Book Reviews

Review: This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke

As a huge fan of Locke’s earlier books, The Girl with the Red Balloon and Spy with the Red Balloon, I knew I had to read This Rebel Heart. This story is heart wrenching in the best way. It questions home, activism, and rebellion. There’s magic woven into the story which had to be one of my favorite elements. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


In the middle of Budapest, there is a river. Csilla knows the river is magic. During WWII, the river kept her family safe when they needed it most–safe from the Holocaust. But that was before the Communists seized power. Before her parents were murdered by the Soviet police. Before Csilla knew things about her father’s legacy that she wishes she could forget.

Now Csilla keeps her head down, planning her escape from this country that has never loved her the way she loves it. But her carefully laid plans fall to pieces when her parents are unexpectedly, publicly exonerated. As the protests in other countries spur talk of a larger revolution in Hungary, Csilla must decide if she believes in the promise and magic of her deeply flawed country enough to risk her life to help save it, or if she should let it burn to the ground.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: antisemitism

This Rebel Heart is about how there can be success in what we might think of as failure. Value in inspiration and hope, in knowing the power of showing up, in making a mark. Mixing fantasy and history, Locke delivers a powerful book about sacrifice and safety. About standing our ground and reconciling a person we love with another side of them. The historical fiction setting is phenomenal. You feel the current of fear, the ways it doesn’t even matter what you do, just what they say.

The air of secrecy and double meanings we have to immerse ourselves in. This setting, combined with the fantasy, creates a rich and detailed world of trauma and history. Of seeing a world leeched of its color and the power of promise. Csilla’s experiences while reading her father’s journals – and these snippets in the story – are fantastic. It’s about reconciling the person we thought our loved ones were, with who we discover. Who they are said to be.


(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

This Rebel Heart features powerful and raw writing. Having read Locke’s earlier books, I am so impressed with the evolution of style! At the beginning, Csilla’s character and her relationship with her parents was my favorite element. It’s about the people we lose who shape us, the family past and the lack of closure. And then I was swept away with This Rebel Heart‘s historical fiction action. The feeling of being caught in the desire for change, the hope and ambition for ourselves, our country, and our home. This Rebel Heart is poignant and heart rending in the best way. Find This Rebel Heart on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite historical fiction fantasy?

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.