Cover Image: Belle Révolte

Belle Révolte

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Member Reviews

4.5 Stars

Book: Laurel
Me, every time: YANNY

OK, so I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, so of course any well-written novel that takes place in a magical boarding school (and magical university!) is going to win me over pretty quickly. Throw in half my other favourite tropes (characters switching places, fake identities, enemies/rivals to lovers romances, fun mentor characters) and some really great character relationships too, as well as an interesting (if somewhat confusing) magic system, and I'm smitten. Did I mention this book also simultaneously feels light-hearted while every so often punching you in the gut/making you stare wide-eyed in horror? (My favourite kind of read?) And that it's wonderfully diverse? And that the banter is great?

Yeah, Belle Révolte isn't perfect, but it ticked all the boxes for me.

The character relationships were probably my favourite aspect of the book. I love how both Emilie and Annette have complex relationships with their biological family members, and also form strong familial relationships with other characters throughout the course of the story. I especially loved Emilie and her mother's relationship, and Annette's relationship with Estrel.

Did I guess the twists? Just one! Well, kind of. I think. If this novel has one flaw, it's that it gets a bit confusing at times. There are a lot of names to remember, a lot of alliances to keep track of, and multiple kinds of magic, some of which are easier to grasp the nuances of than others. But it didn't bother me that much. I was along for the ride regardless, and what a great ride it was.
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oof big one here. the book drops a lot of new terms, as well as locations and key player names, in a rush. (think within four chapters here). my issue is these are not explained but dropped with the assumption that explanations can be given later or the reader can glean enough from context. Sadly this was not the case. the first few times i hit a word i didnt know (i.e. "hack") i skimmed ahead quickly to see if there would be an explanation. this led to a lot of skimming ahead for information that just wasn't there. 

i got frustrated with the plot too fast in this book! Considering the new terms in this already had me stumbling, I was in no condition for storyline struggles. to be fair, my issue on this end is the exact opposite: its all a little too simple. 
Comtesse Emilie does not want to study the midnight arts her mother has chosen for her, and she conveniently spots a girl who looks almost exactly like her who DOES want to study the midnight arts AND is willing to switch places with her to do so -- after talking for less than a minute. 
I would give points to this book for its quick pace -- we all enjoy action-focused stories from time to time, don't we? -- except I was too bogged down by questions of "wait but what does this thing mean?"

there was a lot of telling and just not enough showing. Emilie will state her mother has always forced gowns on her or Annette will state she is excluded by her family, but I never get any emotional reactions from them.

while this ties a bit into the plot (how easily Emilie finds and convinces someone to swap places) it also goes to other moments in the book that just don't click. The girls might look similar, but they have different backgrounds. it makes little sense no one eyed Annette more for her calloused hands and lack of manners simply because "Emilie has been far from society." And within two pages Annette claims "Emilie" wants to be a physician ... but also that she wants to work harder than ever in the midnight arts. her story contradicts and no one picks up on it. 
a frustrating read overall. I hoped for a lot from a book that included French culture, a girl who dreams of working in Stem, and a classic fight-the-monarchy pitch. I also read the author's note on Goodreads and ah! the heart that went into this book is beautiful! but I just cannot continue because the execution doesn't cut it for me. 

I will not be sharing this review anywhere else because I couldn't finish the book.
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Noonday arts is used in fighting and healing gruesome wounds while the midnight arts are comprised of illusions, divination, and scrying. The divide between the magic types are gender locked, but Emilie des Marais is determined to become a physician rather than a society lady as befitting her station as a Comtesse. When she sees a girl that looks very similar to her en route, they swap places so she can go to university. Annette Boucher does have magic and does want the chance to study the midnight arts. The world around them would never give a peasant girl a chance like this, especially when there is a rebellion brewing in the kingdom and it's on the brink of war.

Belle Révolte has just as much detail in the world-building as Linsey's first novel Mask of Shadows. Excessive use of magic would burn out the user physically and mentally, especially if large amounts of it were channeled at once. Because of this, women were generally forbidden from using the noonday arts out of fear it would wear out their bodies and render them infertile. Most of the nobility would use other people to channel magic through, known as hacks; these people were generally commoners, and would be used up sooner than the nobles would be. This is one of the founding tenets of the opposition to the crown, that the people shouldn't be used up and discarded just because they weren't wealthy.

While we have the requisite chapters of their training, there is still a kingdom at large outside of the finishing school and the university. The flyers posted and the rumors circulating at times ease us into the political stances, and both Emilie and Annette actually get drawn into the movement. Both want to help others around themselves and are ambitious enough to want to be known and make a difference within the kingdom. Magic involves sacrifice, after all, and they want to make sure theirs was worth the effort. As actual war breaks out, both of the girls push their efforts further to save the peasants from being used up and discarded so that nobles wouldn't die that much sooner. It's a much darker reality than either were prepared to see, and both decide spontaneously to do the right thing, no matter the cost to themselves.

Just as in her other novels, Linsey has a diverse cast of characters. We have trans characters (one explicitly explaining that, another that is always referred to as they/them), women falling in love with other women, and an asexual character that isn't treated as less than because there is no interest in anything beyond kissing. Characters are of various racial descriptions, and it's not a racial divide that adds to the nobility vs poorer classes. Race also doesn't play a role in the decision to go to war: it's clearly an effort to stop the revolutionary behaviors and hopefully have them drawn away or killed in battle, as well as expanding the empire and increasing the coffers and position of the king. The king, like many of the old school nobles, has no care for the poor or those "used up" to make his kingdom work. They're interchangeable cogs, essentially, and entirely beneath his notice. It's this kind of casual cruelty that so many of the disadvantaged and disabled are subject to and is denounced by the main characters.

All of it leads to building tension as the novel progresses to the end, and we do have dual epilogues to wrap things up. This is a fantastic novel, gripping and immersive from the first page to the last.
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I started skimming this one at around 20% had to DNF around 50%. I don't think it was bad, it just didn't hold my interest. I won't share my opinions anywhere, since I didn't finish and didn't enjoy. Not every book is for every reader.  Thanks for the opportunity to read and potentially review this one.
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Belle Revolte.

Ahhh, doesn’t the title absolutely slide off your tongue and quiver against your lips? The cover is gorgeous as well. The sea two combined were what made me want to snatch this book up and even though I’ve been burned before by that deadly combo, I was willing to take the risk for this.

It was worth it in the end.

I am not a big fantasy fan which is funny because I play quite a few fantasy games. I grew up with Japanese role playing games. Final fantasy and Legend of Zelda courses through my bloodstream but for some reason reading the genre confuses my mind and crosses my eyes. I’m trying to get past this and this book is one of the few I enjoyed of the genre so if you’re like me and stagnant to fantasy this is definitely for you.

The old switcharoo cliche takes place between a noble and a commoner. Emilie wants to become a physician but with her highbrow ranking it is frowned down upon. Her mother is strongly against it and sends her away to finishing school. 
“Do NOT escape.”

She doesn’t escape, she enlists the aid of Annette, the commoner, to switch places with her so she can embark on her journey while Annette takes her stead. 

Annette has magic of her own and grows it, becomes not only a lady but powerful in her own way.

The two are brilliant in ways they have never known.

This was a great read. I loved the representation of both POC and LGBT. The magic system was simple and a delight to read. 

At times I was a bit confused as it is very fast paced and I do think this would have been better as a series than as a stand-alone book. This doesn’t take away from the magic however. Annette and Emilie are amazing characters and going through both of their journeys you experience the girls lessons in grief, heartbreak, and magic.  It’s a lesson in life itself.

Thanks very much to Netgalley and the publisher for this copy of my ARC.
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I will not be posting a review for this book because I was unable to finish it. The writing was very confusing and I was constantly going back and rereading sentences over and over, still unable to figure out exactly what the author was trying to say. The dialogue was strange and disconnected as well. I loved the idea of this book, but it felt like the author was trying too hard to make things sound poetic when the complicated world she was trying to create would have been better served by simplicity.
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I liked the premise here but with both the politics and magic being somewhat complicated, it can get a little hard to follow along with everything that is happening. I think this would be a fabulous TV show, so much of the magic could be visible and the intricacies of all the relationships could be explored. There are so many entwined people in each of the storylines of this book. A little too complicated for my taste but interesting with lots of magical action.
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I loved this book! I thought the magic system was really interesting. The main characters are very different and I liked seeing one realize her privilege while seeing how the other used her newfound privilege. I also appreciated how much LGBTQ+ representation there was. Sapphic characters! An ace main character! A trans love interest! An enby character with they/them pronouns! I was very happy to see all of that, especially since there is no outing, deadnaming, or misgendering.

If you are sensitive to violence, gore, self-harm, death, child neglect and abuse, or medical neglect and abuse then this book may not be for you.
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<i>Belle Revolte</i> started out with a rather slow beginning, that had me very conflicted. However, once I got farther into the book <b>things started to REALLY kick-off</b> and got so much better! I got hooked on the story and binge-read the rest of the book in one evening for 3 hours because I couldn't stop reading it 😱 Overall, I feel like it's worth it to give the book a chance despite the slow pace in the beginning, because it has such a great magic system, strong female leads, amazing female friendships and heart-melting romance (and so much more) to offer 💕

<u><strong>Things I liked</strong></u>

<strong>The secondary characters really shine</strong> ➽ Literally everyone has an intriguing character, depth, and their own motivations, making this a book that does secondary characters incredibly well and is a great example of not only the main character's getting the spotlight. Here are some of the great characters that we got to see (and that truly gave me some power squad vibes) 🥰

<strong>Charles</strong> 💕 A comte and the <strong>apprentice of Physician Laurence, he's one of Emilie's fellow students</strong>, though his rank allows him to be a magician and not a hack. He's very intelligent, kind of cocky and has a great sense of humor, which often also becomes quite snarky. I loved Charles, he's the perfect amount of snark but also caring and I liked that we saw him discussing how being trans in this world affected him, prompting him to want to make a change.

<strong>Estrell Charon</strong> <strong>💕</strong> A <strong>powerful diviner born into a common family</strong> who worked her way up and has now become the Royal Diviner. She's Anette's idol and an ambitious woman who managed to defy the odds, making her an inspiration for many people. She's also very down-to-earth, loyal and understanding and hasn't forgotten where she came from. I liked how she become the Mom friend in Anette's friendship group and a great light of guidance.

<strong>Yvonne</strong> 💕 An <strong>alchemist working in the kitchens of the school that Anette attends</strong>. She's a black woman who initially hesitates to befriend Anette as she thinks her the comtesse Emilie and their relationship wouldn't be proper. Nevertheless, both strike up a friendship (and some romantic feelings as well) that emphasize comfortable silence, understanding and a deep caring for each other.

<strong>Coline</strong> 💕 Definitely a troublemaker, she's the<strong> friend and fellow student of Anette, who can be quite blunt</strong> and snippy but genuinely cares about her friends. She expresses her caring through cynicism and humor, but can always be depended on to join in with an adventure. I was really intrigued by her and the fact that she's got a good heart deep down made her likable.

<strong>Isabella</strong> 💕 Another <strong>friend of Anette and a much quieter person than Coline</strong>. Isabelle cares deeply for her brother and is very worried about what will happen to him. She's definitely someone that is empathetic and strong in a less obvious and quieter way

<strong>Rainier & Madeline</strong> 💕 They're the <strong>fellow hacks that Emilie befriends when she first joins the school</strong> and she strikes up a friendship with both of them. I especially loved her friendship with Madeline, as they must stick together due to the fact that girls aren't really wanted to work the noonday arts. I loved that they supported each other and Madeline is another determined character who - much like Emilie - didn't want to be told what to do.

<strong>Laurence</strong> 💕 He's the <strong>king's nephew and a powerful physician</strong> who takes on Emilie and Rainer as his new hacks. I loved that he played into the 'absentminded professor' trope and was really laid back/informal when it came to titles. It made the banter between his students and him so fun to watch!

<strong>The setting and magic system was interesting</strong> ➽ The worldbuilding was really good and offered a lot of great twists on Fantasy tropes. It's inspired by the French Revolution and creates an atmosphere that is like a powder keg: one match and everything will explode. The concept of magic is that there are two branches of magic: <strong>the noonday and midnight arts that are connected to two entities called Mistress Moon and Lord Sun</strong>. While the noonday arts are connected to alerting the body, the midnight arts include scrying and divining. I like the different attributes associated with the magic and how there was a realistic cost: <strong>channeling magic through yourself is wearing down the body</strong>. The longer and the more you do it, the weaker you get, until you die. That's why noble and important magician use hacks (= other people who take the brunt of the cost for magic) to channel their magic, so they can live longer. However, most hacks are commoners and the exploitation of them is huge, adding to the already unstable political climate in the book that sees nobles buying themselves longer lives at the expense of the common folk.  The book also <strong>touched upon how stifling the system of the arts can be</strong> as girls are supposed to do the midnight arts (as they are considered 'weaker' and wear down the user more slowly) and boys are supposed to do the noonday arts (as this includes both altering the body and battle magic, it's seen as the stronger magic and unseemly for girls). There are definitely critique at the way we often think in binary systems and how it can prevent people from growing if they are constantly put in boxes. I LOVED that the author touched upon how such a gender-specific system not only was rooted in sexism but also became problematic for trans characters.

<strong>I liked seeing the journey of our two main characters</strong></big> ➽ The book is told in the alternating POV of the two girls that switch places and become involved in the rebellion going on in their country. I couldn't even tell you who I liked better because both Anette and Emilie were great and interesting in their own way, often contrasting each other.

I liked <strong>following Anette's aspirations to become a commoner diviner</strong> like her big idol Esther and how she tried to fit into Emilie's role as a proper lady in order to achieve her goals. She struggled a bit adjusting to a very different life and was critical of a lot of opinions that the nobles harbored, as she saw it from the perspective of a civilian. She never forgets what she left behind and it broke my heart to learn how much her family had disregarded her and what a deep scar a loss had caused her. I was rooting for Anette to fulfill her potential and realize that she was so much more than people had been telling her, as she can do anything if she sets her mind to it. She often struggles with feeling out of place, but she also demonstrates bravery and masters the midnight arts, that are so falsely considered to be weak.

Meanwhile, <strong>Emilie has always been told that she's to be a 'proper lady'</strong> and not to engage in the noonday arts. However, when she sets out to become a hack in order to do something meaningful, she also faces a lot of sacrifices as it's no easy job and wears down her body a lot. She can be quiet clever and a bit cocky too, but has a good heart and a great determination to do right. I liked that Emilie acknowledged her own privilege as a Noble numerous times throughout the book and admitted that she sometimes saw herself in the savior role, something she challenged later on as she saw how selfish that could be. Her willingness to grow really made her an enjoyable character to follow around even if she could be brash at times.

<strong>Seeing the political drama of the rebellion unfold was interesting</strong> ➽ Like I said, once I got out of the slow beginning, things started to pick up and we got to see more of the politics going on in the world. There's a rebellion brewing as the common folk is unhappy with being used as hacks (to bear the cost of the magic for the royals) and generally being disregarded by the kingdom. A group called Laurel is taking the initiative to protest via posters and actions, prompting people to join them that are unhappy with the magic system and the unhealthy habits that have been built up over decades. <strong>Uncovering who is behind Laurel and how the crown is reacting to being challenged was interesting and got really intense in the last quarter of the book</strong>. I couldn't put down the book, because so many things were happening that kept me on the edge of my seat. I thought that the politics and rebellion plotlines were easy to follow and very well woven together, but still held some unexpected twists in the end! As this is a standalone Fantasy, I also liked the ending: it as satisfying, still emphasized the cost of a rebellion (sacrifices are made and there is a cost 😭) and gave us a good conclusion to all the plot and character arcs.

<strong>There were many amazing character dynamics explored.</strong> ➽ I am SO here for all the healthy relationships! Be it platonic or romantic there is a lot of understanding and respect between the characters. First of all, there <strong>were some strong female friendships</strong> and absolutely no unnecessary girl hate grouped around competition or boys. Instead, all the girls were working to support each other and the conflicts that happened were focused on their own secrets they keep. Anette is basically living at an all-girl magician school and has a strong bond with her roommates Isabella and Coline, as well as the other students and her mentor. Meanwhile, Emilie sticks together with the only other female hack Madeline and instead of seeing each other as competition, they have the others back. As for the romantic relationships, they both unfolded slowly and I appreciated that they didn't take over the story (though part of me wants more of it because both couples were cute). <strong>Anette falls in love with another girl</strong> and their scenes are so soft, it truly made me happy how comfortable they were around each other. The book also discusses Annete's asexuality and her partner is very respectful 💗 <strong>Emilie falls for another student and they have the best banter</strong>, is honestly made me so happy! They had great chemistry and the slow burn almost killed me. There was also consent about kissing, and I wish to see that way more often in books! I wish we'd seen more of Emilie and Anette's friendship in the book (we did get them talking through scrying, but due to the plot they didn't spend much time together), but I like how much they cared about each other.

<u><strong>The Only Thing I didn't like</strong></u>

<strong>Sadly, I struggled with the beginning so much.</strong> ➽ I feel like the book and I started off on the wrong foot, as my first impression wasn't too well. The <strong>big starting point is the main character swapping lives but unfortunately happened in a way that was inorganic.</strong> It doesn't make much sense to me that Emilie would go up to this girl she's just seen (and knows nothing about) and introduce herself as a Noble (in this bad political climate) and expect her to switch lives. Similarly, we get why Anette wants to escape her life, but she's not the least bit skeptical of this strange offering, something too good to be true. The <strong>inciting incident was just too convenient to me</strong> and it felt like it happened only to kick off the plot and not because it made sense.

<strong>IN CONCLUSION.</strong> ➽ I <strong>love this book</strong>, rarely does a first impression change, but Belle Révolte managed to hook me in! The beginning might be slow for some readers, but please give this book some more time, as <strong>it has so MUCH good to offer and shows how important it is to write an inclusive fantasy world</strong>!!
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Actual Rating: 4.5 stars

If you are looking for a fun standalone fantasy novel with well-developed characters and queer representation, check out Belle Revolte! The world and magic system are surprisingly complex and well-developed for a standalone novel and the plot accomplishes quite a lot in a short number of pages. This is sort of a Prince and the Pauper retelling with girls who switch lives to pursue their dreams, and thematic content that explores inequality and oppression in terms of wealth, power, and gender.

Loosely based on revolutionary France, this book is set in a world of magic that is segregated into the daytime arts (including magical medicine and weaponry) and the nighttime arts (including illusions and scrying), and these segregations have traditionally been gendered as well. Women are expected to follow the less dangerous nighttime magic and men the daytime. But Emilie des Marais dreams of becoming a physician, despite the wishes of her wealthy and powerful mother. So instead of attending a prestigious finishing school, she convinces commoner Annette Boucher to take her place so she can pursue her dreams of medical training. The girls swap lives, explore their individual power, and eventually become entangled in a necessary but dangerous political revolution.

I really enjoyed this book and was impressed and how much the author accomplishes in a single book. The characters are interesting, the world and magic system are thoughtfully laid out, and there is a major focus on structural inequalities as they affect different groups of people. There is action, magic, political intrigue, friendship, and a bit of romance as well. I liked that the romance didn't take over as the main focal point of the plot with a larger emphasis on friendship. (And even the romances that do develop involve mutual respect and friendship)

In terms of queer representation, Annette is asexual, biromantic and we get some discussion of what that means. In this story, she develops a low-key romantic relationship with another girl and they have a lovely friendship as well. Emilie seems to be a bit fluid about her gender expression and falls for a trans boy. Their relationship is also just really lovely, with some good-hearted rivalry and banter.

There is quite a bit of violence in this book and it goes to some rather dark places in terms of exploitation and abuse of power, sometimes is horrifying and gruesome ways, but the ending is a positive one. My main complaint with this book is that while it is quite ambitious in the scope of the story it seeks to tell, it sometimes suffers from issues of pacing or glossing over things that could have been more developed. Parts of this dragged a bit and the pacing felt inconsistent because it didn't seems to follow a traditional three-act structure and we keep switching perspectives between Annette and Emilie. That said, I still really liked it and think it's worth picking up. And while it does read as a standalone, there is certainly space to tell more stories in this world! I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

CW include death, war violence, depictions of blood and gore, torture, magical murder, loss of a loved one.
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CW: Violence / Gore / Medical Neglect / Sibling Death / Executions / References to Children’s Neglect / Abuse / Discussions of Drowning 

Belle Revolte is a magical life swap story that ended up surprising me. Not because of the plot or the setting. Because of the characters that ended up drawing me in. 

Emilie de Marais lives in a society with a very socially gendered magic system. Beware of that going in. Men can train to be warriors or physicians while women are expected to be taught in the ways of divination, and even there often only ladies. This is not to her liking. She would rather become a physician than to learn how to properly divine and has been experimenting at home. Until her mother sends her away. When she meets Annette, she devises a plan. Annette will go to the finishing school in her place and Emilie will be going on to become a physician. 

If you think this is a story where there is going to be a gender swap, you are wrong. Emilie goes into the training as an assistant, those that the physicians often use to draw power from when needed (and often causes them an early death). Even as a female she is allowed to do this. This was such a nice change to the normal live swap stories to be honest. 

In addition to the socially gendered magic system it is balanced out a lot by there being trans en non-binary side characters throughout the story. While not entirely accepted in society (trans character isn’t all out) it is still normal between the characters. Accepting. 

That was also why I ended up falling for the characters. They all have their unique things. I was perhaps less drawn to Emilie as a person who is very driven and has a tendency to push people away a bit. But the people around her; Laurence, Charles and the siblings, filled around her amazingly. Where with Annette I was not quite as taken by her story plot but I could resonate with her so well. She is asexual as I am. But also biromantic. 
As the story progressed our characters grew, talking about the politics and gender norms of the society they resided in. They struck something with me and I still think very fondly of them after having finished the book a week ago. 

The story in itself was solid at best . A bit weak in places. So it certainly isn’t a perfect book but if you love a diverse queer book than this is certainly for you. 

It is a standalone for now, but I can certainly see openings in that ending for a potential companion book.
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The swapping roles trope intrigued me initially, but this book felt very half formed. The world-building was barely there (I never at any point knew where Serre or Kalthorne or any country was in relation to each other, and I also don’t even know all of the country’s names vs the names of towns.) Annette and Emilie were very much interchangeable, so I had a hard time keeping their stories straight. I never fully understood “hacks,” nor did I comprehend the extent of their magical abilities because they could seemingly do everything and yet they were constantly easily defeated??? I was bored at times, probably because I had trouble following the storyline, and all the French names were weird and difficult to pronounce. This book was really just not for me.
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This book got off to a slow start and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to complete it. Thankfully the pace picked up and it was well written so persevering was not as difficult as I expected. I mostly enjoyed the book, although the magic annoyed me in parts. Thanks to the publisher and netgalley for an ARC egalley.
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I really enjoyed reading Belle Révolte, but I’m only giving it four stars instead of five, one star being taken off because of the pacing and plot.

The pacing was very slow in the beginning, despite the fast introduction there was of Annette and Emilie almost instantly meeting each other and switching lives. It just took quite a while before the main plot, involving Laurel, began. Once the pacing of the book picked up, however, it was hard to put it down!

The system of magic, with the hawks and everything having to do with the physicians, was all so much information to take in. I did somewhat understand it, but I never completely got it or was interested in it.

The queer romance was amazing! It was so sweet yet not rushed and not annoying. I even got hints of other queer romances in the book, and I loved, although sweet as it was, that the romance didn’t overshadow the main plot. Emilie had to learn about being a physician, and Annette had to learn about being a lady of high status. 

Both the girls had to keep their identities a secret from everyone else and were likable characters, but between them I liked Emilie more! Even with her high status, she was incredibly kind and willing to be helpful to others that needed her help.

There were twists I didn’t see coming in this book but that were all well executed by Linsey Miller and added something to the story. The cast of characters overall was fantastic, and I was very happy with how things wrapped up at the end. 

I believe this is a standalone, but I definitely wouldn’t mind a sequel to this in the future!
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Thanks to Netgalley for providing me a free copy to review!

Emilie and Annette come from two different worlds. Emilie, a rebel from an aristocrat family that wants to study the masculine side of magic and become a physician, swaps lives with the talented but overlooked Annette. Annette attends a prestigious boarding school under Emilie's name to study the midnight arts while Emilie rides to the front lines of a war in the name of medicine and magic. 

Overall, the princess and pauper idea was well placed and had good intentions, but the characters fell completely flat and bored me. I found myself waiting for interesting side characters to liven up the story. The magic descriptions seem all over the place and generic while settings were blown over. I loved the idea, but this didn't really do it for me.

2.5, rounded to 3 stars for trying something new.
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Overall, this book was mostly meh. I absolutely loved the trans/queer rep & the overall diverse cast, but unfortunately I feel it mostly fell flat. I feel like the two MC's didnt have enough of their own voices for me to easily tell them apart even with each chapter starting out with their name. Maybe if one had been first/third person or if they were both third person it couldve been better? There were also too many conveniences & confusing moments throughout the book.

I really wanted to like this, but it unfortunately was not for me. Thank you netgalley for the ebook!
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This book is a wonderful story filled with magic and struggles and relationships. It’s a story that jumps right in and runs through a gamut of emotions. It’s a well thought out timeline but with many characters and storylines that all culminate in a fight for good.
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Belle Révolte puts an intriguing twist to its french-revolution-vibe fantasy setting, featuring queer teens exchanging identities, going to magical schools, fighting against oppression and changing the course of a war.

Content warnings include: extremely graphic injuries and gore due to protagonist being a physician at the front during war, violence, execution and death, class difference featuring oppression, mistreatment and abuse of lower class; mentions and effects of off-page torture, off-page acephobia.

The strongest point of the book was the characters and the setting.
Emilie was headstrong, stubborn and arrogant (I mean, she's heir to one of the most important noble families,) and totally unapologetic about it. She knows what she wants and she knows her strengths, and overall she was a delight to read about. When she exchanges her cushy lifestyle for that of a common girl, not once does she complain, she keeps following her goals without backing down. The whole going to a school that is mainly for boys and being one of only two girls who were admitted wasn't that big of a deal. Obviously she also had a lot of things to learn, and while not exactly gracefully, learn a lot she did.
Annette was a different story. She's from a big family living in a small farming village, with parents who couldn't care less that she effectively ran away. I liked her story of a poor/common girl getting thrown into an upper class school to follow her dreams - except I didn't really know what her dream was. More and that and other things that remained unclear later in this review.
Both girls quickly gain friends and have their own groups of characters around them, some with bigger and some with smaller roles, all of who were interesting. There are certain parallels in their stories, though their personal story arcs are rather different.

Now, the setting. Belle Révolte takes place in a fantasy country that in my unqualified opinion resembles France during/shortly before the big revolution. I mean, even the names and titles and ancient langauge are French (or at least seem French to me, who knows absolutely nothing about the actual language.) I found that to be a bit of a weird choice - why give a fantasy book such a close resemblance, to the point where I wasn't sure if it really was supposed to be fantasy at all?
That was not what I mean when I mentioned the strong setting however. I meant more immediately where Emilie and Anette stories took place. The magic schools are one thing, but what I found really exciting and different was when the war began and Emilie, along with her classmates and teachers, went to the front to heal the soldiers there. Battle healer isn't a perspective I encountered in books before, and it was exhilarating and amazingly executed.
However, it was also brutal. I mean, war, duh. But the way the healing magic was described, the way Emilie could look inside and affect another person's body... it was uncanny, unsettling, and very, very graphic. Not just in the injuries she examines and heals, but in the way magic affects the user too.

Which brings me to the worldbuilding, with which I had a few issues.
Most importantly, the magic. To summarize, I felt like there was a big gap between what was told and what was shown. Which made sense in a way, since it's established over the course of the book that magic is nowhere near as strictly binary as the commonly taught theories suggest. Which is very cool in concept, but combined with how confused I was about the entirety of the magic system in general and how it tied in with the world and the characters personally, it didn't quite work for me.
Magic is separated into the noonday and midnight arts, the former for fighting and healing, for men, and the latter for divination, illusion and scrying, for women. Magic also has a price for using it, affecting the user badly, and ultimately deteriorating their body until the user dies or they loose their ability to work magic, if I understood correctly. Pretty much every single use of magic makes the user bleed or injures them in some way. As such, the protagonists spend the majority of the book with minor or major injuries, which are not pretty.
Now, apply such a magic system to a society with an upper and a lower class, and you end up with the concept of "hacks": poor/common people "channelling" the magic for the noble user, who directs the magic but doesn't have to bear any of the force. Exactly how this works isn't explained, just like many of the other finer workings of the magic and it's connection to society. The amount of magic users in the population, the exact difference between divination and scrying which seems obvious in theory but not so much in practice, how some nobles don't use hacks but it's not mentioned how that is viewed in wider society, how exactly the fighting magic works and what it does, all the finer workings of illusions, the differences in severity of the harmful effect of magic use on the user, any details about the enemy country's magic or anything about them in general etc. etc.
Ultimately, while I found the magic fascinating, I was also rather puzzled by it at times and couldn't entirely keep up witht he logic behind it. It was fine to read, however, once I decided to just accept what was told without thinking too hard about it.

In contrast, what I absolutely loved was the queer representation. One protagonist is explicitly asexual, and I loved her little arc about it, about not being broken but being confused that everyone else seems to know something you don't, which was exactly how I felt growing up as an ace teen too. In this context was also a couple conversations about explicit consent and negotiating relationships, which I adored.
There are two romantic subplots, one featuring a f/f couple, and another a m/f couple with a trans love interest. There were also several nonbinary side characters, or at least characters who used they/them pronouns, characters of unknown gender were frequently referred to with gender neutral pronouns, and other queer side couples.
How queer people are viewed in the setting's society wasn't really brought up, but the asexual protagonist experienced acephobia off-page, and the conflation of sexual and romantic love is described as normalized. There is no sex on-page.

As much as I liked the groups around Emilie and Annette respectively, I would have liked the lines to blur more rather than the two groups staying pretty much entirely separate for the entirety of the plot.
Despite that there are several parallels in their personal plots, from being outsiders, experiencing loss and betrayal, seeing the corruption and wrongness of the system and becoming involved with the rebellion, and more.
Overall the plot and particular the personal motivations and relationships could have been a little tighter, though. I still enjoyed them, but wanted more details and follow-ups on pretty much everyone, and Annette and Emilie's mother's and Sebastien and Charles's relationships in particular.

I could say so much more, but this review is already long enough so I'll end it with a final note: I didn't quite expect the book to be as graphic as it was, despite having read the author's other works before. Belle Révolte is quite clearly YA with the protagonists in their teens (16 to 17 I assumed, though I cannot remember if their ages are stated on-page.) There are very explicit and graphic descriptions of injuries and deaths, bodies being taken apart, deteriorating and slowly dying in high detail. This was both as part of the plot around the mistreatment of the lower class and hacks and also just normal day-to-day work for Emilie as a physician's hack. My stomach turned quite a few times. So... be warned.
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There was a lot I liked and some I didn't. This was essentially a gender swapped Prince and the Pauper meets French revolution with magic, which I was totally sold on. Positives - complete standalone novel (which feels rare these days), good ace and transgender representation (one main character is explicitly ace biromantic and one secondary character discusses being trans briefly, and both are well rounded, interesting characters (view spoiler)), and very thorough world-building.

However, I had a really hard time getting through the first third. I didn't connect with either of the leads and there were a lot of names and titles thrown around so I struggled with keeping everyone straight. There were also some major deaths in the latter half, which I GET because this is a coup and war and things are terrible, but I wanted them to survive because this is fantasy. That's just a personal preference though.

All in all, I would still recommend it. I think some people will totally love it, and reading good representation is always good. Plus the cover is gorgeous.
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Unfortunately I have been dragging myself through this book for 6 weeks now, so I'm calling it a DNF at 20%.

The pacing of this book is very strange. The perspective characters make a huge, exciting decision at 4%, but the plot seems to stall there and slow down drastically. I still have no idea what the major plot arc was going to work through 1/5th of the way through the book. There were odd time jumps in one perspective, where small observations are made in a paragraph or two and then days are skipped and we pick back up at another small conversation. I had little connection to the characters and no reason to care about their journeys. 

Neither of the main characters seemed to have any connection to people in their lives, which I found very odd and I think added to the disconnect. 

I also read several times in the marketing materials that this is a work of high fantasy, NOT historical fiction, but it does read a lot like historical fiction. The writing style takes on an affectation I particularly dislike to give it a historical feeling.
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