Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 28th, 2017
In a world where only the elite Luminate society holds the power of magic in their hands, Anna Arden finds herself on the outskirts of the society where she should belong. Born without powers to a magical family, she is hidden away and kept from information regarding the true strength and purpose of the Luminate. When Anna’s sister receives her chance to debut her magical abilities to the society at large, Anna’s presence somehow breaks the spells her sister is attempting to cast. Chaos ensues and Anna is sent to live with relatives in Hungary.
While in Hungary, Anna realizes that there is something amiss. Haunted by her lack of magical abilities, she makes friends with Gábor, a local Romani who might have the answers she needs. Rebellion is brewing in her new country, and the drama back home makes Anna’s family realize that her “lack” of magic might not be a lack at all. Suddenly, Anna finds herself in the middle of a schism that will change the world as she knows it.
Blood Rose Rebellion is the first novel in a trilogy by debut YA author Rosalyn Eves. I was immediately drawn to the historical context within which Eves places her story’s conflict. I love when authors build on a fantasy/paranormal plot by using real historical events to tie it to something more grandiose. Some great examples of this are Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty series, Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin, or The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd. Needless to say, I love this genre and hadn’t read anything about Hungary and their 1848 revolution (nor knew anything about it!), so I was really excited to approach this premise.
Anna Arden, the protagonist, is born into privilege, although she herself has no magic and is labelled “Barren” she has hopes and dreams for her life. I appreciated her drive and found myself rooting for her, especially after she accidentally seems to ruin her sisters societal coming-out magic demonstration. She is frustrated because she has no clue why she’s Barren but seems to be able to break spells at will. I could sympathize with her struggle. Once in Hungary, she meets her love interest and side-kick (if you will), Gábor, a local Romani who is “low-born” yet seems to hold the secrets she needs in the history of his people. Naturally, through him, Anna realizes that her powers are very different from the rest of the Luminate society and she is basically the chosen one.
From that point on, the reader is dragged through 200+ pages of Anna still trying to rationalize the choices she has to make and it started to really drag. Where I once sympathized with her, I started to view the protagonist as simpering, indecisive, and just annoying. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot happening with the plot while Anna tries to figure out what to do, so all of the secondary characters seemed like caricatures and were really predictable. I didn’t feel like we even got enough information about how the Hungarian Rebellion tied in with her problems. I ended up DNF’ing this book 75% of the way through. There was virtually no pacing after the author set up the initial conflict and sends Anna to Hungary, and the book became aimless and frustrating.
While Blood Rose Rebellion promises intrigue, romance, and magic, I instead found indecision, frustration, and confusion.