Hello Humans! There are books with very simple concepts, there are books with very complex concepts, there are books which veer somewhere in the middle. I don’t have a problem with any of them, but there is something to be said about how a book gets the reader on board with an idea. It’s not something I’d ever thought about in much detail…then I read Belle Révolte.
Emilie des Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.
Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.
Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.
But when their nation instigates a frivolous war, Emilie and Annette must work together to help the rebellion end a war that is based on lies.
I’ve previously read Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller, and the sequel is currently sat on my TBR waiting for me to read it (I try not to think too hard about the inescapable crush of my owned TBR…), so I knew a little bit about what I was getting into. Mask of Shadows was gloriously ‘ya’ and the concept of Belle Révolte seemed to hint at a similar familiarity. know some people really aren’t here for ‘tropey’ young adult fiction (or just fantasy fiction for any age), but personally, I find that if I read other things interspersed I often find that familiarity of a trope to be a comforting presence.
The main thing I will say about this book is that it asks quite a lot of you right at the start. When I read the premise I assumed that a good portion of the book would be taken up with building the relationship between these two girls and then the swap would happen, if not that, then perhaps there would be a presupposed relationship between the two of them, the building blocks of which would have happened before the book even started.
I don’t think it’ll spoil the book for you (it happens within the first few pages)to say that essentially Emilie gets out of her carriage, finds a girl who is similar looking and they swap lives just like that. That’s essentially it for the setup, the book requires you to just sort of nod and smile and pretend that you can’t see any potential issues with that idea. Personally, I was able to do that and just let the actual plot of the book happen – but if you don’t think that’s something you can do then I’d suggest leaving this book for now.
If you can suspend disbelief for just a little bit, I think you’ll get to read a very fun and interesting YA fantasy novel. Yes, it is tropey, but it also talks about some themes which I always love to see in YA, dismantling power structures, imbalance of gender, privilege and so forth. Does it take place in a world where there are two kinds of magic and of course they are named after the sun and the moon – yes of course it does! Did I mind? Not so much!
I can’t think of too many other YA fantasy novels that have crossed my radar where the main character wanted to become a doctor/healer. I know often they are, or they have healing powers or some such, but I found I could connect to Emilie’s desire to learn and to comprehend and to help people, just as I could connect to Annette’s sense of being a misfit, of feeling like a constant failure. I appreciated that, while this was a ‘life swap’ scenario, the two girls aren’t pitted as polar opposites, the story acknowledges their similarities as much as their differences.
The plot of this book, unsurprisingly, focusses in on war and revolution in the country (that is probably not France…) in which these girls are living. Initially, I wondered if I would get that dissonance you get in books that start in peace and go into the war (not necessarily a bad thing, look at The Poppy War) but actually, it’s a fairly smooth transition, largely because one character remains in one place.
If you know the plot to Mask of Shadows you’ll know that it’s USP is that the main character is gender fluid. With that in mind, I thought there would probably be some kind of gender non-conforming representation in this book too – especially in a world where the magic is primarily split by gender. Happily I can say there is trans representation in this book. Much like in Mask of Shadows it’s a ‘here is this character who happens to be trans’ as opposed to any kind of brutal outing as emotional fuel for the book. I appreciated the discussion of gender in the book – it was a happy addition to the story.
Mostly I thought this was a fun, fast-paced read. I will say that I feel it was perhaps a little too short. In order to properly develop some of those key concepts, as well as the ending (which also fell a little flat for me) I almost feel as though you could have added a third to the length of the book. Perhaps then it would have dragged, but I think that some more time to dwell on finer details would have been pertinent.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Belle Révolte publishes February 1st!
What say you? Will you be reading this book? Let me know in the comments below!