First Lines: The scent of wood smoke and roses always took him back there, to the boy he was and never would be again.
So, the other day as my kiddos were taking a standardized test, I happened to finish the book I was reading. (The horror!) So I grabbed this off of my classroom bookshelf, figuring it was best if I actually read something I was allowing them to read. Funny how that works.
Before the Roses, Jack lived a normal life in Trinity, Ohio. He loves soccer and the only thing that really sets him apart from his friends is the medicine he has to take daily since his heart surgery as a baby. But then Jack accidentally skips his medicine. Now he’s stronger and more confident than ever–until his newfound strength nearly kills another soccer player in practice. That’s when Jack learns the truth–he’s a Weirlind, a member of a magical society. Ruling the Weirlind are two families: the Red Roses and the White Roses, whose power is determined by who wins a deadly tournament known as the Game. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jack finds out that he’s a Warrior…and one of the last when both sides are searching for a champion.
Initially, I thought it was pretty interesting. I really like it in stories when someone “normal” gets absorbed into a magical world. (Maybe because I’m holding out the hope that it will happen to me?) Jack is completely unaware of all the danger he’s in, though he quickly figures out he’s in over his head. And something about that appealed to me too.
There were some really interesting plot twists, but there were at least two big ones that I called from way too early in the story. So while it was fun to be taken by surprise a few times, I really just rode out the surprises with “Aha! I was right!” moments.
I tended to like the world this story was set in (you know, outside of Ohio). It was interesting, but I also felt that by the end I still didn’t have a great grasp on the rules and customs of the Weir. (*snort* I accidentally typed “Weird”. Fitting.) I felt like I was missing something…and maybe I happened to read an important section too fast. I’m not ruling that out.
Perhaps the most interesting part for me was the obvious pull from the War of the Roses. (Medieval English history for the win! The Houses of Lancaster vs. York. Look it up.) With my recent adventure into the world of the British monarchy via extensive genealogy research, I was more than a little proud to see the parallels. Do I expect my students to know this? Not even close. If they do, they’re my new BFF.
Overall, I thought it was a fine read, but it seemed to be missing something for me personally. For others who maybe don’t read as much, I’m sure this is great.