My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thank you, Penguin Random House, for sending me an ARC of this book (all the way from New York) in exchange for an honest review.
I was different. I could choose to see it as a gift. I could embrace my own power. I could change the world. —Anna
I’ve noticed that some readers have been marking this book as DNF, so it’s the perfect time for me to voice my thoughts and opinions on this fantastic start to a trilogy. I hope that my review will persuade you not to expect the worst from this book. Nevertheless, I promise to be objective as I possibly can.
Essentially, Blood Rose Rebellion is about Anna Arden, who is a pariah among the Luminates (the magical elite). Labeled as a Barren in light of her incapability to perform even the simplest of spells, she is hated more for her unique ability to shatter or dispel all kinds of magic. Anna sees her ability as a curse, especially when it results in her exile to Hungary, a country dominated by the Austrian Luminates. There, as Anna desperately searches for a way to overcome her curse, she is thrust into a world teetering on the edge of a revolution.
From a bird’s eye view, Blood Rose Rebellion is similar to most dystopian novels in that it features a society plagued by the struggle between the upper and lower classes. As expected, the rich possess supernatural/magical abilities which they use to subtly oppress the poor. However, this book is refreshing because the story is entirely told from the perspective of someone belonging to the upper class.
With that in mind, I enjoyed this book mainly because it gave me the rare opportunity to see the upper class in a different light. Although the antagonists in the novel were still from the upper class, I was glad to encounter a dystopian work that did not typically portray the bourgeoisie as necessarily evil. Kudos to benevolent royals! xD
I also found this book delightful because of the beautiful complexity of its magic system. In Blood Rose Rebellion, there are four orders of Luminates or spell casters, and each of them has an intriguing set of abilities, such as animal persuasion, truth spells, weather magic, and temporal (time) manipulation. Furthermore, each order’s magic is given and governed by a mysterious and ethereal entity known as the Binding. As an avid fan of RPG games like Final Fantasy, I thankfully had no trouble comprehending (and thereby appreciating) the mechanics of this world.
The last thing I liked about this book was its historical content. As stated in the Author’s Note, Blood Rose Rebellion is actually a loose retelling of the Austrian-Hungarian War, which lasted from 1477 to 1478. Before I read this novel, I did not know anything about Austria. As for Hungary, all I knew was its capital, Budapest. Hahaha. Considering my pitiful ignorance, reading this book was definitely a very enlightening experience. It reminded me of the time I read The Bear and the Nightingale, which became my very own literary primer on Russian culture.
Ultimately, the only problem I had with this book was Anna. I sympathized with her desire for familial and social acceptance, but I particularly disliked her rebellious streak. I honestly cannot remember a time when she willingly obeyed her authorities. Her impulsiveness was also irksome because it often put her loved ones in danger. I am generally not fond of selfish characters, so I couldn’t help but feel detached towards Anna.
To sum up my thoughts and feels, Blood Rose Rebellion is worth your time. I strongly encourage you to give it a shot, especially if you are fond of history, fantasy, and political intrigue. I really enjoyed its refreshing, stimulating, and educational content, so I am more than happy to give it 4 stars.