got into Hungary, made friends, and started poking around. There were some nice passages in here that were very well-researched, but other than the names and some words, nothing felt distinctly Hungarian. For those of you who have read The Crown’s Game, I think we’d all agree that the story felt distinctly Russian, from the descriptions of the food to the architecture to the characters. Other novels feel distinctly French or Victorian or Chinese, but I didn’t get that here.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this one. I wanted to enjoy it, but I’m not sure what it was trying to achieve. There are some incredible novels out there with similar premises, and I would recommend those instead. If you’re looking less for the action/adventure and fantasy of this novel and more for the historical fiction of Blood Rose Rebellion, I would recommend Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper, Kiersten White’s And I Darken, Monica Hesse’s Girl in the Blue Coat, and any of the books on this list. Kiersten White’s Illusions of Fate isn’t historical fiction, but I think it’s also a good fit for this one.