Cover Image: Belle Révolte

Belle Révolte

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Once I finally got to this book I didn’t want to put it down. The twisting of almost 2 possibly separate books was just fantastic. I want to know more about Annette and Emilie on their own as well as  after their friendship but Miller gave you enough to be satisfied as well. Might be one of my favourites doe 2020.
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This gave off  "Reverie" vibes and I wasn't feeling it. There were just too many similarities and I just had a hard time engrossing myself in the read. Maybe it's my reading slump or just the novel itself, I just couldn't connect with lead characters Emilie and Annette nor the storyline despite loving the LGBT concept. It's not you, it's me I swear!
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This book felt incredibly relevant in moments. Considering it's very much historical fantasy, the societal power struggles could have been drawn word for word from current events. It made the plot even more impactful, and added so many depths to it that I've been hungering to re-read it since I finished the last page. Reading all of my saved quotes for this review made me want to read it all over again (and honestly I'd saved dozens of quotes, so choosing one or two was nearly impossible, I even broke my rule for how many I use in a review). I'm absolutely certain that this is one of those books that will only get better the more times I read it, and once my TBR has been wrangled, I'm going to pick it back up again.

I'm usually a very fast reader, but I savoured this one. Sometimes I felt a little slowed down by all the names. I haven't read a lot of historical fiction, it's a genre I've only recently fallen in love with. Belle Révolte isn't actually historical fiction, it's definitely fantasy, but it has that historical fantasy air to in the way that the characters and settings are described. It felt very French revolution to me, which I adored, but it also meant that everyone had a million titles and that slowed me down as I occasionally got confused between character names. This was definitely a me thing and not a book thing, and I figured it out once I plugged my brain in. I will say that I found the end a smidge rushed. It felt like there was a lot of time and detail put into the beginning of the book and then suddenly it was over and done with all at once. The pacing was generally good, I just could have had another ten or twenty pages during the final act, rather than hitting 'the end' so abruptly.

Privilege and how it's used is a huge theme throughout the book. It seemed to leap off every page for me, and I absolutely loved that. It didn't feel lecture-y, it was threaded into every page of the story beautifully. Emilie was hugely, hugely privileged. She's a comtess, rich and well-educated and off to study at a highly prestigious school. It's not what she wants, but that doesn't send her into the YA-character trap of being ungrateful for her opportunities and dismissing the crazy amount of privilege she has. Instead, Emilie spends the entire book acknowledging her privilege and the way that it has blinded her. It was really motivating to see Emilie acknowledging her privilege and Annette, using Emilie's name and status, mobilising it. Annette used Emilie's family money and status with absolutely no regret to tackle aspects of inequality that she was able to impact, like pay for workers and lower-class members of society, and ultimately to support the rebellion. She is willing to cut ties without mercy if her friends won't stand up for what's right and I love her. Annette Boucher would eat the rich and I would help her.

They're not selfless all the way through, and I'm glad for that. Both girls developed so authentically and beautifully. Initially, Emilie wants to be a hero. She wants people to know her name. Annette, always told she couldn't, wants to revenge-succeed and prove them wrong. It's completely authentic YA selfishness. I spent most of my teenage years daydreaming about fame and renown, so I can't throw stones. By the end of their character arcs, they're seeing a picture bigger than themselves and acting as part of a larger motion. They want to do good, instead of be known for good, and it's a shift that makes them so empowering to read about. I want to be like Annette and Emilie.

The greater picture they become part of is that rebellion against the absolutely monstrous monarchy. But Belle Révolte doesn't hide behind safety nets and protect characters from death. It doesn't hide the realities of conflict against a power far greater than your own. Innocents die, and they die in miserable ways. Characters you will absolutely love are martyred, and it's all done with complete self-awareness. To win a war, good people have to die, and everyone in the rebellion was willing to give up everything to save their nation. The high-stakes rebellion was so tense to read, especially in the early sections of the book where I didn't know who the girls could trust any better than they did, so every time they revealed their allegiances my heart was in my throat wondering if they were making a mistake in telling the truth. It was intense.

The representation in this book hit me like a brick. I knew it had ace-spec rep, so I was waiting for that, but I wasn't expecting the power the scene had. I'm aro, not ace, but I always say they're sibling-sexualities. When one of the characters described her asexuality, it was done in a way that I'd never seen before. I won't spoil the specific way it's described, but I've borrowed Linsey Miller's beautiful words since to explain my aromanticism to people who don't quite understand it. It's described in a way that completely rejects the idea that aro/ace-spec people are 'missing' or 'broken', and it was so beautiful I immediately tracked down my ace-spec best friend to read her the passage. I can't personally speak to the trans-rep, but it felt respectful from an outside perspective and it wasn't used as a plot twist (I fucking hate that) while still highlighting how hard it is to come out and how transitioning isn't the end of coming out for a lot of people. There were just queer girls and queer boys everywhere and I was so happy to see all of them.
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Disclaimer: I received a Netgalley arc of this book from the publisher and a physical arc from @littleshopofstories! Thanks guys! All opinions are my own.

Book: Belle Revolte

Author: Linsey Miller

Book Series: Standalone so far

Rating: 3.5/5

Diversity: Asexual lesbian main character, trans men, lesbian representation, this book is just full of representation!

Publication Date: February 4, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: 14+ (some gore, some violence, parent trap escapades, and some love)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Pages: 384

Amazon Link

Synopsis: 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.

Review: For the most part, this book was very enjoyable. The book had a complex and unique magic system that was so cool and the characters were very likable. The book is also full of French influence and is an exciting read filled with twists and turns.

However, I had some issues reading this book. I felt like the book was really hard to get into in the beginning. The beginning was really rocky and disconnected from the rest of the book. The magic system was fully explained in my opinion and that made for a somewhat of a confusing read. I think the book could have done better at explaining the magic and the first few chapters could be smoothed out to flow better and slide the reader better into this world.

Verdict: An exciting read, but somewhat confusing at the beginning.
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“We were all nothing but lightning in a bloody bottle.”

Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the advance copy in exchange for my review.

This book is about two girls who switch places so that one can get the education she wants in the midnight arts and the other can follow her dream of training in the noonday arts and becoming a physician. And then they get involved in the revolution. 

I thought this book was so much fun to read! The magic system was super interesting. I’m always a big fan of “magic training” books, especially if we get to see different types of magic in the universe. I think it’s fun to see how the characters grow into their powers and how it develops the storyline along the way. The different things they were trained to do and how the training different along their chosen magical field was pretty cool to see. 

I loved all these characters. Everyone, even the side characters, were so interesting. And you have to love a really good found family story. I simple adore seeing a cast of characters band together and fight for each other. We could have so easily seen Annette and Emilie simply treat their relationship as a business transaction and instead we got a lovely friendship and a whole lot of them looking out for one another throughout a war. 

There’s a lot of diversity in regards to sexuality and gender in this story. Annette is asexual and she has explicit conversations about what this means for her. Another of our side/main characters is a lesbian and many characters we meet are transgender or nonbinary and many use they/them pronouns.

I really adored everything about this book and while I think the story ended wonderfully, I think this is the first time I’ve been sad that something isn’t a series.
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This ARC was provided for review, but in no way affects the following impartial and unbiased review:
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4*
Pros: A refreshing take on magic systems. Interesting world-building. LGBT leads and rife with representation and diversity. Immersive battles. Depicts a proletarian revolution in a fantasy setting. Romance took a back seat.
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Cons: Jarring and underdeveloped beginning. Anti-climatic ending.
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I don’t read a ton of high fantasy because I have a hard time remembering all the new names of places and new ideas. It’s not impossible for me, but it does feel exhausting. That being said, I’m so glad I picked this one up! 

The thing I loved the most about this novel was how much beautiful diversity there is. There’s a ton of sexuality and gender diversity. One of our main characters, Annette, is asexual. This thrilled me, there’s just so few books with asexual MCs in it. Annette is also either panromantic or biromantic, which is awesome! There’s also a transgender man and several non-binary characters who use they/them pronouns. There’s a cute lesbian couple as well, which I’m always game for. Overall, the diversity was beautiful and felt so organic and I wish every book I read was like this. 

Another wonderful thing about this novel is how the magic is used. I’ve never read anything that wove magic and fighting so well. This was so cool. Especially how they describe Emilie using noonday magic to like open old wounds or heal people. It was so so so cool. I wish I could describe this better, but you’ll just have to pick it up to see for yourself! 

I did struggle a little with the world building, but like I said at the beginning, that just come with high fantasy and it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. 

I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a standalone or a series, but I kind of hope it’s a standalone. I really dug how it ended and don’t think it needs anymore. 

I highly recommend picking this one up!
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A sweet and sour epic magical story where society (and magic users) are restricted in very tight labels and customs so people who step outside of them have to fight their way through to live the lives they really want. There is amazing representation of lgtb people and a magic system with consequences to its use. Wonderful, funny but also heart-wrenching.
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“Power demands sacrifice.”

Belle Révolte is a stunning story about rebellion and fighting for what is right, about overthrowing an unjust ruler and uniting for a better cause. Loss is a central theme in this book, and since a war breaks out during the course of the story, death and violence are, too. Linsey Miller paints such a devastating and realistic picture with this book that it broke my heart at times. But then, there’s also magic and friendship and that makes it so, so worth it. This is such a powerful story and I’m so glad I got to read it!

I loved getting to know Emelie and Annette, the protagonists of this story. Both of them are strong and determined characters, both of them have a passion and a purpose and are willing to do whatever it takes to follow it. I feel like you’d love both of them, if you enjoy reading about these kind of “Slytherin” characters, à la Jude Duarte from The Cruel Prince.

“I would prove myself, prove I wasn’t a disappointment or insult, and I would change Demeine. If the world wouldn’t give me the chance, I would would take it myself.”

I also just love how Belle Révolte is so unapologetically queer. One of the protagonists is biromantic and asexual; during the course of the story she falls in love with a woman (I adored their relationship)! Additionally, there are multiple non-binary characters, a transgender character as well as an important lesbian side character. Even after reading more LGBTQ+ inclusive fantasy books in the last few months, my heart is still beyond happy to see so many queer characters in a story. I’m truly thankful for Linsey Miller and the world she created in this book and for telling us that it’s worth to fight for what is just.

More than anything, I feel like what Belle Révolte wants to say is this: if you see injustice in the world, fight to change it. People might underestimate us, but we can turn our future into something so much brighter. And along the way, we might find people who understand us and who love us despite it all, and doesn’t that alone open up a world of possibilities? I will end my review with this beautiful quote from the acknowledgements:

“We lose people in life, but we find them, too, whether in books or the real world.”
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This book was so much more than I knew to expect. Based on the cover, I anticipated a little punk rock feminism in victorian France. What I got was magic, queer+girl power, conspiracy, espionage, and outright class warfare. 

In Belle Révolt, the practice of magic is restricted under a strong monarchy and class system. Women and poor people are barred from high level magic, and can only aspire to be 'hacks:' energy sources who don't learn to access their own power. Within this world, a young comtesse and commoner trade places, pursuing educations on their own terms.

The treatment of gender, sexuality, and race in this book are so excellent. There are a ton of queer, trans, enby, and ace characters, with they/them pronouns used casually and no deadnaming. There are several romantic arcs, and I adore them all. Though race doesn't seem to play into the class system, the character descriptions always include skin tone (including when they are white!), painting a racially diverse world.

There's a strong current of contemporary feminism in the story. Women aren't allowed to learn medicine, but instead of dressing as men, our aspiring physiciennes come as they are, making their skill impossible to ignore. 

There's so much to see in the role bodily autonomy plays in the story. I have so much to say about that that I'm just gonna say nothing. Read it and circle back cuz I wanna talk about it!

I did struggle a little with the worldbuilding. I've never been interested in court intrigue – and sometimes the descriptions of monarchy and titles read like a catalogue of ships. For me, I would have loved this to be in a little plainer English, though I suspect for more familiar readers, this hit the mark. There were a few rough spots where I was confused about the rules and language of the magic system – though I suspect these were errors in the ARC that have since been ironed out. 

Even with these issues, I loved the story, magic, and world enough to consider this a five-star read.

I had nightmares about this book – I mean this as a compliment. The book isn't scary, but it can be deeply creepy, and my brain has been weaving dreams out of some of the resonant, terrible concepts in the book.

I've woken up thinking about this book every morning since I started reading it.

And even though I have the ARC, I'm planning to buy the book so I can read the final edit.

The stakes are life and death, and there is death, abuse, and violence on page; but it's also a story about coming together, accepting people as they are, and being greater than the world expects you to be.

So I highly recommend it, and I'm also curious to hear if other readers have struggled with the some confusing elements as I did! Let me know what you think!
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Belle Revolte was a beautifully crafted, intelligent, and gripping fantasy. I loved the nerdiness of the book, the passion the two main characters, Emilie and Annette, displayed for their studies. Annette being biromantic asexual was validating for me as someone who's bi and a=spec. I also grew to love the supporting characters and appreciated the inclusion of a trans boy in the cast. The revolutionaries were easy to sympathize with since it's clear the current government is corrupt beyond redemption, and it was satisfying to watch the regime's power erode and progress to its ultimate demise. I loved the magic system of this world and the detailed descriptions of how the characters channeled and manipulated their powers. The noonday arts were especially fascinating, bloody but brilliant, and the midnight arts proved to be more powerful and useful than they first appeared. The last 1/3 of the story kept me on the edge of my seat as it felt like anyone might die and I wasn't sure who or when. The ending was satisfying and one of new beginnings for the main characters, and I didn't want to say goodbye.
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Belle Revolte is the latest high fantasy novel to spring from the mind of the one and only Linsey Miller. If you’ve looking for a novel full of excellent representation, then this is a book worth checking out. It was the rumor that there’s an ace main character that drew me to this book, and I imagine I’m not the only one.
Emilie des Marais only ever wanted to be a physician and failing that, a hack. It’s what her magic called her to do, but unfortunately society – and her family – were not inclined to listen to her calling.
Annette Boucher is a daughter passed over, with all of the family efforts focused on her brother. But that’s all the more reason for her to jump at an opportunity when handed to her. For all she’s ever wanted was to be trained in magic.
When these two girls cross paths, they hatch a plan. One that would allow them to both get what they want. But it is not without risk. But what risk wouldn’t be worth the chance to actually do something with your life?

“You are not the people who love you or the people you’ve lost. They’re just parts of you. You are so much more than you’ve been led to believe.”

Warnings: Belle Revolte may cover a fantasy world, but it touches upon some very real – and sometimes upsetting – subjects. These instances include gore, medical neglect, abuse, sibling death, neglect, and drowning. Just to name a few.

Belle Revolte was a fascinating and thrilling read, one that hooked me and refused to let go. I loved reading about Emilie and Annette, especially as the novel got further into the story – and the dangers they faced.
Okay, so I actually had a bit of trouble getting into this book. That was a surprise to me, since I was insanely excited to get my hands on it. But once I hit about the thirty (maybe forty) percent mark, I was well and truly hooked. So if you’re struggling with this read, just give it a few more chapters and see how you feel. It worked out for me.
Honestly, there was a lot to love about this novel. The setting, for instance. It’s a fantastical version of France, one full of magic, and of course, politics and expectations. That makes the perfect framework for the magical system, which intrigued me right from the get-go – and with good reason.
I also adore that this is a standalone novel, and thus is very easy to get into. Add in the amazing level of representation and consider me sold. I feel like a lot of people will be able to resonate with the characters in this book, so I hope that it really helps somebody out there.
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Trigger/Content warnings:
--- gore
--- character death
--- family death (a character’s brother)

Representation:
--- biromantic asexual girl MC
--- multiple f/f relationships and lesbian (or otherwise sapphic) characters
--- trans man side character

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

*I received a copy of the novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

I read this book within a day or two, and I loved every second of it.

Belle Révolte follows two girls: Emilie, a noble girl who wants to study the noonday arts and become a physician instead of the midnight arts, and Annette, a peasant girl from a family who doesn’t want her and who wants to study the midnight arts. They end up meeting one another and, on a whim, decide to switch places. Annette pretends to Emilie and studies the midnight arts while Emilie admits herself to a school for the noonday arts. However, tension and action start to stack up quickly as the country is thrust into a war/revolution, and the girls are thrust into it as well.

First off, this magic system? Is simply amazing. It is split into a binary: the midnight arts (divination, scrying, etc.), which are traditionally used by women, and the noonday arts (divided between surgery/medicine and fighting/warfare) are traditionally used by men.

I love that Emilie is fighting tooth and nail to become a physician and prove everyone wrong with what she can do. The magic system is believed to be entirely binary: women weren’t considered strong enough to use the noonday arts, and men believed the midnight arts to be below them. However, Emilie proves throughout the novel that women can actually prove to be just as competent in the noonday arts (shocker, I know), and there is a debate that touches on both arts actually being the same side of the coin, not opposites. This magic system and the discussion about it within the novel were very intriguing, and I love this aspect.

Now, the characters… While I can’t remember names (not the novel’s fault, I am incredibly bad with keeping up with who’s who, especially when they don’t have their own POV chapter), I do remember that I loved all of the characters. I felt like I knew them, and following Annette and Emilie was a joyride in and of itself. The reader just gets to know the both of them so well, including how they don’t feel like, a lot of the time, they can’t be who they truly are in public. They are constantly fighting to be themselves in a world that doesn’t care for them, and I love that. I don’t love that they have to, but I feel connected to both of them. I understand that struggle.

On top of that??? The side characters??? I love. They are honestly so, so amazing, and that representation? *chef’s kiss* We got multiple f/f relationships, a trans man side character, and an MC who’s asexual and biromantic. I just loved how everyone was super casual about it, and the best part? While this book was gruesome and bloody and violent, none of the violence was queer antagonistic/transphobic/homophobic/etc. in nature. It was just refreshing to see.

There were a couple parts of the novel that, if I didn’t already absolutely love this book, I would probably take a half-star or two off. One was a plot twist with one of the side characters. I thought it was a bit goofy and allowed everything to wrap up nicely, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment at all. The second part was the ending: at first, I wasn’t a huge fan of it because I thought it was very rushed. However, the more I thought on it, the more my mind began to change: revolutions can often take suddent turns toward the end, and that’s just what happens with the end of Belle Revolte. I think it fit the overall narrative.

But yeah, please please please pre-order/order this book or request it for your library, y’all. This was a wonderful, quick read, and I’m so glad I was able to snag it when it was under the “read now” tab on NetGalley!
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Emilie would rather be a physician than a noble lady and Annette would love for the opportunity to be trained in magic. So when Emilie approaches Annette and suggest that they switch lives she accepts. But when their nation decides to go to war the girls decide to help the rebellion find out the truth before it’s too late. Belle Revolte is a Prince and the Pauper retelling, both girls are swapping lives to pursue their passion. In a world that has magic women are supposed to learn midnight arts which include scrying and divination while men learn daytime arts which include medicine and weaponry. I was very confused for most of the book there’s two POVs Annette and Emilies and a lot of characters that they interact with, and it was hard to follow at times. Annette and Emilie are great in their own ways and I loved how determined Emilie was to succeed as a hack and to become a physician. Annette was also determined to succeed in the arts. Both girls end up taking part in a revolution to save their country. I wanted to like this book but I thought it was hard to get through. I found myself rereading parts because I didn’t understand what was happening. I did like the ending though. This isn’t a book that I would reread mainly because of how I was struggling to understand what was going on with the plot and characters. I wanted to like this book it sounded interesting, but unfortunately this wasn’t the book for me.
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Belle Révolte is the story of two young girls switching lives to finally obtain what they really want. It’s a story about girls going against the patriarchy to show that it’s not about your gender but about what you can do.

I liked how, for a standalone on the short side (380 pages), the author immersed us in the world she created. She succeeded in created a world well built enough without burdening the reader with a lot of info dumping. The author tackles important subjects as gender equality, privilege, patriarchy and how it fobides girls to seek what they really want to do. I especially liked how the privilege part was done. I believe the author made great commentary about how, the noble girls were still privileged even though the patriarchy kept them from doing what they truly wanted. Some of them were so rich they didn’t know how the commoners were living, how what they were doing could affect the others.

But I kinda wished the two main characters were more nuanced and more fleshed out. The only thing that really differentiate them was that one of them was a commoner while the other one was a noble. Their motivation and goals were pretty much the same thing and it was hard to know which pov I was reading from. I guess you can say that their stories started and ended at the same point. Even the conflict they faced during their journey was pretty much the same thing. They both made two friends, found a mentor, join the rebellion, etc.

It is something I also noticed about the side character. They didn’t have something that memorable about them and were more side kick than their own characters. I don’t know if it’s just me but them joining the main characters in their fight without really thinking about it seems a bit unbelievable for me. Or maybe I just wished at least one of them to be more reluctant, I guess I’d have felt as if there were more layers to the story. I wanted to see noble girls not wanting to throw away their privilege in a war where they would have lost everything and then change their mind when they finally see how bad the guys in powers were, you know? Because as I was reading, I just saw girls just agreeing with everything that was happening without any nuance.

However I liked the two mentors figure. I liked how they were written and wished I knew more about them. I also enjoyed the last part of the book which was quite packed with action and fight scenes, though I felt like everything was resolved a bit too easily.

Belle Révolte is an interesting story tackling important themes and showing that girls shouldn’t stop at what the society men built told them to do. It’s a story that shows that girl can pursue any goals as long as they want to. But I feel like the story suffers from not being a bit longer which would have been great to flesh out the characters.
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It was okay. I didn't really know what to expect going in, so I can't say I was disappointed. But I wasn't thrilled either. It could've just been my frame of mind while reading, and I will probably give it a second chance at some point in the future, but right now I don't have anything better than "it was okay" to say here. I still say everyone should read it to make up their own minds, but I'm not going to be shouting off the rooftops about it. Just a fairly average book.
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Overall, this book left me with very mixed feelings. There were some things I really loved about this story and some things that didn’t work for me. 

I enjoyed Annette and Emilie in their character growth, strength and resilience. I loved the strong friendships that Annette built and the relationship between Charles and Emilie.  I found the magical system intriguing and would be interested in learning more details of this world. Between the world building, characters and actual writing style there were a lot of things I really enjoyed about this book. 

However, there were parts of the story where the plot and pacing were a struggle for me. I felt some parts were a bit too slow. Then there were several sections toward the end where things moved so quickly that I found myself a little confused about what was happening and had to look back to make sure I fully understood what was going on. I just wish those scenes had been expanded on a bit more. Sadly, with the pacing of the story I didn’t get as immersed in the book as I would have liked.
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This book looked like everything I could want. I love fantasy & the blurb sounded terrific! Unfortunately, this book didn't live up to the hype I built in my head. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, but it wasn't nearly as amazing as I hoped it would be. 

Starting off, the writing style just seemed wonky in areas. It almost felt like there were more words than necessary in each sentence. The unnecessary words were incredibly distracting at times. This got better by the end of the book, but I'm not sure if it was better because I was engrossed in the story or because the sentences became more concise. 

Something else that felt off with me was the lack of differences between the two main characters. Emilie des Marais and Annette Boucher were too similar. Emilie is noble, while Annette is a commoner. I have never read a book where a noble and a commoner sounded the exact same. The words used, the sentence structure, etc. were all the same. There were times where I had to go back and see whose point of view I was reading. Even though the characters voices sounded the same, I really enjoyed the two main characters and the side characters. I liked seeing the relationships between all of the characters, and it was fun to see them grow. 

Though I found some things that I just didn't enjoy, I found other things that I loved! The magic structure in the story was fascinating. I enjoyed the focus on sacrifice and how using magic would wear the body down. The system made sense in my head, and it was interesting to see how the world adjusted to the magic system.  

Just like the magic structure, I thoroughly enjoyed the plot. There was something fun and exciting about the story. After the first 20% of the book, I was hooked. The story itself was quick-paced and kept me on the edge of my seat. The politics that were present were frustratingly good, and I enjoyed how much the story grabbed me. All in all, this book has its faults, but the plot and magic truly made up for it. This will be perfect for teens looking for two (a little too similar) kick-ass women who want to make the world a better place.
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This book meant the absolute world to me. Every time I think it I'm just filled with this intense love and emotion. I could flail about this book forever, I swear. It makes me so happy (except for when it's RIPPING MY HEART OUT).

Objectively speaking, this book is far from perfect. I think if this book hadn't hit me on so deeply personal a level, it would have been a solid four stars. Not at all a bad rating, still very much a book I would highly recommend (HI THIS IS ME TELLING YOU TO GO READ THIS BOOK ASAP), but I do recognize it has some flaws from a purely technical perspective (that said I don't care, READ IT, it's gooooood).

THE NOT SO GOOD 

- look there were some inconsistencies. not huge things, but a fair amount of little things. it might be that this is just how arcs are, I don't know (I've only ever read like three), but there were... more than felt entirely justified by it being an arc. It was sort of annoying.

- also if I'm being honest.... I was sort of confused by the plot half the time. I like... almost knew what was going on, but sometimes I wasn't entirely sure. I had a good enough sense that it didn't actually detract from the plot, and it is entirely possible that I was just tired and not functioning too well, but I do feel the plots just a little... weak in places. If you're a character driven reader like me, it's probably not bad enough for you to care, but if you're plot driven this probably isn't the book for you.

THE VERY GOOD 

- the magic ahhhhhh. I was a bit iffy on it at first, because it appears to be gendered magic which is literally never cool, but then as the book goes on you discover that in fact that is 100% bullshit and society just made it up, and if that isn't god tier commentary I don't know what is.
Also I loooooved the way the magic had such heavy consequences. It really helped raise the stakes, and also was just such a unique magic system.

- as I touched on in my last point, there is a lot of political commentary in this book, especially on classism and gender roles, and I thought it was done extremely well. It might make you uncomfortable, but that's why it's so necessary.

- also the representation. The representation. One of our leads is sapphic and ace (!!), and the other lead has a trans love interest. There are also various side characters who are queer, including a few for whom they/them pronouns are very casually used. I can't speak for all the rep, but I thought Annette and Yvonne were fantastic rep, and they meant so much to me.

- the romances. Annette and Yvonne were the literal cutest and their romance made me feel so many warm fuzzies they were so cute!!! And Emilie and Charles... god tier honestly. The rivals to 'I don't like you but please don't die' to begrudging friends to lovers dynamic.... I had no choice but to love it.

- the friendships! I especially loved Annette's group of friends, who were just like... the literal best. I adored their dynamic. but also Emilie and Madeline and Madeline's brother were wonderful!

- .... basically just all the character relationships. the mentor/mentee relationships, the friendships, the romances, the messy familial relationships, everything was so messy and flawed and complex and I LOVED it

- also not to devote four whole points to character related shit but like... the characters on their own were fantastic too, just saying. Annette was just the softest bean, and Emilie was an arrogant snob but she grew so much over the course of the book. This is what I mean when I say I love character development.
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DNF 10% - Just not for me. I don’t like or care about either of the main characters. I also don’t really find the world compelling.
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