Rose by Holly Webb


Goodreads: Rose
Series: Rose #1
Source: Gift
Published: September 3, 2013

Official Summary

Rose isn’t like the other orphans at St Bridget’s Home for Abandoned Girls. Instead of dreaming of getting adopted by loving, wealthy parents, Rose wants to get a job and be independent. She doesn’t need anyone but herself. She finds her escape working as a maid for Mr. Fountain, an alchemist. Unable to ignore the magic that flows throughout the grand residence, Rose realizes that just maybe; she might have a little bit of magic in her too. This new series featuring magicians, witches, talking cats, mist-monsters, and friendships will have young readers in a trance!


Webb weaves a charming tale about the intersections of friendship and self-reliance in Rose.  Readers are introduced to the spunky titular character Rose, who wants little more from life than to get out of St. Bridget’s Home for Abandoned Girls, earn her own way in the world, and be perfectly, exceedingly normal.  Her life-plan starts well but begins going off track when she discovers she might have the gift of magic—and that she might have to use it to track down disappearing children.

Rose herself will appeal to a lot of readers with her good sense and optimism.  St. Bridget’s may not be an ideal home for children, particularly with its emphasis on conformity, but it is clear that Rose was brought up well.  She is hardworking, capable, and smart.  Although she has a desire for independence, she also knows how to make friends, and ends up charming some unlikely characters into her cohort.

The focus of Rose is really on the children, which should resonate with young readers.  There are important adult figures in the book, providing enough oversight that the children have to sneak around to put their heroics into action, but the adults never get in the way of the plot or insist that they can do something better because they are older.  (Which, in real life, may be true—but it sometimes puts a damper on a good children’s book if the adults get to save the world!)

At the end of the book, however, an adult in charge suddenly seems like a good idea.  Things get dark quickly once Rose and company go after a woman they believe to be a dangerous witch.  Dark middle grade books have been doing well in the market recently, and I personally have no issue with them, but some readers might find the quick transition from cute story to morbid tale disturbing.

Finally, the magic itself could use a little explanation.  Readers get the sense that it is hereditary, usually reserved for the affluent.  It is also fairly rare.  There are rules and steps to learning and mastering it.  Other than that, however, readers get nothing.  Its origins and its limitations are unexplained, as well as how one acquires it and accesses it—and exactly why only the rich have magic.  Why would something that appeals to be a genetic trait be limited to the rich?  Hopefully some answers are forthcoming in the series.

Rose is altogether a fun book that explores friendship and emphasizes the importance of embracing one’s talents.  Also, it has a talking cat, which adds a million bonus points to any book.  Great for fans of E. D. Baker, Jessica Day George, and Vivian Vande Velde.


5 thoughts on “Rose by Holly Webb

  1. revgeorge says:

    Just started this the other day but am only about 15% in. Mainly because I usually have 8 or 9 books going on at once.

    I’ve read some other reviews on how dark it gets near the end. As long as it gets brighter after that I’m okay with some dark parts.

    Again, a great review!


    • Briana says:

      I actually didn’t think much about the darkness while I was reading, but, after I finished and had a little time to reflect it occurred to me that it was indeed ghastly and that it doesn’t quite match up with the tone of the rest of the book. So it may be startling to some people, particularly to younger readers.

      On the other hand, I was at an author talk over the weekend and a children’s writer observed that little kids can be pretty dark themselves–all their make-believe games involve people dying and violence and gore–so maybe it wouldn’t bother them at all!

      In the end, it probably comes down to the individual reader, so it’s just something that parents in particular might want to be aware of.


      • revgeorge says:

        Just finished it last night. Really liked it. Bought the second book already, even though goodness knows when I’ll start on that.

        It does turn pretty macabre kind of quick. But it didn’t wallow in it. There was enough to give some tension and fear and uncertainty but it resolved quickly too.

        Certainly I would agree that parents would be best at judging how their child might react to it. But then I pretty much always think that. 🙂


  2. Ana @ Read Me Away says:

    It does seem to be kind of surprising when a middle grade book suddenly takes a really dark turn. It makes me question if a book should be classified as middle grade/children’s. Definitely intrigued by this book. 🙂 I think I’ll look out for it, especially since I enjoyed a book by ED Baker recently.


    • Briana says:

      I think this book is pretty in line with middle grade writing in all other respects, but it’s definitely not the light, fun read some readers might be expecting. There are mentions of kidnappings scattered throughout the story so we know something kind of bad is coming up, just not exactly what or how bad.


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