Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The White Rose, by Amy Ewing


4 stars

Violet is on the run. After the Duchess of the Lake catches Violet with Ash, the hired companion at the Palace of the Lake, Violet has no choice but to escape the Jewel or face certain death. So along with Ash and her best friend, Raven, Violet runs away from her unbearable life of servitude.
But no one said leaving the Jewel would be easy. As they make their way through the circles of the Lone City, Regimentals track their every move, and the trio barely manages to make it out unscathed and into the safe haven they were promised—a mysterious house in the Farm.
But there’s a rebellion brewing, and Violet has found herself in the middle of it. Alongside a new ally, Violet discovers her Auguries are much more powerful than she ever imagined. But is she strong enough to rise up against the Jewel and everything she has ever known?
The White Rose is a raw, captivating sequel to The Jewel that fans won’t be able to put down until the final shocking moments.

The Lone City series seems to be a clear addiction to me; I’m already zipping through this series faster than a few other ones, solely due to my sheer curiosity and thirst for the entertainment. While many fans of the series (and non-fans) seemed to have criticized the sequel, but I thought it was pretty worthy of some praise. Besides being an easy and addicting read, it made steps toward improving its world-building, character development, and plot elements, thankfully.

The White Rose starts off right where it left off — Garnet’s voice is heard through arcana, and he comes to take Violet, Ash, and Raven to a safe place which Lucien has chosen for them. From there on out, it’s a slow but wild adventure to find a safe haven as they continue to discover secrets about the Jewel, the remaining surrogates, and even Raven and Ash’s troublesome past. It’s a bit on the slow side, but interesting regardless because we experience a number of intriguing, haunting, and straight-up disturbing realities on the way. The Black Key, a secret society of rebels (every dystopian novel has to have one, of course) creeps up on us, as they bump into our characters, guiding them to the assigned safe area. It was a bit slower and not as action-packed as I imagined, I would have appreciated less conversation (and melodrama, to an extent) and more action, but it was readable nonetheless.

The second was considerably more enjoyable, in my opinion. Violet and her crew finally reach an abandoned cottage (nicknamed The White Rose) and meet up with Lucien. As they relax and catch up on the current state of their world, Violet learns how to properly extinguish and control her powers through a woman named Sil, an ex-surrogate and member of The Black Key. Ewing perfectly uses this opportunity to explore the origins of the Auguries and the hidden yet unlimited power that surrogates hold. While the fantasy element is not something I had approved of in The Jewel, now that it is expanded, I have come to appreciate it more. A history of the beginning of The Lone City, as well as the plethora of secrets hidden from surrogates and common people alike, are finally revealed and elaborated on. While the usage of the elements and origin of magic is still a bit vague and lazy, it’s a lot more world-building than what was presented in The Selection or Wither.

The characters are improving, I can definitely see it. Ash’s backstory is delved into in this one and while he’s still completely bland and useless, he’s developing somewhat of a personality shaped by his uncomfortable past and yearning to be useful. He’s definitely earned some sympathy from me, but it’s going to take much more for me to like him (or even develop somewhat of an opinion on him). Raven’s story is also explored, and it’s just as twisted and daunting as I had imagined it would be. Even while she’s weak and helpless for majority of the book, she emits a certain charm that I hope to see again when she’s strong and ready to be what she used to be. Garnet is the least expanded on but still my favorite character of the bunch, he’s so full of life and personality (unfortunately, these are qualities missing from the rest of the characters) and makes an easy impression despite the short amount of time he is present in this book. I’ll be honest, these characters aren’t as deep or three-dimensional as one would expect, but they’re alright for the type of concept and writing style presented in what I’ve read so far.

I was dissatisfied with the progression (or lack thereof) of Violet’s character though, she was extremely distant and unresponsive for at least half of the book. There was barely any input from her voice until she finally reached The White Rose and started training with Sil. Even from there, Violet’s thoughts never really showcased her personality or character development, her voice was typical of a YA dystopian heroine. Character-wise, it’s only the supporting cast that’s probably going to keep me afloat if our leading lady doesn’t change in the final installment.

Overall, The White Rose was a substantial sequel and will be enjoyed by readers searching for less romance and more world-building and intrigue. Ewing must really like cliffhangers, and it’s probably guaranteed that I will have The Black Key in my hands by next week.