Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

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Title: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves
Published: March 28th 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 416
Where’d I Get It: Physical Arc via Publisher
Rating: 2 stars

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.

A copy of this showed up at my house from the publisher, quite the surprise. I was pretty excited. Unfortunately, the book itself didn’t quite live up to that excitement. 

It started off really slow. Anna Arden is of the elite class, and the rest of her family are magic users, or Luminate. For some reason, Anna herself doesn’t seem to have the magic, and has been labeled Barren by the council. The book starts off with her being head over hills for this dude, flirting with him unchaperoned in a room of the house, kissing him with fervor in a dark garden during a party. That’s also not the only boy in the book she kisses. Her cousin plants one on her mouth and flusters her, plus her impending romance with Gábor ensures that he kisses her more than once.

The plot actually starts when Anna destroys her sister’s debut into society by literally warping and squashing her coming out spell, the spell that would show her ability and get her education, job and marriage prospects. Good job there, Anna. Therefore, in order to wait for this scandal to blow over, Anna is sent to Hungary with her grandma.

Most of the characters in this book have alarmingly complicated names, and some are actual historical figures. We’re thrown into a Hungary in the midst of a rebellion, where the people want to rule themselves, and not be ruled by their magical overlords. The Circle holds all the magic, and only piecemeals it out to the rich and powerful, even then limiting how much they can use. Those born poor but adept at magic are not ever given the chance to wield it.

One bit of spooky prose, and Anna finds herself hanging out with some Romani. She makes friends with one of the Romani boys, Gábor, and observes that they know how to do magic without the need of the Circle’s ceremony to awaken magic. She asks him to teach her, and he originally says no, eventually giving in and teaching her magic. Anna can’t even master the Romani magic, unable to grasp even the basics of it. She does, however, break any spells cast near her, setting part of the Romani camp on fire, to which they respond by banishing Gábor and packing up and leaving.

From the beginning of the book, the rebellion has wanted Anna to destroy the Binding that keeps magic for the rich, return magic to the masses. Gábor doesn’t want her to, but literally everyone else in the book is 100% on board with this plan, unless they’re rich and entitled. So, for the rest of the book, Anna spends most of the time going into the dimension of the binding and deciding if she’s going to possibly break the spell or not. The thing is, the binding is full of unearthly creatures, creatures that are full of malice, and some that are full of grace and gifts, and Anna has to decide if she wants to open that Pandora’s box, as well as the one that would allow people untrained in magic to use it, potentially killing themselves without proper guidance as the magic eats them from the inside.

The rebellion continues unabated as Anna makes her choice, and also learns that she’s literally the most super special of special people out there, which was hinted at in the beginning of the book but not confirmed until the book was almost over. So far, it’s not too Mary Sue-ish, but also seems easy to get around now that she knows how to do so?

Honestly, knowing nothing of any Hungarian rebellions, I have nothing to say on that aspect. I do know that the book itself was just so-so for me. It moved along so slow and even when some exciting things happened, it had that problem where the prose was so flowery, that it didn’t convey much urgency and so even the exciting parts of the book were set on that same plodding word path as the entire rest of the book. Whether she was sitting talking to her grandma or stabbing someone, the tone was the same, so I never sensed any urgency or really connected with anything that was happening.

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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton [Review]

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Title: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Published: March 8th 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 314
Where’d I Get It: Purchase (ebook)
Rating: 4 stars

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

I honestly wasn’t expecting a lot from this book. A lot of the time when a YA novel is loved by everyone, I tend to be the black sheep. I read it anyway. I got about halfway through and set it down because I found Jin to be insufferable and the plot wasn’t moving. Once I picked it back up, though, I finished over the course of the next couple hours.

Yeah, okay. It was good despite itself. Despite the love interest. Despite the Mary Sue surprise. It kept my interest and made me want more. When does the next one come out? Beginning of March? Okay, that’s not so bad. I probably would have thrown something if it wasn’t out until deep fall.

Our main character, Amani, lives in a desert kingdom, or like the desert outskirts of a kingdom? I wasn’t really sure there. Turns out setting a book down halfway through makes you a bit iffy on the historical details. She lives in a town that manufactures guns, and she herself is quite a good shot with a weapon. Attempting to use that to her advantage, she’s attempting to get out of her possible marriage to her uncle (ew), and a society that sees women as mere possessions of the men they live with.

A series of mishaps and one unlawful yet mysterious stranger later, Amani finds herself leaving town on the back of one of the sundry of mythical beasts that roam the desert. Jin, the accompanying stranger, annoyed me for the first half of the book. I was honestly immensely happy when Amani rid herself of him and trekked off on her own. There’s not many YA novels that would do that. Unfortunately, and where I basically rage quit the book, Jin just happened to catch up to her. I get it, there’s one train to anywhere cool, but having literally all of Amani’s conflicts on it at once got a little tedious.

Okay, now, after this point, the train escape and the endless desert wandering, is where the book gets good. We’re opened up to a whole slew of secondary characters all of who have tons more backstory and motivation than Jin. Jin’s backstory is a bit meh, but we’ve got a bad ass warrior woman and some half-Djinn children who can do sundries of magical feats. The jovial nature and jocularity of the group just made me love them all that much more. I mean, the ones who were involved. Those shape-shifting folks? Still have no idea if they do anything but hang around naked and shape shift.

The titled character, the Rebel Prince, had some motivation, but it wasn’t like that much motivation. Mostly it just seemed like whoops there’s a revolution. He even stated at one point that he got a tattoo one drunk evening and now it’s the symbol of the revolution. He seems to be very much in the middle of Katniss Everdeen face of the revolution avalanche, despite any wishes he might have had on his own. I mean, I don’t really understand the motivations of any of the factions in this book, really. There’s three of them and that doesn’t really help. I get that one is weirdly prejudiced against magic. Then the other two, meh? They want to be in charge or they want everyone to be happy? Is that right? I don’t know. It was all sort of flim-flam anyway.

Past this point, the book is a lot of twists and turns and random deaths. Even Amani being a surprise Mary Sue didn’t hurt the storyline all that much. It was presented in such a way that it worked out and made sense in the end.

One can only hope the second book keeps with the momentum of the last half of the first and doesn’t fall into the sophomore slump that I see so much with YA novels that are set as trilogies. Fingers crossed! I guess we’ll find out when we get to March.