Books, Reviews

A Conjuring of Light, By Victoria Schwab

5 Amazing, Amazing, Stars

Witness the fate of beloved heroes – and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

Many of you out there know that last month, for high schoolers, was AP testing season. I personally, had five AP tests to take, and a whole bunch of stress that came with it. So instead of studying, what did I do? I picked up A Darker Shade of Magic for the second time. And then I picked up the next book. And the next one. And my soul (and hopefully not my test grades) cried with the wrenching knowledge that I had just, within the span of a week, finished what is perhaps one of the most expertly crafted YA series of all time.

This isn’t a great book. This is a phenomenal one. For all the filler and buildup of the previous book, this blew away all my expectations for what the final book in this series should be, and I can probably go as far as to say that this third installment is probably the best one out of the three.

A Conjuring of Light picks up immediately after the previous book, and I have to say, the stakes were high. From the very beginning the pace is fast and action-filled, and did not relent until the end. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and spent a solid five hours (that I personally couldn’t afford to spend) flipping pages faster than I could read them.

Lila and Kell are back, and as awesome as ever, but what I didn’t expect was how much I would yearn for moments with Alucard and Rhy, both of whom I mistakenly assumed were side characters but absolutely are not. They are layered and likable in their own ways and really add depth to the story. Although there is character development, the personalities of all the characters does remain constant throughout, and I adore each and every one of them.

But the one person who stole my heart was Holland. Holland is the epitome of a tragic hero, someone forced into terrible situations that left him more than a little mangled, and I was drawn to him most of all. We get a lot more backstory on Holland’s end in this book, and it added so much to an already extremely layered character. Holland goes from villain to background character to something in between hero and villain in these three books, and in my opinion, that kind of complexity makes for the best kinds of characters. I definitely shed a tear at the end because I love his character so much.

I mentioned this in my review of the previous book, but in addition to the exquisite world building, the Schwab’s style of character romance is on point. Romances in real life don’t take precedence over all other more pressing matters, and it absolutely does not intrude even a bit on the plot here. Romantic endeavors are pushed aside to be pursued in calmer times, and that made me cherish the few ship-worthy moments. Nobody likes it when the main characters finally get together after multiple books of teasing, only to lose their capacity to keep their mouths off each other as soon as their relationship becomes official.

If I had to point out a flaw, I would say that I would have liked some answers with regards to Kell’s past, as well as a bit more dimensionality to the main villain, but these are minor in the grand scheme of the book.

Overall, the Shades of Magic series, and particularly this last installment, are phenomenal by many standards, and if you haven’t read it yet, I would suggest you get your hands in a copy as soon as humanly possible.

~Aliza

Books, Reviews

A Gathering of Shadows, by Victoria Schwab

4 Stars

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Okay, it took me forever to get to this book. Not because it was boring or anything, but because it wasn’t out when I originally read A Darker Shade of Magic, and after waiting a year for the book, I didn’t remember enough of its predecessor to pick it up. I stalled on rereading ADSOM, and only just got to it when I saw that Haven was reading it on her Goodreads feed.

Man, did I realize what a mistake I had made. ADSOM, despite having earned a spot on my “favorites” years ago, didn’t actually strike too deep a chord with me. I knew the world building was fantastic, but not until rereading did I realize how fantastic. The world building, plot, and characters were beautifully and expertly crafted, more so than I’ve seen in a while, and I couldn’t pick up the second book fast enough.

But this review is not about A Darker Shade of Magic (but if you haven’t read it yet, go read it now), but rather the second book in the series. A Gathering of Shadows picks up four months after the events of the last book, with Kell and Lila having gone their separate ways in Red London. We’re quickly introduced to what our beloved characters have been up to, and they’re just as awesome as ever. Lila is one of the coolest kickass characters I’ve ever read about, in a way that doesn’t actually seem forced; one of my pet peeves these days is authors forcing a character to either be kickass or useless, with no in between, and it irks me to see female characters reduced to two generic genres. Lila has squirmed her way onto a ship in AGOS, and introduced to an extremely likable character: Alucard Emery. Alucard is a great addition to the series, and his and Kell’s rivalry is adorable, at least once they meet in this book. Rhy and other favorites are also back, with varying levels of page time for each.

But as much as I adore this series, I can’t ignore this book for what it was: a filler. In my opinion, this entire book could have been scrapped and pertinent details crammed into the other books in the series, because all this novel does is set up the final installment. The plot of this book revolves around The Element Games, which is exactly what is sounds like, but with no real stakes. The villain just sits back and plots ominously the entire time, and the Games don’t even start until around the 60% mark, and Kell and Lila don’t reunite until much later in the book. It’s infuriating, how little stakes there are, and how long it took for anything to get done, because this was a filler book. The only reason to read it is for you to become deeply acquainted with Alucard (who is awesome, especially with Rhy) and for the last 10% of the book where stuff gets real, and the stakes are finally raised.

It’s still a great series, and I’m admittedly biased because I zipped through these books so fast I’m writing this review right now having already read through the last book (which is SO. FREAKING. GOOD). The series as a whole has one of the best world building and plot of all time, and the side romances are barely there, just a bit to complement the plot, not take over the plot. Read this book, if you’ve read the first one and aren’t sure to continue, because this and the third book will absolutely blow you away.

-Liz

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Scythe, by Neal Shusterman

3 Stars

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

I am a ginormous fan of Shusterman’s Unwind, and I rank it among some of my all time favorite books. I was used to his style of dystopia: the ones that were so well crafted, they barely felt like a teen dystopian novel in how much they made you think. Scythe’s premise contains all of these trademark Shusterman elements and after hearing him read the first chapter put loud when he visited my school (it was an interesting experience), I was thoroughly intrigued. However, this book, although enjoyable, fell flat in so many ways: the characters, the predictable plot twists, and just the way it dragged.

Scythe is about a utopian future where humans have achieved everything they’ve ever aspired to achieve (such as immortality), and as a result, need to curb population growth by installing scythes, who are the only people who can cause death by “gleaning” (aka killing) people. Our main characters are Citra and Rowan, who have been chosen as scythe apprentices- a position they don’t want, according to the blurb.

This premise sounded great to me, but immediately after starting the book, I began to see some discrepancies. Citra and Rowan, while they do dislike the act of gleaning, both accepted the position of scythe’s apprentice, meaning they absolutely had a choice in this, unlike what the blurb implies. Their characters are not too three-dimensional, and I didn’t care much about them until they started diverging and going on different paths. My biggest problem with this book, and what probably contributed to a certain degree of boredom, was the lack of risk in anything. In this utopian world, anyone who accidentally dies is automatically brought back to life in revival centers, and can only be truly killed if they are gleaned by a scythe. This eliminated any concern I had for the characters, because their lives were never really at stake.

However, despite what I may have implied so far, I didn’t dislike this book. Scythe Curie and Scythe Faraday were fascinating characters, and the world did feel like a utopia. The plot did move slowly, but wasn’t unbearably so, and was overall an enjoyable book.

Writing this review a few weeks after reading the book has changed my initial view of it, I would have to say, as the faults seemed to rise above the fray and distinguish themselves more so in my mind with time. However, I would be remiss to disregard the Neal Shusterman spark that his books always have. Despite Scythe being one of his more subpar works, it does make you think to some regard, and that, I believe, is the most important trait of them all.

-Liz

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Dream Thieves (Raven Boys #2), by Maggie Stiefvater || an engaging sequel with lots and lots of Ronan (YES to this)

20257177If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.
Ronan is one of the raven boys – a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface – changing everything in its wake.

I was initially worried about reading this sequel, because of the amount of time that passed between now and when I read The Raven Boys. I always try to continue a series at a consistent rate, because I tend to forget the story told in each previous book when I move onto the next after a long time, but it doesn’t always work out. This is the reason why getting into The Dream Thieves took a few chapters, but after sinking into the characters and settings I knew, it was such a fun, interesting read. Steifvater upgraded literally everything in this book; the writing, the atmosphere, the character arcs. It only gets better and better as it goes on.

The elevated atmosphere and Stiefvater’s effortless prose: Stiefvater’s writing in this book is effortless. I use that word in every damn review, but when I say that, it means the emotions expressed in the words are so easily understandable. I enjoyed the writing in The Raven Boys but The Dream Thieves contains some of the most beautifully stringed words ever, and the flow is absolutely perfect. This elevated nearly everything in the story, from further developing established characters (Adam and Ronan and everybody actually) and newly introduced characters (The Gray Man, Joseph Kavinsky). The homey yet mysterious vibes of the Virginia suburbs echoed throughout the events of the story, and I’ve come to love Henrietta even more.

A mix of thriller and fantasy with newer themes: This book also introduces a new fantasy aspect to add to the spirits concept … dreams. As we all know, Ronan has the mysterious ability to reach into his dreams and bring things out of it. The history of his ability and how far it can go is expanded on largely in this book, and while I thought it was a bit vague at times, most of this new information is made pretty entertaining due to some awesome characterization, which we’ll get to later. I also loved the mysterious Gray Man subplot going on, and I thought it was perfectly interpolated with the fantasy elements.

Them characters throughhhhh: I really like how Steifvater is doing this thing where each of her books focus on a specific character. While all the characters were greatly written, The Raven Boys was clearly dominated by Gansey and Adam, and this time around it’s Ronan and I couldn’t be happier about it. I stated before in my Raven Boys review that I understood that Ronan was complex, but I found him to be a tad underdeveloped regardless. Well, that’s changed. Ronan is crafted into difficult, angsty, complex, and all the way vulnerable person with a number of secrets throughout this book, and I definitely gained a whole new perspective on him. The Raven Boys only gave us a glimpse of Ronan, and The Dream Thieves tries to take us all the way. In fact, Steifvater’s character writing is so improved, I feel as though she can take Ronan’s persona to an even more complex level.

Despite the focus on Ronan, Gansey and Adam are also incredibly defined and present throughout this book. Adam is just starting to come to terms with his act of awakening the ley line in the previous installment, and has troubles with his relationship with Gansey, and newly, Blue. Gansey himself is struggling to deal with Adam, and in this book, we see the adventurous and ambitious side of him, as well as the broken and bleak side. Noah flashes in and out, can’t say much about him. Joseph Kavinsky and I carry a complicated relationship, and I can’t say much about him because spoilers. But, watch out for this dude. He’s way more important than you think. The Gray Man is another new character, and I absolutely love him. The way he’s introduced and maintained throughout the story is very anonymous and quiet, but after discovering more and more of his true nature and past, he becomes a very interesting character.

I’m still lost on Blue and I don’t know why. Her issues are definitely more defined in this one, she’s struggling with her identity and purpose, as well as her relationship with Adam and Gansey. And, of course, there’s that no-kiss deal. Yeah, she’s got problems, but I really can’t understand them and dive into her personality. I still like her jabbing, sarcastic remarks, but she seems very unnecessarily irritable throughout, and I just don’t get it. It’s probably just me though, because every other character in this series so far is wonderfully written.

The Raven Cycle is turning out to be a pretty kickass series, and I can’t wait to read the next installment, which is apparently focused on Blue. Hopefully it turns around my opinion on her and keeps up with the greatness The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves have delivered so far.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (reread + re-review) | an utter disappointment this time around

17756559Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

I read The Winner’s Curse for the first time approximately 2 years ago (interestingly, in April too 0.0), and I rated it 4 stars. I also put it in my ‘awesomeness’ shelf on Goodreads, yet never happened to fully review it. Why, I decided not to review it, will always be mysterious to me, perhaps I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought it did and was going along with the extensive hype it had during the time. I’ll never know, but after this re-read (originally in preparation for the sequel I had pretty much ignored), my opinions have changed drastically. I don’t know what my original opinions were, but I’ve noticed so many aspects that are lacking, faulty, or underdeveloped in this book and I can only attribute it to my changed tastes and possible iffiness on the book initially.

The underdeveloped world-building and flat atmosphere: The Winner’s Curse is extremely lacking in world-building. Glaringly lacking. The only elements that display a semblance of a setting, are the facts that we already know from the summary: the Herrani have been enslaved under the Valorians for a good amount of time and Valorians are masterful warriors. Valorian culture itself is hardly touched upon in the book, and there are only about 2-3 paragraphs in the entire that explain how they conquered the Herrani in minor detail. The Herrani were supposed to be a cultured and highly advanced country, however none of that richness is touched upon at all. I have no sense of the Herrani traditions, religion, and social norms, or the Valorians’ culture besides their obvious military power. Arin and other Herrani mention things like, ‘the god of lies’ or ‘the god of madness’ but who are these gods?? Why are they mentioned? What significance do they carry to the Valorians and Herrani themselves? Kestrel goes to many parties and functions throughout the course of this book, yet I have no idea how society works and what the atmosphere of the aristocrats is. There isn’t even an atmosphere at all, actually. While the writing is quite nice and even beautiful at times, it is severely lacking in detail when it comes to description. Most of the time I do not know what anything looks like, such as the governor’s palace or the market place that are briefly mentioned yet not described at all. I don’t know what the aesthetic is, and by this I’m not talking about tumblr or some shit. I’m saying that I do not know what to picture as the story goes on, because there is no sense of setting at all.

What is even worse, is the fact that I cannot muster any feelings for the Valorians or Herrani slaves because I know absolutely nothing about them. We are only told that the Herrani are treated terribly, but there are hardly any examples of this treatment. There are only vague references to murder and mistreatment, but we never get to hear any stories or see any of this. In fact, this book’s concept of slavery is not even fully executed. The book shies away from everything that makes enslavement a brutal, terrible thing and covers it up with Kestrel and Arin’s vague and unexplored thoughts about whatever. So how am I supposed to sympathize with the Herrani? How do I make myself root for them or want for them to succeed and acquire the justice they supposedly deserve? Telling is most certainly not showing, and this book is almost all telling. The Valorians are just as flat, and I’m honestly confused if I am supposed to hate them or like them, or feel anything for them really. They are all talk and no show, the Valorians are only deemed ‘cruel’ do to their capture of the Herrani, yet I cannot believe in that cruelty because are hardly any places in the book in which a Valorian even interacts with a slave. I have no idea what the dynamic between a Valorian and Herrani is, and it is embarrassingly clear that the slavery concept was partially created for the sake of star-crossed lovers and an angsty romance.

Dear god, I am ripping this book apart.

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The equally boring characters (except for Kestrel, thank god): There are a majority of characters in this book that are nameless, which is unfortunate since they could have added to the emotional aspect of this book, but the characters that do have names are so useless and drab, they might as well have been nameless. Arin doesn’t have much of a personality, he is monotone and emotionless throughout, and while that might just be his ‘character’, I was really waiting for him to blow up and show some emotion. It doesn’t have to be explosive, I just need to know he’s alive every now and then, because this man has barely any presence. Kestrel’s social circle, Jess, Ronan, Benix, and Irex are equally pointless and somewhat one-dimensional characters that are only meant to up Kestrel’s angst and give her more to think about other than Arin. Kestrel herself is a great character, I love her shrewd, cunning nature and how she is constantly plotting something. She’s smart, but is not met with surprise and unnecessary praise whenever she shows it off. My only problem with her rests in her thoughts for Arin, leading us into the dreaded romance section.

A confusing, and dare I say it, baseless love story: I honestly have no idea where the hell the romance between Arin and Kestrel came from. In the very beginning of the story, Kestrel buys Arin for practically no reason (she lowkey states this) just to move the plot along, and they barely interact throughout, because um, he’s a slave! Most of their ‘interactions’ are both of them staring at each other across the room at parties Kestrel attends, and these instances end up in one of them choosing to leave. The only time where they actually spend some time together is when they play Bite And Sting (a card game) together. I don’t understand what made Arin fall in love with Kestrel and what Kestrel saw in Arin. Kestrel never even sympathizes or tries to understand Arin’s struggle with slavery, and whatever motivates her to worry about or think about him is clearly not expanded on in the least. Arin is equally vague and superficial with his feelings for Kestrel. He doesn’t show any signs of attraction toward Kestrel and is pretty indifferent to her outings throughout the book. They are both separate in terms of interest and class but suddenly, a romance! Attraction! Angst! How did this happen? Someone enlighten me, I’m serious.

Putting aside my disdain and disappointment in everything listed above, I can recognize some positive aspects of the book. The writing is beautiful, and while it isn’t so special to absolutely blow you away, many of the ideas communicated are not forceful and said well-enough to make me feel something or another. I appreciated the effort to explore military tactics and overall strategic and political nature of the last few chapters. One thing this book does do right, is that it actually talks of more serious elements existing in fantasy worlds, politics and military and war. Unsurprisingly, this side of the book is only brought out in the last few chapters, and also unsurprisingly, I didn’t care enough by that time to read these strategies fully. But, they are well-thought out and some discussion I enjoyed.

This review is absolutely brutal and a complete 180 from what I thought it would be, but I’m glad I finally got my feelings down. I am still going to read the second book regardless of my indifference for this one, in hopes of it being better. Pray for me.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Heartless, by Marissa Meyer

18584855

4.25 stars

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Heartless is one of the most imaginative, well-written, and likable books I have read in awhile. And twisty, very twisty. I’ve been in a bit of a ‘disliking streak’ throughout March, as I’ve rated nearly every book 2 stars or 3 stars. I feel as though none of the books I’m reading lately are truly wowing me, but this one definitely did up until THAT SHITSTORM OF AN ENDING. More on that later, y’all. I’m still kind of rage-y.

Heartless is essentially a re-telling of Alice In Wonderland, which follows Catherine Pinkerton, the daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove, who lives in the kingdom of Hearts. Cath is constantly courted by the King of Hearts, and prodded by her parents to fulfill their dreams by marrying him, but Cath is far more interested in finding her own destiny and finally opening up the bakery she has always wanted, along with her friend and servant, Mary. After meeting Jest, the new court joker, at the royal ball, she feels a strong attraction toward him and they both become closer and closer in secret. But, Cath’s destiny is already much more planned out than she had ever imagined as she gets wrapped up in wave of intrigue, magic, and mystery.

The perfectly atmospheric writing: Meyer’s storytelling is as effortless, fun, and beautiful as ever. It’s incredible how every single moment of this novel is perfectly and intricately described, from the event, emotion, and expression. This aspect doesn’t even make the book boring or overwrought with details because of the way Meyer combines more serious writing with true entertainment. She gets the balance between darkness and light, imaginative and realistic, so right. I honestly came into this book thinking it was mainly a forbidden romance that equal parts speaks of 19th century societal issues, and while it is and does just that, there are tons of darker, more mysterious elements to up the plot and action. None of these aspects out-do each other, managing to not only create a perfect story, but a perfect retelling. There are many original characters of Alice In Wonderland incorporated into the story, including Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and even a reference to Alice herself falling down the hole. While the story doesn’t surround Alice, the same whimsical and imaginative vibe is present in Heartless. 

The most likable yet flawed cast ever: Meyer’s characters never disappoint, so I’m not surprised that the characters are my favorite part of the novel. Every single person in this book, even the minor characters, are so well-described and defined. From the snobby Margaret Mearle to the childish King of Hearts, none of the characters feel wasted or lacking in identity. Everyone has a realistic presence and contain so much life. The main characters are so likable and honest despite their flaws. I loved Cath’s ambition and passion, as well as her subtle haughty, petty attitude. Her struggles toward following her dreams and defying society’s roles were so realistic and relatable, especially concerning the time period she lives in. She tends to be a bit too spotlighted throughout the story, but remains likable due to the masterful character writing. Jest is one of the most charming male leads ever, you can’t help but fall for him, and Hatta’s complexity and overall nature is also well-done.

That adorable romance: Heart eyes, y’all, heart eyes for this couple. They just fit together so perfectly, and you can sense it right off the page when they first meet. Their actual romantic relationship develops later in the book, but their subtle flirtations, witty banter, and overall charm is so abundant that I partially wanted them to stay in that “I think I’m falling in love with you” stage. There were moments, of course, that dealt with their angst and their discussion concerning the fact that they couldn’t be together, that were frustrating in the best way possible. What is also frustrating, in not a good way though, is the end result of their relationship, which I cannot expand on because spoilers. But nonetheless, FAVES.

*sighs* when everything turned to shit:

Marissa Meyer,

Image result for why gif

Those last few chapters were such a 180 from the original atmosphere, and while Cath’s character development is to be acknowledged (in a good way or bad way, I honestly don’t know how to feel) during those taxing last pages, but there was absolutely no resolve to it. I can’t spoil things for you guys, but I’ll just say that I was nice in docking only 0.75 of a star. That ending destroyed everything for me, but I was reminded of how much I enjoyed the rest of the book so I held back. I’m still hella angry though.

Overall, Heartless was a thoroughly enjoyable story, and I can definitely see myself re-reading this in the future. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an entertaining yet mysterious retelling, Marissa Meyer style.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Blood Rose Rebellion, by Rosalyn Eves

31020402

1.5 stars

The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

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.

*An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

I apologize for posting an ARC review so close to the actual release date, but I’m going to blame it on the book just as much as I blame it on myself for lack of time management. Wow, talk about disappointing. Blood Rose Rebellion was one of my most anticipated fantasy releases this year, but what I wanted to be an exciting, thrilling, and rich fantasy turned out to be bland, uninteresting, and simply not as different, enrapturing, or likable as it should have been.

Blood Rose Rebellion follows Anna Arden, a sixteen-year old who is incapable of conduction and holding magic, and therefore ostracized from her society of powerful spellcasters. However, she does have a knack for breaking spells, and this lands in her hot water after accidentally breaking her older sister’s debut spell to properly enter Luminate society. Because of this, Anna is sent to Hungary along with her maid and grandmother temporarily until the drama surrounding the incident simmers down in London. In Hungary, Anna is surprised to find she is in demand as she stumbles upon secrets on top of secrets about the Luminate and their true intentions. With the backdrop of a Hungarian revolution, Anna realizes her role in the history of magic and takes part in a series of tricky decisions that might as well determine the fate of magic and European society.

I actually do like the time period and setting of this novel. It takes place in the 1800s and starts off in England, before switching over to Hungary. Unfortunately, these settings were barely expanded on or utilized to address more interesting elements such as the folklore, mythology, and overall social culture. There is a lot of talk from Anna on fitting in and wanting to belong in society, but the nature of that society is never even touched upon and I have no sense of identity from Luminate society. We are also only given glimpses of the Hungarian tales and myths, and those Hungarian terms used seemed to offend a whole lot of folks on Goodreads. We are only told the characteristics of certain places, events, and actions, it is never properly described or shown, so I honestly do not have much of a connection to what goes on most of the time throughout this book. Not to mention it was boring as hell! The storytelling was extremely pedestrian and draining, those info-dumps towards the beginning of the book partially added to my lack of focus on the book’s plot and world-building.

The characters are just as lifeless as the writing. I’m entirely indifferent to Anna Arden, she has no personality or character traits, there is nothing to make me hate her or like her. Usually, I’m inclined to dislike and be irritated by special snowflake female characters who get their ass kissed consistently, and while Anna is a special snowflake, she doesn’t annoy me or please me or make me feel anything. Before reading the book, I had made the mistake of assuming Anna would remain barred from society and not deemed as ‘special’, as this factor would lead to the journey of self-actualization, discovering oneself, and maybe even realizing magic and belonging in a group was not needed to feel confident and self-assured. I had thought Anna would be so much more than a cliched, typical, special snowflake. Y’all might think its a bit of a stretch, hoping for that much out a YA book, but I’ve always hoped that YA authors would learn from others’ mistakes and not repeat the same damn things. Sadly, I was severely let down, and hopefully this motivates you guys to not assume high expectations for any kind of book. The rest of the characters are just as lifeless. There is no fire, no vigor, no semblance of life in any of these people no matter how much they try to rebel, retort, fit in, or … do anything, really. It’s pretty sad to fail that spectacularly when there is a revolution and all this intrigue going on.

Much to my dissatisfaction, Blood Rose Rebellion was one of the most uninteresting books I have ever read, and trust me, I have read quite a few. I’ve always stated that a boring book is worse than a bad book, but I would take both of those rather than read a story that makes you feel absolutely nothing inside. Hopefully, y’all have a better experience with this one when it comes out tomorrow!

-Haven