Published By: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released: March 28th
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own though.
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.
I had some major issues with this book. It was very readible. The writing was easy to digest and I liked the first person narration. And in the beginning I found Anna funny and sharp whited. I didn’t struggle with being bored per say. My issues were with content. And as the book went out it just kept getting worse. So I’m just going to go through the different aspects of the book and tell you what was and wasn’t working out for me.
World building was decent in that it was very descriptive and I could easily picture Hungary and the castle that Anna was staying in. A lot of the places and people mentioned are real monuments and the people actually lived in Hungary. That’s pretty cool right?Well upon further reflection I realized that Eves had this habit of spelling a word one way on one page and a different way on the next. I’m obviously not from Hungary so I didn’t know if it was just me. Upon further research I found this review. This reviewer is from Hungary and can better speak about representation and cultural references. Apparently the spelling WAS off and many of the cultural references were as well. I mean I understand that this is fantasy but if you are using real places then you should do your research about them.
Character development was lacking. Anna admits to feeling “wishy washy” yet self proclaims that she is usually not this way. I thought she was wishy washy the entire time. Anna is so desperate for magic and belonging that she just doesn’t make decisions. Or if she does it’s last minute and not well thought through. I understand the plot line of wanting to belong, but usually that guides the MC into doing something drastic. Not staying silent. Anna’s cousin’s had some inappropriate behaviors. Noemi wasn’t aloof but rude. And she was mad about something that Anna a) apologized for and b) Had no way of knowing about. Matyas was painted as a flirt and almost a love interest from HER POINT OF VIEW! Girl! You’re cousins! Even if that was acceptable back in the 1840’s you JUST had your heart broken.
The plot was part of what drew me to this novel to begin with. I thought it would be a one girl revolution. But not only was Anna not making decisions, but the people driving her to help their cause would suddenly appear and then suddenly disappear. I think one of the side characters was supposed to be a force pushing her towards striking back at the Circle but it didn’t read that way. It read like a side story for Anna us to watch Anna being desperate. No thank you. Plot twists came out of no where. And not like “Ohh that surprised me.” More like “Why? What’s the point of this? And how did you build to this?” I just wasn’t very satisfied.
Another issue I had with this story is Anna’s love life. After being sent to Hungary she is stalked by one male character who is trying to get her to join the revolution. She didn’t tell him where she was going he “found her.” Then she says no and continues her to journey to her uncle’s castle. He follows her AGAIN and pushes the issue. When did stalking people across countries become ok? Then Anna is basically raped. She is kissed by two different characters without her permission. And both times she pushes the guy away and says “No!” They do not apologize. One says “Next time I kiss you, I promise you’ll ask.” Eww. And the other becomes her love interest. WHAT?!?! He slams his lips onto yours without you’re permission and now you have feelings for him?!?! This character goes on to emotionally manipulate Anna a few times. “If you trust me, you’ll tell me.” No. Just No.
So why did I keep reading? Because I wanted to know why Anna was barren and why she was hearing voices.
I didn’t really like this one at all. If you can’t tell. Here are some reasons you might like it. If you can get past the unwanted kissing and just see the revolution you might like this book. If you know nothing about Hungary and don’t care about historical or cultural inaccuracies then you might enjoy this book. If you think the driving question of the novel is “Why is Anna Barren” and you don’t care about the rest then maybe you will find this novel interesting.
Let me know down below if you have read this and what your opinion on it was. I hope you guys are having a lovely day!