BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, by Rosalyn Eves, Knopf Books for Young Readers, March 28, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (young adult)
I’m not a huge fan of series, trilogies, etc., as of late. I’ve become picky when it comes to them. If I’m going to have to wait a year (or more) for the next book, I want it to be worth it. Luckily for readers, if the first book in Rosalyn Eves’ new trilogy, Blood Rose Rebellion, is any indicator, that wait will be worth their investment.
Blood Rose Rebellion opens in an alternative Victorian England where magic and bloodlines mean everything. Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden would give anything to live in society, and at first glance, it appears she should be in the thick of it. Anna’s family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic. The Luminate rule the world. But Anna is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells, and so she lives on the fringe, observing from the edge while her family enjoys the privileges that come with power.
Anna’s life takes a drastic turn when she inadvertently breaks her sister’s debutante spell. With one misstep, Anna’s sister loses a chance at a good match, and Anna is exiled to her family’s native Hungary.
Everything is different in Hungary. Her cousin Noémi is distant, her ancestral palace is crumbling and while the Luminate rule, they are not respected. When Anna meets Gábor, a handsome Romani who seems to have magic of his own, she can’t keep her curiosity to herself. And then there’s her ability to break spells. With no one around to hold her back, Anna begins to see her “defect” as a strength. In Hungary, revolution is coming, and Anna may just be the key to changing everything.
I first heard of the Blood Rose Rebellion last year during the WIFYR (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers) conference. Rosalyn had literally just received her first ARC of the book. At that point, the cover was blue, and she was practically speechless as she showed it off for the first time.
Rosalyn spoke about the process she went through writing her book and her path to getting it published. WIFYR is a five-day conference with a lot going on, but Rosalyn continued to stand out for me, even after it was over. Yes, I was interested in her book because of its premise, but I was more interested in it because of her. She was excited and passionate and humble. When I read Blood Rose Rebellion, it was with those traits in mind.
I wasn’t disappointed.
There are a number of elements that make Blood Rose Rebellion work; among them is a grounding in reality. Yes, the book is about magic. And yes, it is set in an alternate Victorian era. That doesn’t matter. Well it does, but not in a distracting way. The alternative reality feels real because Rosalyn has pulled from the known and embraced it. Physical, emotional and societal constraints for women are easily recognizable. People underestimate Anna, in part because she is a female.
Rosalyn’s prose is equal parts understated and elegant. There are numerous of scenes, paragraphs and sentences where her restraint speaks more loudly than words ever could.
There are a few predictable elements throughout Blood Rose Rebellion, though they were never a distraction. The pacing at the beginning is a bit slow, too, but there was enough there initially to keep me going.
Blood Rose Rebellion relies heavily on history, so if you’re not a fan of historical fiction, this might be a harder read for you. I love historical fiction so that never bothered me. I also appreciated a lighter touch with the romantic elements. It helped me get to know Anna better, and I’m betting romance will be a larger presence later on in the trilogy.
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