By Rosalyn Eves
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Print ARC
To Sum It Up: Anna Arden’s family belongs to the elite Luminate—those who can wield magic. Anna, however, is Barren and unable to use magic, but she seems to possess the ability to break spells. After unintentionally wreaking havoc at her sister’s debut into Luminate society, Anna is sent to her grandmother’s native Hungary. Even there, though, the Luminate’s ruling Circle tracks her because her ability could possibly break even the Binding, the spell that keeps magic in Luminate hands alone.
Review: I’ve been in the reading slump from hell since the beginning of the year, and I really, really, really hoped that Blood Rose Rebellion would prove to be the slump-breaker. Alas, it was not.
I started feeling iffy about this book very early on, and I should’ve just listened to my intuition and called it a DNF. I hate not giving books a fair chance, though, and by the time I realize that a book isn’t for me, I’ve already invested so much time in it that I might as well just finish it. That’s what happened here.
I had some rather big issues with the book’s protagonist, Anna. The novel quickly makes it clear that she’s yet another special heroine. Anna’s family belongs to the elite Luminate class, those who have access to magic. Despite her family’s lineage, Anna is Barren, unable to wield magic. She does, however, exhibit an ability to break spells, and jealousy drives her to inadvertently break her older sister Catherine’s spell demonstration during Catherine’s grand entrée into Luminate society. Anna losing it just because Catherine’s spell reveals they were crushing on the same guy, Freddy, irked me quite a bit, especially since Freddy, who doesn’t even have a large role in the book, proves to deserve neither girl’s heart in his limited page time. Anna then proceeds to continue mentioning Freddy every once in a while when he should have been long forgotten.
Anna also assesses every guy she meets as a potential love interest, including her distant cousin. Even when she finally settles her attention on one of them, it still feels insta-love-y. The romance here was a complete no-go for me. I also found Anna condescending, as well as self-pitying over her lack of magic. Although she sheds some of her superior attitude by the book’s end, it’s not gradual enough to really illustrate any character growth.
In addition to never clicking with Anna, the novel’s pacing made this a long, slow read. After the disastrous debut, Anna is shipped off from England to her grandmother’s native Hungary, where rebellion is stirring. Emphasis on the stirring, because nothing actually materializes for quite some time. The rebellion aspect is one of the book’s highlights; the revolutionaries are fighting for an independent Hungary and to break the Binding, the spell keeping magic in the hands of the upper class Luminate. It’s an interesting mix of history, politics, and fantasy, but it takes some time for the revolution to ignite. In the meantime, Anna waffles over whether or not to use her power to break the Binding, which for me was not compelling reading.
It’s almost always impossible for me to read past a main character I don’t connect with at all, and unfortunately, Anna’s character and narration just didn’t work for me. The magic and the way it was tied to the social order had potential, but the majority of the book focused on Anna’s ultra special special-ness and a romance that was pretty standard YA fare.
All in All: The mid-19th century Hungary setting and the magic are the two highlights here, but everything else, including the protagonist and the insta-love, overshadowed them.