“Some rebels are made, not born”
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.
One of the most dreadful things that can happen to a bookworm? Having been waiting for a title for the looongest time, thinking it's going to rock your socks off, and then it turning out to be one of the biggest disappointments of the year. Readers, let me introduce you to Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves, one of the best examples of this phenomenon.
PS: Forgive me if I seem to be overly critical - this was a huge let down after being enormously excited about it being set in Hungary, because, hey, I'm Hungarian. *waves*
Let's start off by a small disclaimer: I actually think Rosalyn Eves wanted to create something different, wanted to represent historical Europe. But, unfortunately, - and I'm sorry to say this, because I genuinely got the vibe from her on Twitter that she was excited about this project - she failed. This is not the kind of portrayal I was expecting/hoping for, and I closed the book feeling like a big, fat opportunity and premise was lost on something that, ultimately, didn't show anything new. I really hope this won't mean that authors will be even more afraid to set their novels in other countries than the US.
THE WORLD BUILDING/MAGIC SYSTEM
The magic system was unoriginal at its best, and absolutely confusing at its worst. Many things were hard to make sense of, because there was little to no explanation and quite a few plotholes.
"The American colonists had ushered in a vigorous democracy on the heels of a revolution, but there was no guarantee the same would happen here."
I have two big problems with this passage - first of all, the complete erasure of Native Americans. They are never mentioned in connection with how America gained its freedom from the Circle, even though, they must have had magic before the colonists arrived, as it is stated that the whole world has magic.
Moreover, the fact that here we have a YA novel set in Europe, yet America is still hold up as an example, as the goal, as the most outstanding country. I have NO PROBLEM with the US, but there are so few novels set outside the US that it'd be cool if these few weren't another means for America to be called the best.
The characters were awfully plain and boring. I could not connect to either one of them, no matter how hard I tried. Anna was by far the worst of them all, I could seriously write a whole essay on why she's one of the most deplorable characters ever.
She's the world's biggest hypocrite. She wants to be accepted into society and wishes that everyone would overlook her Barren status. WHICH IS FINE. Everyone should be equal! But, just take these examples of the most problematic things she's said:
- She wants her brother, James, "to be whole", meaning that right now, with little ability to do magic and a weaker physique he isn't. Yes, you read that right, she thinks her own brother isn't whole. How fucked up is that coming from someone who knows what it's like to be discriminated for lack of magic?
- She thinks she's so 'woke' (I'm sorry, I just had to use that word haha), because she learns that G*psy is a slur, and the correct term is Romani. She's so proud of herself that she keeps parroting it to everyone. YET, nearly halfway through, she goes and refers to Gábor, a young Romani man, as lesser than herself: "He was Romani, and whatever I was, I was not that."
- She judges those hurting and mistreating the poor, wants equality, YET, when she arrives to Eszterháza, she looks down on her own relatives, because they aren't wealthy like her family.
- She judges people by their appearance, I'd explain what I mean, but I think this quote will suffice more: "If I had harbored a faint hope that flirting with Mátyás might drive away any lingering longing for Freddy, I was disappointed. This was not a face to haunt my dreams."
See what I mean? Anna doesn't seem to know the first thing about acceptance and equality, even though, she has quite a few monologues about it, and tries to make everyone believe she's a modern woman, full of new ideas. Yeah, no. Fuck you, Anna. Fuck your racism and your shitty ass attitude toward people that don't reach up to your standards.
The others were somewhat more likable, though, when all the characters feel lifeless and drained - as in badly written - it is perhaps inaccurate to use the term likable. Gábor was the most useless character, his sole purpose was - no kidding - to teach Anna equality and *gasp* magic, plus make her feel well-loved and accepted. *barf*
Their romance was just as bad as the characters themselves. I still have no idea why on earth they liked each other, because Anna was annoying as hell, and Gábor was barely given any page time. The cheesy scenes really didn't help the matter, because they were so damn hilarious. Look:
Gábor's fingers traced my brow, the tips of my ears, my lips. "I thought I would die without seeing you again."
My hands slid up his arms, my fingers tangled in the curls at the back of his neck. "So did I."
One more thing about Gábor - Anna says/thinks that the Romani should be given the same rights, yet I find it "fascinating" that the only Romani she can bear to socialize with is the one guy who acts completely like the white, wealthy people in the novel. The other Romani are mostly portrayed as overly superstitious. Interesting, right?
I'm going to be real honest, my expectations for the portrayal of Hungary kind of ricocheted when in chapter 5, Anna thought this:
"So this was my fate. Instead of marriage to Freddy, I was to be packed off to a country on the fringes of civilized Europe."
Look, I'm no patriot, I don't even want to live in Hungary forever, because yikes, but that is a bit too much EVEN FOR ME. There was absolutely no need for Anna to hate on Hungary or Vienna that, based on her 'judgement' is barely more passable than Hungary. When you see someone write a novel set in your country who thinks it's necessary to throw some shade even before the main character arrives, you kind of know this won't be good. Yet, as I'm a fool, I pushed on.
The portrayal of Hungary was absolutely rubbish. Again, we have the less than stellar description with many-many opportunities of giving Hungary more layers than the dreadful lands around Eszterháza. Many of the more glamorous, cosmopolitan parts of the country were just mentioned without proper description, look at the quote below that could have been a wonderful opportunity at getting into Hungarian style, or just shopping traditions.
"We walked past the fine shops on Váci Street, before veering off onto a narrow side road, our heads lowered and eyes squinted shut."
- I've never met anyone who drinks their coffee with milk and honey. Milk, sure, but not with honey, rather sugar.
- This is more of a universal thing, but storks are NOT a bad omen as Anna seemed to think so.
- The palace was incorrectly called Eszterházy estate more than one times, but it's actually written as Esterházy. (The settlement itself is called Eszerháza, which the author got right.) Small mistake, but it could have been avoided easily enough.
- Also, this is just purely personal preference, but I didn't like the translation of the Nemzeti Dal. The rhymes and rhythm felt off.
- It is true that Hungarians use if instead of when most of the time, but it's not because of being more pessimistic, this is a simple language preference.
Not sure if you know this or not, but many events of Blood Rose Rebellion actually happened in Hungary, and the revolution itself is considered one of the most - if not the most - successful revolutions in Hungarian history.
I knew there would be many changes, but I didn't expect to dislike them, to be honest. I'm not a history expert, so take these more as suggestions of what should have been added or avoided, in my opinion.
- In real life the revolution could not have happened if not for other nations rebelling against the Habsburg Empire at the same time. In the novel, though, there's little to no mention about what is happening in other parts of the Empire or Europe.
- In connection to this, the Habsburg Empire, seeing the real threat in Hungary, but not having the power at that moment to crush the revolution, bowed to the Hungarian people's wishes and let Hungary form an independent government. This means that the revolution was bloodless. In the book, the revolution went awry - many were brutally murdered, but, worst of all, the rebels broke into houses, hurting people and damaging everything they could find. I'm not saying all Hungarians were good people, but when there's this one revolution that literally didn't harm anyone, least of all the Hungarian people, why did it need to be twisted up like that? The fight scenes, I understand, but the break ins, no.
- Real historical people were added to the mix, but weren't done justice to. I felt like they were mostly there for show: to not have only the foreigners lead the fight for Hungarian freedom (by the way - real life, successful revolution reduced to something that could only happen with foreigner help... yikes). Sándor Petőfi, one of the leaders of the revolution, was portrayed as little more than a confused man who jumped from one opinion to the next. Karolina Károlyi, a wealthy woman who was famous for hosting balls and events to collect money for the revolution, was introduced as a nice lady than reduced to someone insensitive and selfish.
- Also, contrary to 'popular' belief, Hungarians don't only respect those heroes who die as martyrs. Obviously, many do die that way? But I feel like that is a universal thing, so.
Overall, I was incredibly disappointed in Blood Rose Rebellion, and most likely won't continue on with the sequel.
The story idea: 3/5
The realization of the story: 2/5
The characters: 1/5
The cover: 4/5
Enjoy factor: 2/5