I’ll be honest here, I’m not quite sure why I requested Blood Rose Rebellion for review. I think I might have seen it on BookTube at one point, and I liked the cover. And I have kind of been in the mood for more young adult fantasy. I wish I’d read some reviews before I decided to pick this up, because it was not my cup of tea.
(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.
Blood Rose Rebellion reminded me why I’ve been reading less young adult literature lately. While I think there is a ton of merit to the genre as a whole, I’m getting a bit too old to find overly saccharine romances cute. I cannot count the number of times I rolled my eyes reading this book, and ended up skimming the second half after I realized I had been repeatedly making vomiting noises inside my head. (I said I didn’t think over-the-top teenage romances were cute, not that I was mature.) When the main character (who is sixteen) falls in love with any man under thirty she comes across, I get over it pretty fast. I don’t necessarily find it unrealistic – I’ve met those girls, I was one of those girls for a brief period (though I never acted on every single crush) – but I think it tends to negate any strong attributes that character might have, and it’s just not something I enjoy reading.
This book was kind of standard young adult, historical fantasy. Angsty female character who is the only person in the world with a certain ability. Bitchy older sister. Asshole ex-boyfriend. Beautiful new boy who is off-limits. Superficial mother. Sweet, but out-of-touch father. You get my point. The characters were predictable and uninteresting. The book actually started out on a good note for me, but fell flat when I found myself caring less and less about Anna and anything that happened to her.
The magic system wasn’t anything special, but it wasn’t bad, either. I did think it had a few original elements, and I did find some of the magical imagery interesting. I didn’t find anything at all wrong with the writing itself, though it didn’t stand out to me as particularly amazing. I was far more annoyed by the characters, and I think had this book been written without romance, I might have really enjoyed it.
The one major redeeming element for me in this book were the historical elements. Obviously, this book is not historically accurate, being a fantasy, but I can appreciate the amount of research that went into it. I like that it was set primarily in Hungary, because that’s not something I see very often. Having studied European History in college, and taken a few classes on Eastern Europe, it was kind of fun to revisit it in a book that wasn’t about vampires. I thought the brief mentions of historical figures – namely Queen Victoria and Elizabeth Báthory – helped ground the story in the time period. I could tell that a lot of work went into the historical aspect of this book, and, overall, I did like how it was incorporated.
Overall, I don’t think Blood Rose Rebellion was a good book for me. I will say that this is the type of book I probably would have really enjoyed had I read it ten years ago (when I was a teenager). I do still generally like reading young adult – I don’t think I’ll ever really ‘grow out of it’, but this book was just a bit too teenage-drama-y for me. (You can tell I’m tired when I start making up words.)
I would recommend this if you are looking for a fantasy with a lot of romance. Or if you liked Caraval, because I disliked that book for the same reasons.
As always, if you’re read this book (or are planning on reading it) please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
Blood Rose Rebellion will be available at all major book retailers starting Tuesday, March 28. You can order (or preorder) your copy here! (Or, to get it free, click the Audible link in the sidebar -or right here – and choose it as one of your two free audiobooks!)
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.