ARC Review: Whitley: Blood Rose Rebellion
title: Blood Rose Rebellion
author: Rosalyn Eves
pages: 416
format: eARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 2/5 (from hated to loved) or 3/10 (all books I've ever read)

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.

This book…oh, it was so close to being something cool. And it dropped the ball on various fronts, alas. Partly because the main character’s plot was dull, and partly because the side characters were super interesting and yet remained side characters.

I was pretty intrigued by the set-up of this book, and I was highly invested in the interpersonal/family drama going on. I loved Anna’s predicament, her anger at it, her determination to find a place for herself in a society that kept trying to force her out. I loved the friction between her and her family/her sister, the jerkass boy, the drama, it was great.

And then they went to Hungary, and the conflict setting went much wider than one girl and her family, and…well, I’ll put it this way: I had no problems with Anna as a character, but I had a lot of problems with Anna as a protagonist to this particular story. It’s a story about revolution and oppression and fighting back and all that, but Anna is an outsider with no skin in the game other than what she puts in voluntarily. And, to be frank, she doesn’t volunteer much. She says she loves her ‘adopted’ country, but in terms of putting actions to those words…meh. On the other hand, everyone around her is super invested in plotting their rebellion, in reviving or protecting their culture, and there’s all sorts of messy in-group fighting and plots and machinations and and and….and it’s all in the corners, visible only when Anna deigns to leave her big fancy house. Anna, for her part, finds out she has this cool magic and never once bothers to test it, experiment with it, or literally do anything at all with it. She finds out she can undo spells, has someone ask her to undo the BIGGEST SPELL EVER, and then…waffles about deciding. Doesn’t do a lick of work to see if she can or not, or figure out how her powers work. Just…snoozefest. Just like she finds out there’s a rebellion brewing and her first, last, and only contribution is to sit in a pub and watch people talk about it.

Anna would have been perfectly serviceable as a bitter-but-determined troublemaker with family problems, but as a revolutionary, I really wanted to follow the people actually revolting. I guess I’m just funny that way.

Additionally, I was highly uncomfortable with Anna’s relationship with a Romani boy named Gabor. A huge chunk of the book is about how the Romani were basically on the bottom-rung of the shit-upon ladder, and how the Hungarians were being oppressed by Austria but then turned around and passed that on down to the Romani without even blinking. And then here comes Anna, she of the riches and privilege, a noble-class girl who can literally pack up and leave the country if she wants, and the book tries to put her on the same level of oppression as Gabor. There’s whole scenes of Anna trying to compare her own situation to that of the Romani, and even a scene where she does one random nice big gesture so Gabor will be all “ah, she’s one of the good white folks, I guess I can’t be mad at her now.” It…um…no. Just no. It’s not like an Anna/Gabor type romance can’t happen, but not when you ignore all of the Anna’s privilege and position and try to claim any level of hardship is the same as all other levels as well.

The writing was evocative and the setting and mythology interesting, the magic system interesting as well. In fact, the magic system was the only thing that kept me reading until the end. But overall, I’m not sure I would suggest it. The majority of the book just doesn’t stand up to its own promises or strong opening.

in a sentence

Smooth writing and an interesting premise doesn't save the plot from a heroine who is largely removed from the best part of the conflict.


will i read this author again?  Maybe   
will i continue the series?  I'll wait to see what reviews are like for the second book. Not as an ARC read again, though.

Note: I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

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