Released in Canada on March 28th, 2017, The Blood Rose Rebllion by Rosalyn Eves is a stunning debut novel from a new author. It is the thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy that promises big things – rebellion, intrigue and romance. 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 Romani, 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.
I had high hopes for Blood Rose Rebellion – the concept sounded intriguing, though not original, and the promise of social revolution had me eager to begin turning pages. Unfortunately, Eves feel short when it came to delivering action and deception, instead crafting a very surface level tale of teenage rebellion, love-at-first-sight romances and short-lived action sequences that always seem to be cut short by Anna’s fainting spells.
Anna herself is extremely frustrating – she has the potential to be a strong, powerful female character, but instead insists of behaving demurely, despite her insistent belief that she is not a proper young lady. When questioned by her superiors, she simply spills all her secrets like an open book, creating more than half of the problems she experiences in the book (seriously, her grandma asks if she’s planning on sneaking out and she replies honestly – what rebellion?). When she does “rebel”, its do run around endangering other with her untested powers, or to kiss boys in the shadows. Its so utterly average, and so utterly boring, that the reader feels no real tension while reading the book.
That being said, everything is expected. The way in which Eves approached the story left very little room for imagination – instead, she kind of guided readers through a story that felt very fixed, and unoriginal. From the get-go, I felt like I knew where the story was going, and as expected, pretty much what I thought would happen happened. It was so utterly disappointing that I don’t really know what else to say about this book.
One thing I did enjoy about this book was the relationship between Anna and Gábor. While I was disappointed by the love-at-first-sight romance, at least from Anna’s side, I really enjoyed following Gábor’s journey from hatred, to distrust, to friendship, and then to something more, despite the social barriers between the two of them. Gábor, for his part, was a largely likeable character, even when he was being cold towards Anna. His motivations were realistic, and human – as a Romani (or gypsy), he has no social standing in the world, but dreams of more than the life the other Romani live. His reservations towards Anna also make sense – he recognizes they can have no future together, not in the world as it currently is. And I liked how Anna’s motivations for breaking the Binding were personal – rather than have her be a morally good character, Eves wrote a selfish character who finally chooses to act because she sees the possibility of personal gain for herself (a life with Gábor). While this may have frustrated other readers, I found that I liked it, because it was a good reflection of Anna’s true nature.
Overall, I was just disappointed by the shallow nature of the story, the falseness of the characters, and the general lack of originality in this story. I really, really wanted to like this book – with high reviews from some of my favourite authors, and having been likened to Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, I really hoped for more, but Rosalyn Eves just failed to deliver on all counts (2/5).