My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I went into this book with the expectations that this might be a veiled repeat of what every YA fantasy is. Honestly, I wasn't that inaccurate in the prediction department.
This book follows a "Barren" girl, Anna who goes to Hungary with her grandmother who originated from there. Her family is part of the Luminate, a powerful and rich group in society who is controlled by the "Circle," an elite group of magic-holders. The time-frame of this is set during an uprising revolution, where Anna must choose which side to fight on and how she's going to use what she has to help those in need.
The best parts of the story, was the setting which was Hungary. I personally found it to be very refreshing, as I've never seen a book written in this place before. I would have liked the author to expand a little bit more on the historical impact and circumstances which lead to this actually happening, but you can't have everything.
All of the character absolutely fell flat for me, there was no life, no personality, no flair to make them who they are. I was very disappointed to see yet another cardboard cutout of any average white girl, who is portrayed as a "special snowflake" with "special powers", and acts like the chosen one is in town.
There was an insta-love element, and the main character literally kisses every boy that she meets and she finds even mildly attractive. I am honestly not trying to be slut-shaming at all here, but I just find it disconcerting that she flits from one guy to another, when her sister literally has an almost arranged marriage to marry for money and power. The chemistry wasn't in there with any of the many love interests that she has, I just couldn't and didn't ship them in anyway whatsoever; therefore I didn't care what happened to them as a unit.
**Disclaimer: I don't identify with this group of marginalized folks that I am going to be talking about in this bit below.**
My big problem was problematic rep. that was shown towards the "gypsy" (a slur which if offensive) people, who are called Romani as well in this book. Let me just show you some direct quotes from the test about what I mean. So some background, which may be a contain spoilers. Our MC love interest in Romani, and treated horrible by the members of the Circle. Anna has several encounters with the Romani people, where I feel like she is racist towards them stereotypes them. Here are just a couple of excerpts :
"A spark of indignation lit me, warning me in the evening air. How dare this Gypsy accuse me of being unclean?"
'His words were educated--eloquent, even-- not something I'd expected from a Gypsy."
"I have met an astoundingly attractive man. He is, unfortunately Gypsy and penniless..."
"Do I suprise you? You think because I am a Gypsy I am illiterate and ignorant of science?
'No', I-- I stopped. That was precisely what I had been thinking."
"Were he not Gypsy-no, Romani- I thought we might be friends."
"A couple of children spotted me and came running. They tugged at my sleeve and laughed and held out small brown hands. My first instinct was to pull back, as if they might pollute me."
Gabor, the love interest, tries to educate her and talk to her about who his people are, what their traditions are, yet she still treats him inferiority. Refers to him being a "gypsy" behind his back, and doesn't think of him as being capable of helping her succeed. These injustices and internalized prejudice is addressed by the author in the author's note and sporadically the character witness these crimes (and does nothing to help or step in, only cares about saving her love interest). Here is a sentence from the author's note:
I choose to use "Romani" to acknowledge this preference and to reflect the different between the way Gabor views his family and friends (and the way Anna comes to) and outsider perspectives. Where "Gypsy" is used, it refers strictly to outsiders' perspectives of Romani life.
This author note in itself is really confusing because I thought that Anna an outsider's perspective...she's by no means an insider into the culture, so I don't understand what type of distinction this author is trying to create.
Here's another scene, where Gabor feels like's he's being portrayed as helpless, and I found this interaction to be so frustrating.
"You cannot help with this." His lips tightened. "I may be Romani, but I am not helpless."
That's my whole rant that I've got to say about this book. I was honestly expecting better, but was sorely disappointed by the elements that were found in this story.
**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**
View all my reviews