It’s difficult to create a fantasy series that is unique in light of the plethora of fantasy series aimed at young adult readers. Rosalyn Eves’ “Blood Rose Rebellion” will remind the reader of other fantasy series wherein the main character lives in a world where magic rules.
In this world, those who have magic and are allowed to use it, the Luminate, are limited to the upper class. Anna Arden was born into this class, but when she was eight years old, at her Confirmation (when children are tested and allowed the connection to be able to use magic), it was discovered that she was Barren. She did not have the ability to use magic. Because of that, her chances at finding a husband or even being accepted by polite society were slim.
Anna inadvertently ruins her sister’s debutante ball by destroying her sister’s elaborate spell. Anna had shown her poor judgment when she secretly met a young man named Freddy, a man of good birth but no morals, and then kissed him. He was the reason that she ruined her sister’s spell, as he had convinced her to sneak into the party. Freddy had also been, unknown to Anna, pursuing her sister Catherine. When confronted after Catherine’s ball was ruined, Freddy refused to marry either one of them and left.
The Circle, those who basically run the magic show in this society, is curious about how Anna ruined the spell since she was Barren and theoretically unable to do magic. They want to investigate her abilities, but to protect her, her family sends her to Hungary with her grandmother.
In Hungary, Anna finds that she can destroy spells, and it happens even unintentionally. She visits her cousins’ impoverished estate and there meets and befriends two cousins. The estate is described as a Hungarian Versailles, and this, like some of the history in the story, is based on a real place.
Anna’s story is that she is determined, from the beginning of the book, to break the “Binding,” that which controls the world’s magic (or at least the magic in Europe) so that only those who are permitted access to it may practice magic. The common people, even those who might have magical abilities, cannot access them because they are not given a chance to. Those in power have ensured that only those in power may use magic.
There is that unbalance in society and the even greater disparity in how the Romani (Gypsies) are treated. Unfortunately, this, too, is based on real history. But Anna is determined to right the wrongs of society come what may.
While this novel has some real faults, there are also some good reasons to read it. Eves is talented at creating an alternate world and at describing the settings of the story. She includes just enough details to enable the reader to picture the different settings and imagine the different magical creatures that Eves creates. Eves has thought about the magical society and created people who can use magic in different ways. Some can control animals, others nature. While she doesn’t explore this as much as one might hope, it’s possible that in future novels this element will become more important. Eves gives the reader a glimpse of some of the otherworldly creatures who escape into the world when (spoiler alert) Anna breaks the binding. In future books, there will undoubtedly be more about these fascinating beings. Also, this is the author’s first book, and it is a series. The writing is bound to improve as the series continues.
There are several reasons why this novel doesn’t work as well as it should. Even though Anna narrates the story, the first person narration doesn’t really give the reader a feeling of closeness to Anna. Her various attractions to different men, starting with Freddy and ending with a Romani, just don’t feel real. She doesn’t really share with the reader why she is attracted to these men with any real emotion. It almost seems at times as if it’s just her hormones. “My whole body sang, sparks dancing from my toes to the crown of my head.” Yet when meeting a woman who wants to be her friend, she mentions “warmth rising from my toes.” In parts of the novel, women are treated as second-class citizens, but there are also powerful women who help control the Circle.
So this is the start of a series with potential. Anna needs to be a character with whom readers will connect. She needs to explain her actions and her feelings better. Why does she love the Romani? Why does she fall in love at the drop of a hat and without much explanation or reason?
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Knopf Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.