Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves
Blood Rose Rebellion has a couple of really great aspects. However, there were also a few things I didn’t enjoy, so I did have to force myself a little to push through the middle of the novel (I refuse to DNF a book). Ultimately, I was pleased to have finished. This is because most of the cool aspects rise to life at the end and I do think these highly imaginative elements set the story up well for the next two forthcoming books, giving the full trilogy excellent potential.

First, the parts of the book I did not connect well with:

I did not care much for Anna Arden, the main character. She is a “born into privilege but not quite in the mold” sort of heroine who is a little uncomfortable with her social status at times, yet also willing to fully indulge in her available luxuries. Magic is present in her surrounding society but can only be used by those of a rich, elite bloodline. Anna possesses this, however she’s unfortunately “barren” and cannot cast spells. We later learn this is not the entire truth though, in a nice plot twist. Anna has a couple of love interests in the book and the writing of these scenes is very eloquent, rich in detail, and vibrant. But I just didn’t find myself feeling any emotion for her or for any of her suitors. I believe Anna is set up as a complicated character in order for her to grow and change throughout the arc of the trilogy. And I certainly appreciated her more at the end of this first novel. So I’m not too worried about not caring much about her, even though this does make it tough at times to press through the book.

Regarding Anna’s romantic interests and day-to-day attitude, this is the other major part of the novel that didn’t connect with me. Again, everything is written quite well and Anna’s life will likely ring more true for late teen/twentyish female readers. I simply wanted to get on with it and learn more about the magic and the mysteries surrounding the Binding, which I’ll get into in a moment. The romance and the longer portions of Anna’s daily life, for me, bogged the story down a bit. There’s also a lot of focus on what’s going on in Hungary at the time (much of it historically accurate which is interesting) and on Anna deciding what she should do with her life, who can she trust, and who can she love. If you can read through this, you will get to the good bits.

Which are:

The magic! The magic system started off a little slow and slightly confusing, but as the book found its feet I really enjoyed the writer’s unique creativity. I hope this magic system is where the focus will be in the next two novels. As I mentioned above, spellcasting is reserved for the rich and well-to-do due to a large spell called the Binding which holds the magic of the world in place, allowing only the powerful to control access. Some rebels of the time feel the Binding should be broken, releasing magic to all the people to learn and discover for themselves--with some help and guidance. Anna is thought to be the one who could do this, though she wrestles with the choice since it will crash her privileged world before she even gets to fully be part of it. The magic class system provides good conflict between the privileged and unprivileged. Also, while in Hungary, Anna even looks outside the establishment to learn rogue Romani (gypsy) magic and I liked those parts of the story.

The Binding itself is also very cool. In order to break this giant spell, Anna has to actually travel into the magic, where she encounters an entire land populated by mystical, mythical creatures--some of which you will have heard of, some of which are uniquely based on Hungarian folklore, and some of which are completely new, awesome creations from the writer’s imagination. These parts of the story really resonated with me and I basically wanted Anna to be in the Binding all the time! However she doesn’t fully face this challenge until the final third so as I said, I’m glad I pressed through the book. The characters she encounters inside the Binding are dangerous, unpredictable and wild--yet you feel for them since they are unjustly (maybe or was there a reason?) trapped inside this spell cast by humans. However, we never know fully if they are good, neutral or evil. This presents some big questions. What happens to the world if these “monsters” are released? Will chaos reign or can a careful peace be forged between man and beast? Will humans be able to handle this sudden unleashing of magic or will it consume them? All this action begins to take shape right at the very end, which makes me hope the second and third books are really about these fantasy beasts and how they ultimately interact with Anna and with the human world--plus how magic affects it all.

Overall, I think this is a very well-written novel that really turns up at the end. The true historical aspects in Hungary are intriguing and do add some depth to the story, while also slowing it down a touch. Since it does have some actual Hungarian culture in it, look to the back of the book for a neat, useful character guide and Hungarian word/phrase glossary. Blood Rose Rebellion is considered a YA novel, which is a very general category, so I’d say it’s best for more mature readers--upper end high schoolers, college age, or older. This is because there is some “heat” to the romance (nothing graphic but still steamy) and a fair amount of violence when battles occur. Plus there are a lot of characters to keep straight and some complexity when it comes to conflict between the upper class magic users and the revolutionaries.

If the sequels tend toward the magical and fantasy aspects of the story, I think I will be interested in seeing how Anna fulfills her destiny. For now, if you like female-driven romance and some history added in with your magical fantasy, you’ll surely dig Blood Rose Rebellion.

Happy Reading!

(I received an ARC of this book by replying to a promotional email from the publisher. I have provided an honest review.)