Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion #1) by Rosalyn Eves (2017)
YA Fiction | Historical | Magical Realism
“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.”
pooled ink Review:
Thank you to the publisher, Knopf Books for Young Readers, for sending me a copy to review!
Hungary? Folk tales? Magic? Romani? Power? Dark forces? A girl with nothing born to destroy everything? I was swept away at once.
I’ve been really looking forward to reading this book ever since I found out about it. I had high hopes yet I was hesitant to commit. Lately I feel as if I’ve been reading books that are good but not quite what I’m looking for and I really didn’t want this book to be the same. I won a free ARC paperback and the day it showed up in the mail I was so excited to sit down and devour it. I’m not sure what my expectations were but I loved the idea and held onto hope. Well, this book wasn’t quite what I had pictured and yet it didn’t disappoint me.
With every page I turned I felt more committed to the story and knew I’d finally found something that sang to me.
We’ve talked before about how certain books just have that unnamable something that connects a reader to a story like a magic link. And it’s something that can’t be summoned or controlled. Sometimes books inundate you and sometimes they simply don’t. I’ve heard some people feel that this book wasn’t anything particularly special or intriguing and I’ve heard others praise its story loud and proud. As for me? I admit it had moments that felt common of most fantasy books being churned out but overall I quite thoroughly enjoyed it, perhaps more than my hesitant hopes are willing to admit until I’ve read it at least twice.
I love folklore, I love history, I love magic, and I have a particular interest in Eastern Europe. So of course I loved this book.
Anna, the protagonist, has a Hungarian lineage but was raised in England and that is where the story begins. I like Anna. She’s a good balance of cowed and defiant considering her upbringing and the situations she’s confronted with. At times she’s rather naïve but just take it in stride. Her character’s growth felt very natural, not at all rushed. She’s not an action star, she’s not hot-blooded and ready to wear pants and burn down castles, but she’s not content to sit idly by either. In my opinion she’s a more realistic rebel considering her station and gender within her time period. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but overall I liked her.
There was romance but it flickered warmly in and out like a warm candle flame as the plot chose to focus on Anna and not Anna plus some hot guy. I actually really liked this. Her love interest was woven throughout her path like a ribbon in a tapestry, but was not the destination of this story nor its anchor. I love a good romance but it’s also nice to read a book where your hopes and fears reside within the tumultuous plot and not the love of a suitor. For example, I’m a big fan of the ACOTAR series but I 85% care about the love stories held in the balance and 15% care about Prythian.
That being said I very much admired Gábor and will be very upset if he and Anna don’t get a happily ever after together when this series is all said and done.
“Has no one told you, child, not to wander in unfamiliar woods? Have you not read your fairy tales?”
Eves’ writing style really clicked with me. I was sucked into the story, the images were painted before my mind’s eye, and I felt the rush of emotions that churned with each calamity left in Anna’s wake. The voice was appropriately proper considering it takes place in the 1800s, and the way Eves included Hungarian words and phrases simply enriched the culture drawn into the story. (Thank you also for including a glossary with pronunciation guides for names and other words! I hate not knowing how to pronounce things properly!)
I will say that it’s not an action book, but as the Author’s Note points out this story does draw from a rather bloodless victory. With the magic twist of this book it takes things quite a bit darker, bloodier, and more exciting while still staying true to the students and revolutionaries who brought forth this important shift in Hungarian history. Reading how she mixed in fact with fantasy was fascinating and makes me want to research more on my own.
Really Eves did a good job crafting a world of magic with dimension. Rather than a straightforward philosophy or structure for magic there is a fabrication of falsehoods and manipulations to the Luminate’s hoarded magic. As Anna pieces this together we see that magic can be manipulated through spells, through charms, it can be commanded, it can be guided. There is blood magic, there is the traditional magic of the trained Luminates, there is the instinctual magic of the Romani, and there are leaks of magic from stories at night. I found it refreshing to read a world where magic should be everywhere and not just within a rich lucky few.
This book made a good effort to keep me guessing. Not whether or not Anna would attempt to break the Binding (for when a gun is produced on stage it must be fired, whether then or later, but rest assured a weapon shown is a weapon used), but what might happen if the Binding spell was indeed broken. What would be unleashed upon the world? How would the world shift exactly?
Anna faces a difficult choice indeed. Do nothing, change nothing. Do this, change everything. But while she is wooed with desires, freedoms, and promises or threats, I failed to feel secure in her growing assurance in breaking the Binding until finally she turns away yet faces no other option. It’s at that point when she refuses that I’m finally certain it’s the only thing to be done, no matter how dangerous or painful it may be.
Actually, what I kept wondering, almost more than whether or not breaking the Binding spell was a good idea (because really the debate on that end was endless for either side), was what she is. Not who, but what. It’s something that popped up more than once and yet it takes her an awfully long time to finally demand an answer. I just feel that that would have been a rather important factor in my decision when facing a difficult world-altering demand, particularly when being a “what” brings dark worry to people’s eyes.
Overall I find that I really was swept away by this book. Maybe it’s because I’m partial to the setting and history from which it is inspired, but I think Eves crafted a very good book beyond that. Although if historical fantasy isn’t really your genre of choice then this may not be for you.
This book could be read as a standalone in many ways, which I love. It comes to a comfortable place to pause with a short epilogue to smooth out the end. I’ve been craving books not of a series so I’m glad that it doesn’t halt in the height of calamity, but even so I find that this is a new series that I’m willing to invest in. I’m curious (and suspicious) as to what Anna’s uncle will be up to, how these newly freed creatures of legend will settle back into the world, how magic will change Europe’s rigid barriers, and of course what will become of Anna and Gábor.
Thrilling, poised, and enchanting, Blood Rose Rebellion spins a tale of magic and revolution that mixes Hungarian folklore with fact and fantasy. It’s a story red as the dawn that comes and black as the night that passes.
Purchase here: Blood Rose Rebellion
Similar recommended reads: Gilded Cage by Vic James, A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas, And I Darken by Kiersten White, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra
Meet Rosalyn Eves!
Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.