March 20, 2017

Review: Blood Rose Rebellion

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves
Grade: C
Release date: March 28, 2017
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.
Summary: 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.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: My biggest problem with Blood Rose Rebellion is that it couldn't hold my attention. By about halfway through my e-galley, I found myself wanting to read any book but this one. It started well enough, with conflict and magic and tension. But I definitely skimmed the second half, just so I could say I finished the book and didn't DNF it. I've had too many of those lately. 
I really loved that it was a time and place in history rarely touched on YA historical fiction. However, I couldn't connect with Anna, and secondary characters, like her cousins and Gabor, were hardly fleshed out. They felt like props moved to advance the plot, not fully-fledged characters around which the plot revolved (and considering that Gabor was the love interest, you'd think he'd have a little more depth). In addition, Anna started to make really stupid choices that seemed out of character. 
I had read some comments on Twitter about the use of Romani vs. gypsy, and so I approached my ARC cautiously. From what I saw in the first half, it seemed pretty accurate that Anna and others would use the slur until they knew better. I cannot speak to if it should've been used at all or not, but as a student of history, I believe we shouldn't try to erase the sins of the past. In historical writing (even fiction), if we pretend that people wouldn't have used certain terms, we are erasing our mistakes and not learning from them. Obviously, writers should not overuse any slurs, but I think they can use it (through POC or ally characters) as a gentle teaching moment to be like, "Hey, no, this is wrong; don't use that word." Anyways, Anna, once she's told by Gabor to use Romani, makes an effort to be respectful and even corrects others. However, one moment I did feel was inaccurate was that Gabor then used the slur on a couple occasions, and Anna did too at times in her narration. After reading the author's note, I can see why the author made these choices, though, and I can see she was trying to respect both history and a marginalized people group.

The Verdict: Could've been so good, but it lacked that extra oomph to make me continue to care.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: No.

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