Cover Image: The Everlasting Rose (The Belles series, Book 2)

The Everlasting Rose (The Belles series, Book 2)

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Unfortunately I had to DNF this book. I was hoping that it would be better than the first and would pique my interest again. But it did not. This story and idea has so much potential, but I feel like it isn’t quite executed properly and I wound up bored.
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I requested a digital galley of The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton from NetGalley and Disney Hyperion publishing. If memory serves, I received my ebook on release day, which was very exciting! I had high hopes for Rose after the amazing world building in The Belles, and I am pleased to report that this is not a case of 2nd book syndrome. For me, the 2nd book far exceeds its predecessor.

Camille was one of my favorite new characters last year. I loved reading about her fantastical skills, and her world but she lacked a lot of agency in the first book due to her position in court. It wasn’t her fault, and I don’t think it was a product of bad writing, but it was a struggle for me to watch this amazing character tossed around like a rag doll. That idea is expanded upon in book 2 in ways I hadn’t previously considered, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

In Rose, Camille and her sister Belles have to find a way to stop the tyrannical rule of princess Sophia. She is downright terrifying, and honestly has no redeemable qualities. In order to overthrow Sophia, Camille needs to avoid her prying eyes which seem to be everywhere. It proves to be quite a difficult task as Sophia becomes a more and more omnipresent force of evil.

The truly great thing about Rose is that Camille gets to make so many choices for herself. She frequently shuts other people down and tells them the best way to solve a problem. It’s clear that her previous lack of agency existed out of necessity and survival. This girl is no pushover. When she runs into a problem, she solves it with beauty and style.

This book dives into some pretty dark territory. Human trafficking is the primary social issue that comes into focus in Rose. There are hints of it in The Belles, but it comes across with much more clarity and focus this time around. It never feels ham-fisted or overbearing and I loved how the author seamlessly worked this timely issue into the book.

In this world where beauty is king there are also a lot of questions about what makes a person beautiful, how much value beauty has, and how to find inner beauty. In The Belles I frequently felt conflicted as to whether or not I should enjoy the flowery and lovely descriptions of the bodies, hair, and clothing around Camille. In The Everlasting Rose though, there is a new group of characters introduced that make it clear that beauty isn’t everything. I loved having that voice added to the story, and I think it provided much more depth to the world.

Ultimately, I think my misgivings with the book center around the fact that no character can hold a candle to Camille. Sophia is her polar opposite, and honestly just watching the two of them duke it out on an even playing field would be fascinating. However, there are many other characters in the book and I found it difficult to care for them the same way I did with Camille.

I’m excited to see what Dhonielle Clayton will write next! I’m definitely here for more magical worlds from her. The magic system she created is like nothing I’ve ever read, it was hard to say goodbye to the world she built! I definitely recommend this series to anyone who likes courtly drama with a healthy dose of magic and social commentary.
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THE EVERLASTING ROSE picks up where THE BELLES left off, with Camille, Edel, and Remy on the run. Sophia is determined to hunt them down and erects a special prison to keep all the Belles in called the Everlasting Rose. Camille has to figure out how to get Princess Charlotte safely on the throne, protect her sisters, decide whether or not the mysterious Iron Ladies can be trusted, and manage to live another day while on the run.

What I Loved:

Dhonielle Clayton is a master at crafting beautiful, lush descriptions in her writing. While the first book in the duology focused more on describing the beauty work Camille and her sisters did, this one describes more of the surroundings and Gris people, matching the edgier tone of the story.

With Camille on the run, the tension levels are high. You're never sure who is trustworthy, who has their own agenda, and who sincerely wants to help. There aren't as many twists in the plot this time, but the ones that we get are perfectly timed and gasp-worthy.

What Left Me Wanting More:

While we get some answers around the Belles' history, there is a lot left unanswered or unclear. If this had been a longer series, I would have expected the answers to come later, but as a conclusion, it was left to be desired. However, if there is ever a prequel or spin off exploring more of this world, I will absolutely be buying it.

In general, THE EVERLASTING ROSE felt rushed. Given it's around 100 pages less than the first book, this isn't too surprising. In particular, the end came together quite quickly and didn't leave as much room for the full emotional experience.

Overall Verdict:

While I didn't enjoy this as much as I did THE BELLES, THE EVERLASTING ROSE is an ultimately satisfying conclusion to a clever duology.
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THE EVERLASTING ROSE picks up where THE BELLES left off, with Camille, Edel, and Remy on the run. Sophia is determined to hunt them down and erects a special prison to keep all the Belles in called the Everlasting Rose. Camille has to figure out how to get Princess Charlotte safely on the throne, protect her sisters, decide whether or not the mysterious Iron Ladies can be trusted, and manage to live another day while on the run. 

What I Loved: 

Dhonielle Clayton is a master at crafting beautiful, lush descriptions in her writing. While the first book in the duology focused more on describing the beauty work Camille and her sisters did, this one describes more of the surroundings and Gris people, matching the edgier tone of the story. 

With Camille on the run, the tension levels are high. You're never sure who is trustworthy, who has their own agenda, and who sincerely wants to help. There aren't as many twists in the plot this time, but the ones that we get are perfectly timed and gasp-worthy. 

What Left Me Wanting More:

While we get some answers around the Belles' history, there is a lot left unanswered or unclear. If this had been a longer series, I would have expected the answers to come later, but as a conclusion, it was left to be desired. However, if there is ever a prequel or spin off exploring more of this world, I will absolutely be buying it. 

In general, THE EVERLASTING ROSE felt rushed. Given it's around 100 pages less than the first book, this isn't too surprising. In particular, the end came together quite quickly and didn't leave as much room for the full emotional experience. 

Overall Verdict:

While I didn't enjoy this as much as I did THE BELLES, THE EVERLASTING ROSE is an ultimately satisfying conclusion to a clever duology.
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“Resistance comes in many forms and alliances take many shapes.”

Quick warning, as this is the sequel, there may be spoilers for The Belles in my review or this post.

The ending of The Belles left me wanting more! I had to know the future of Camille and her fellow belles and dove right into The Everlasting Rose as soon as it was in my grabby hands!

And, boy, did this book NOT disappoint!

As in The Belles, Clayton toyed with my emotions. She has a gift for building anticipation with a proper dose of dread, all while not really giving too many hints away. The result is me, desperately turning pages trying to figure out what is really going on, because I know, there is way more than meets the eye!

This book is dark. Oh my black heart is it dark! So decadent and delicious, with plenty of moral grey as icing on this dark cake. The first book danced on the edges of how dark this world is, but in The Everlasting Rose, Clayton takes us deep into the rot of this beautiful world. Everything, Camille included, takes on a blemished edge. And I am here for it!

Queen Sophia is just as deranged as ever, power going straight to her beauty obsessed head. And I loved getting more Edel. She is the rebel sister of my heart!

I wish I loved this book completely, but there were some issues I had towards the end. Mainly, I hated how I didn’t really get the motivations of a certain sister. I wish, we could have gotten more of an understanding of why she made the choices she did. I don’t know why, but it felt incomplete to me. I also would have loved more Iron Ladies! Where were these badass babes for most of the book??? I felt like we got a ton of build up, and then everything was over and resolved in a flash. And while the build up is fantastic, I would have liked a bit more turmoil before the triumph. Personal preference on that though.

Overall though, I devoured this book. I love Clayton’s writing, and love how she isn’t afraid to really explore the darker sides of her characters. The imagination of this world blows me away! Every detail highlights how focusing on outer beauty can become an obsession, and just how toxic it really can be. I love the different aspects that this focus raises, which hopefully sparks some fantastic conversations on body image and self confidence.

I’m not sure if there is more to this series coming, but I would welcome more. There is so much to this world, and while the main story lines are wrapped up, I still have so many questions that I would love to explore. Regardless, I am excited to dig my teeth into anything Dhonielle Clayton writes, and look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!

Thank you Rockstar Book Tours and Freeform books for my review copy!
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2.5 stars
*Received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

DNF @ 75% - I know I was almost done but I just couldn't keep reading anymore.

To say this was disappointing, is an understatement. While I found the first book at least fun to read this lost all its charm. As stated in my review of The Belles I thought where this series really shined was the world-building and was expecting the world to be expanded and to learn even more about the beautiful opulent world of Orleans. What I got was... not that. Turns out the majority of the world building was done in the first book and and any additions to the world and magic system were not fleshed out at all. In the first few chapters The Belles suddenly develop a new ability and no explanation was given for it which I found especially weird considering the amount of detail that went into explaining every single thing a Belle could do in the first book.

Both the plot and character development (what little there was) felt rushed. I'm pretty sure this was meant to be a trilogy, but it ended up being turned into a duology which probably added to the rushed feeling. The introduction of the "rebel group" The Iron Ladies fell flat and I just found them not interesting at all. I didn't understand almost any aspect of the group at all down to their name and characteristics (why were they constantly referencing spiders??). I only sort of understood why they were rebelling at all because we didn't get any details about the actual people of Orleans or any notice of their unrest. I found Camellia's relationships with other characters to be unbelievable and I just didn't feel I was shown the feelings they all claimed to have for one another, and a lot of the dialogue and interactions between characters just felt awkward.

One thing that bothered me is that literally any time anything happened a character would just up and leave the group immediately with no plan?? What? In the middle of being on the run?? That made absolutely no sense for certain characters who had shown know history of being impulsive. Overall I just couldn't get to the end of this too many unbelievable things kept happening, the characters were annoying me, and I'm left hugely disappointed.
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This sequel to The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton brings us back into the world of Orleans.  The Belles are on the run and the evil princess, Sophie, is out to get them.  The Belles must hide from the princess, the army, and virtually everyone they know, in order to save their own lives.  Camellia and her friends desperately want to save the true ruler, Princess Charlotte, before she dies from her illnesses. 

I really enjoyed this book, although perhaps not quite as much as the first book in the series.  I would recommend it for readers aged 12 and older.
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** I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.**
I was really intrigued by the first book in this series.  The world was original in a lot of ways and the characters were interesting. 
While I found this book to be good, it lacked the sparkle of the first book.  The belles were whiny and tiring except for Camille. She was so set in revenge that she often put those close to her in danger. 
Auguste was really unnecessary in this book as were several other characters that passed through.  For me, there were lose ends that were hastily tied into slip knots instead of actually being finished.
Not a terrible book but very similar to many 2 books.  It just fell short of what I expected.
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I enjoyed this book! I think the author is so skilled at world building and bringing her characters to life. It was a fun story to read, but with important themes; thought-provoking without being "lesson-y". The story also provided the answers to questions that remained after reading the first book in this duology. I do wish that the ending was filled out more. Some parts of it felt rushed over. To me, the end of the book felt complete and wrapped up...BUT the pacing felt off in comparison to the first 80% of the story. Maybe it's just my preference (or expectation) for a trilogy in a series OR maybe I just wanted to stay in that world for a bit longer! But I think it is a good thing that I wanted MORE book rather than less. This was one of my most anticipated reads for this year and it was, overall, a satisfying one.
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This is the sequel to The Belle. This one has more action but kind of fell flat for me . The authors writing is amazing but I just couldnt fall into this one like I fell into the first one.
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I previewed this book via this digital galley and then purchased it for my HS library based on the preview. I will be finishing the book via the paper format. I loved book 1 in the series and book 2 starts out strong!
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Having read an advance copy of The Belles through NetGalley, it was a pleasure reading The Everlasting Rose through NetGalley too! I loved the first book and I was so excited to continue Camille's journey and find out what happens next! While I did not like this book as much as I loved The Belles, I still really enjoyed the story and the nice conclusion to this epic, crazy journey! One thing I had an issue with was pacing. It felt a bit fast at times and I wanted it to slow down or give a bit more information as to what was going on. Besides that, this is a great read and I'm excited to read more from Dhonielle!
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**Review can be found at https://smadasbooksmack.blogspot.com/ **

Picking up after the events of the last book, The Belles, Camille, Remy, Edel and Amber are all on the run from the cruel Princess Sophia. Sophia wants nothing more than to rule and control all, including the unruly Belles. Camille is convinced that Princess Charlotte, the true ruler, is still alive regardless of Sophia's propaganda, and she and her friends are desperate to prove the truth. But this is a battle full of treachery and lies that not everyone can survive. 

Wow, this was quite the journey that Camille has gone through since the start of the last book. Where as The Belles was about the beauty and challenges of treatments and court, this book was about rebellion, conspiracy and battle. Camille has faced so many hardships and terrible truths, having her world turned upside down in the worst of ways. But one thing remains steady and that is the fact Camille is a survivor. She was the most capable of characters and I would gladly join her rag-tag team of rebels. I will admit that I was a little bit sad that she had to lose all her innocence, sweetness and ego that she started with, making her into a more jaded, rough around the edges version of herself that was willing to kill for her cause. 

Post balloons! I just need to tell you how amazing I find post balloons and where can I get some? Not only do they deliver packages, letters and the daily news AND they can be used to record gossip. What a fantastic multipurpose tool- which at times seem to have a mind of their own, operating on their own rules and totally enchanting me with their skills and usefulness. 

Actually let's just talk about the magic that is the world Dhonielle was able to create in this series. Everything was so gorgeously detailed and wonderful and I could just get lost in the lush costumes and makeup and treats that are every day life here. And that is just the regular citizens, not the elaborate world that is the royal court. The beauty treatments and Belle gifts were so interesting and unique. The dress alone that Camille had at one point enchanted me with its complicated design and purpose (but Dhonielle used her words to paint such a vivid picture in my mind I could see it perfectly). Maybe this sounds over the top, but really the best word I can come up with for this world is divine- the world was fabulous, my favorite part of the story and I loved finding out more. Speaking of more, we get to learn more about the origins of the Belles and it was a doozy! And I hold to the fact that I really, really need a teacup pet...perchance a cute little gold dragon will do...

I am not sure how many books are going to be in this series but the way this story wrapped up felt like it could be the end (which is fantastic since I hate cliffhangers), but I really hope that there will be at least one more book to come set in this fantastical world that I love. Side note, this series is great as an audiobook as well, the narrator does a great job of bringing Camille to life.
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Let me first start off by saying that I had to sit and stew on this for several days after finishing this book before I could get a review together. The amount of love I have for Dhonielle and this series demands only the most thoughtful and concise review I can give.

I went into The Everlasting Rose thinking this was a trilogy (or more). That is important to note. Had I gone into it realizing it was a duology, my thoughts would have come out differently.

The first half of the book picks up right where The Belles #1 left off, Camille, Remy, Amber and Edel are on the run and hiding out while they gather their strength and figure out their next steps. It felt like Dhonielle did not skip a beat between books one and two. The beautiful world building was still ever present. 

An important theme in this novel is the symbolism. I feel like everything had multiple meanings and interpretations, from the title The Everlasting Rose itself all the way down to the tiniest teacup dragons that accompany our heroine on her journey to stop the evil queen and right her past wrongs. I could write a full dissertation on the symbolism in this story but I will save that for another time.

What I could not process fully was the ending of this story. I felt like the final 25% of The Everlasting Rose was rushed. I don't mean rushed on Dhonielle's part as if she threw it together, but rushed like the full climax was condensed. I felt like I was reading the Sparknotes version of the ending and not the real ending. For the entire first book and most of book two, Dhonielle has done a masterful job of pulling us into this world with vivid details and imagery that can only be described as a written work of art. So to have the ending wrapped up in a neat little bow so quickly, it did not flow. It's almost like book two was written as part of a larger series, then forced into a duology at the very last minute.

Another thing that bothered me was Camille's character development. From book one to book two, Camille has had to deal with the reality that the world she was taught was a sugarcoated fabrication. She is dealing with betrayal on every level from almost everyone she ever held in high esteem throughout her life. She is ANGRY and she should be. Dhonielle dedicated this book "For all the angry girls, there's nothing wrong with you." Camille's anger is an ongoing theme through the story. When Camille finally gets the opportunity to let it out, to enact her revenge, to give the queen and her disciples exactly what they have coming to them, Charlotte stops her. Camille faints. Three days later, she wakes up, Charlotte is queen, it's all over. I feel like the hidden meaning is to let go of anger before it consumes you and you do something you cannot come back from. But to have a book centered around a character's hurt and anger, and lust for vengeance, and dedicated to the angry girls, all for her to just "let go and let God" at the end... I was not here for that. 

In the end, the book had a pretty clean (although rushed) finale and left off in a place that could spawn future books or not. I would be super interested to read and learn more about the power of the arcana, as Camille only realized it's full potential at the very end right before she passed out. The full history of the Belles and their different powers would be an interesting plot as well. I'd love a future book set in a different time with different characters. Camille's journey is not over but maybe she can rest for a while. We can meet the next generation of Belles, raised with her guidance. We can meet the first generation of Belles and see where it all went wrong. The amazing thing about this world Dhonielle has given us is that it has endless possibilities, endless POVs and timelines and stories to be told. I truly hope we are blessed with more. I mean, she didn't name it The Last Rose. ;)
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This was sort of a struggle for me to get through. I was extremely confused for the first 1/3 or so because I was a little hazy on the details of the first book, and there are not many reminders dropped into the beginning of this installment, which I think would've been so helpful in getting me engaged in the story again and pulling me back into the world. Unfortunately, this book series also isn't popular enough to get a quick summary online, and I just didn't enjoy the first one quite enough to reread it. I have to be honest, I think this confusion hindered my reading experience quite a bit, so I definitely recommend reading this one fairly quickly after the first, especially as there is little to no time gap between them.
In a lot of ways, this book seemed more like the middle of a trilogy than a finale. Near the end of the book, like around the last 50 pages or so, I was getting very nervous about the story wrapping up in time because there was so many loose ends to tie up. To be fair, I think the book tied up the ending fairly well, but I think there's so much more that could've been explored, especially as it is significantly shorter than the first.
What this series as a whole really has going for it isn't the characters or even really the plot, which are both fine, but the pure originality of the world. The world is so unique, and even if the magic system isn't always clear cut with its rules, it is a very fascinating magic system.
Overall, this is an enjoyable, dark series with flowery writing that I would recommend to some jaded fantasy fans who want something unique. This installment isn't quite as strong as the first, but it is an adequate ending to the duology.

lgbtq rep: f/f relationship between side characters; m/m relationship between side character and his husband
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I loved the concept of The Belles--exploring the lengths people will go to be beautiful (in the world's eyes) is a worthy endeavor. And that theme continues in this second book, but it seems a bit more watered down, probably because the Belles' ability is used less as a beauty treatment and more as a sort of superpower with limits (they discover new aspects of their ability that can be used to help them in their quest, but it takes a lot of strength and effort, so they can't do it for long). Most of this book involves Camille traveling to try and find (and save) her sisters and Charlotte. The parts where she actually encounters her sisters are definitely exciting, but the ending felt a little rushed and a little too easy. Still, if you've been excited to find out how Camille will defeat Sophia, then you'll be eager to read till the very end. 

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
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This book is the sequel to The Belles and is best read after the first book in order to understand everything that is going on. 
Camille Beauregard is on the run from the evil Princess Sophia with her guard Remy and her sister Edel. Together they attempt to elude the guards and hatch a plan to find the missing Princess Charlotte and overthrow Sophia before she becomes the Queen. They enlist the help of the Iron Ladies, women who believe beauty treatments aren't necessary, as well as those who have gone underground to stir up a rebellion. Princess Sophia is truly evil and will stop at nothing to gain whatever she desires, no matter how many people she has to harm or kill. Can Camille and her sisters stop Sophia before it's too late?
I enjoyed the suspense and ingenuity of this book, and I believe it's overall message is relevant and needs to be heeded today. The lengths some people will go to in order to fit their and others' ideal of beauty can be harmful and go too far. Society as a whole pushes a certain acceptable way to look, which changes faster than the seasons. People are harming themselves and others in order to meet the societal ideals, and I believe this book and the one preceding it addresses that issue in a bone chilling way. I didn't agree with some of the views presented, but overall I think this book is a must read for teens and adults alike. This book is more dark and violent than the first one, but I definitely recommend it. I hope there will be a third book that will tie up some loose ends that remain unresolved. 
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley and also purchased a copy from Amazon. A positive review was not required, and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
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This book is a wonderful revisit to the Belles society. Orleans is such a great atmosphere for this story. It is full of beautiful descriptions and lovely landscape. Camille is a strong and intelligent Belle. She will sacrifice and pull connections to stop evil Sophia. The hunt for Queen Charlotte is full of twists, turns and palace intrigue. The Iron Ladies underground resistance was instrumental. With the help of the Spiders Web and others, the Belles are on another adventure full of mystery, friendships and brains and beauty. The story and characters are beautiful, inside and out. A must read if you love Orleans and the world of the Belles!
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An excellent conclusion to The Belles.  This book had more action and a lot less of the beauty parts, but the plot kept moving and the end was good.
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I completely adored this book. The world is gorgeous, the characters are intriguing, and the story kept me in. I absolutely adored the writing and I would love to read more of Dhonielle's work.
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