Cover Image: Belle Révolte

Belle Révolte

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Member Reviews

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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Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

Belle Révolte is truly and wonderfully put, an empowering book. It exemplifies the struggles that Emilie and Annette face beautifully as girls in a world that challenges them at every turn, where the system of magic is so rich and fascinating that it will keep you stuck to the page. I believe that this novel is a lovely example of what we, as people, can do to in order to follow our dreams in a system that defies us. Belle Révolte honors delicate topics seamlessly and truly immerses you in a world where there is rebellion and magic behind every door. I enjoyed it in its entirety. (Plus ace representation and a trans side character!) 

I would highly recommend this book to those who have enjoyed An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley and The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi.
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TW: death, war, description of body parts and surgeries, gendered society and magic system (challenged throughout the novel)

Before I start this, I do want to say I overall enjoyed it. I’m definitely going to reread this physically once it comes out, as I feel I can better understand it and appreciate it with the ability to go back and remind myself of character names and take my time while not feeling 

The world-building was unique and easy to understand, as it is a binary, gendered magic system that is called out throughout the book. The noonday arts are considered men’s work and involve healing and fighting magic while the midnight arts are women’s magic, including illusionary arts, scrying, and divination.

Annette and Emilie were very strong characters. It’s a rushed beginning to their meeting and deciding to swap lives, but their personalities come out afterward, with Annette being anxious and worried about her abilities with magic and Emilie being ambitious and ready to prove herself as the best. 

Both sets of friendships were great and some of my favorite parts were of Annette being with her friends. 

The two main relationships are m/f with the love interest being a trans man and f/f with the main character being biromantic asexual. Several side and background characters are trans and nonbinary.

Issues of classism and gender roles are handled throughout the novel in a way I really liked. 

My main issue with this was pacing. Events seemed to happen with little build-up. I can kind of understand this as this is a standalone, but some aspects of the main characters journey felt rushed. For example, the decision to swap lives is made in the first chapter. I think with more space to allow events to happen, I would’ve liked it even more. 

I think maybe making the book longer would’ve allowed for parts of the story to be fleshed out, but I think it’s still a solid standalone. The pacing isn’t so egregious that I think it needed a whole second book. 

This was a unique standalone fantasy that tackles real world issues that I feel I could enjoy even more with a reread.
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The Princess Switch but make it Fantasy.
 
I wanted to like Belle Revolte more than I did. Yes, please to all the f/f and diversity. But I couldn't get into the story. A couple chapters in and I was bored. I unfortunately had a hard time telling the main characters apart too and I'm a big fan of mutli-narratives. I also never really understood the magic system. It didn't make sense to me. 
I think others will like this book, it just didn't live up to the hype in my opinion.
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This book was well written and interesting, however it was kind of a slog to start with. The first act is slow and not that compelling, and makes it hard to finish. I only committed to reading it because it was here on netgalley. However I enjoyed it overall.
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This was an interesting and surprising read. I love all the LGBT+ rep in a fantasy. The story focuses on our two main girls who both want more from the life they have. An opportunity presents itself and they take a chance to switch identities to pursue their dreams. 

This is a standalone fantasy which was breath of fresh air. My only problem though is with the pacing. Being that it is a standalone things move incredibly fast and trying to learn about the magic of this world alongside the history of the rebels and kingdom could and would become a bit confusing. Other than the characters were very dynamic and interesting especially side characters. 

I highly recommend.
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Without spoilers, there is bi-romantic ace and trans representation in this book, a f/f relationship and racial and economic diversity. Viewpoints are challenged, heads are butted, and characters grow. Characters are presented in a human and honest way, most of them chafing against the boundaries of their assigned roles and trying to figure out a way to be authentically themselves in a rigid society. 
Emilie, born into an incredibly privileged family, ends up confronted with realities that she had not been aware of before. While she tries her best, she commits blunders and mistakes due to her naiveté, but to her credit, she learns from her mistakes and grows immensely as a person. Similarly, Annette has a lot of her own growth to do. The side characters, such as Madeline, Coline, Laurence and Estrel, or Charles are no less nuanced. They all have to let go of preconceived notions in order to realize what is happening on around them and truly band together.  
The nation is in shambles, and a mysterious figure calling themselves Laurel is causing uproar. Over the course of the story, it becomes clear that there is more to the war happening than the people are aware of, and that their king is privy to insidious goings-on. So who or what is Laurel, and what is the change they are promising?
Belle Révolte is extremely well written, gripping and will not let you go. It is a book that hit all my soft spots and made me fall in love with it.
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**Review to be posted on my blog on 1/23/20**

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Belle Revolte is set in a French inspired world where magic use is known as the noonday arts and the midnight arts. Emilie a noble girl wants to be a physician but only men can aspire to that profession. So Emilie swaps lives with Annette a commoner who wants to elevate her station by studying the midnight arts. Emilie sneaks away to learn noon day arts and train as a physician as a rebellion is growing in their kingdom. The rebellion is lead by someone named Laurel. They find out that everyone who is in the rebellion is called Laurel and they are ready to change things for their kingdom.

Which side will Emilie and Annette take in this rebellion and will they see their dreams become reality?

What I Like:

*The magic system in this book was interesting, to a point. We have the noonday arts which is used by soldiers and physician. The magic is used for fighting and healing. Midnight arts is used for divination and scrying among other things. The midnight arts is in some form usually present in other fantasy books with a magic system but the noonday arts was somewhat different. I thought the medical training Emilie undertakes was more fascinating than the usual midnight arts. I can see why she says the noonday arts changes lives – especially in that sense.

*There is trans and ace (asexual) representation in this book and honestly, I think this is the first young adult fantasy I’ve read with asexual representation! There is some romance in the book, but this story is not romance driven.

*Strong female characters are featured in this book which is always great. We have Annette and Emilie trying to make their dreams a reality. Emilie especially in her male dominated field but Annette takes a big risk as well posing as a noblewoman.

Things That Made Me Go Hmm:

*The beginning of the book kept me interested but by the middle I felt my attention waning. The magic system didn’t keep me interested, they either had magic for healing or fighting and magic for divination and scrying. We see how Annette and Emilie use it to help in time of war but other than that…I’m not sure there was anything else special about it.

*I’m all for the life swapping trope, it’s a chance to have someone on the other side experience a different role and life, some good, some bad. But I felt no connection to the characters. It was a life swap but not a name swap – I think it threw me off a little. Annette was posing as Emilie and being called Emilie. But Emilie was still Emilie, but with Annette’s last name! So…they were both Emilie. 😟

*Triggers: War, death

Final Thoughts:

The story of two girls trying to change their fate and a kingdom on the verge of revolution is inspiring. Unfortunately I failed to connect to the characters and I lost interest midway into the book. Despite my experience, I think others will enjoy this story very much.
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Thank you Sourcebooks for the ARC. This book was wonderfully written and super entertaining. The story focuses on two girls ( Emilie and Annette) who trade places so that they can follow their dreams. However while chasing their dreams both girls discover that a revolution is coming and they both have to decide if they will stand on the right side of history even though that may cost them everything they have worked so hard to achieve.

I loved Linsey Miller’s Mask of Shadows duo and was super excited to read this book and let me tell you it didn’t disappoint. The book was just as diverse as Mask as Shadows. This is the first time I’ve ever read a YA fantasy with an Ace character and I thought it was important for representation how Linsey Miller actually had the ace character explain how attraction works for her.
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I've previously read Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller, and the sequel is currently sat on my TBR waiting for me to read it (I try not to think too hard about the inescapable crush of my owned TBR...), so I knew a little bit about what I was getting into. Mask of Shadows was gloriously 'ya' and the concept of Belle Révolte seemed to hint at a similar familiarity. know some people really aren't here for 'tropey' young adult fiction (or just fantasy fiction for any age), but personally, I find that if I read other things interspersed I often find that familiarity of a trope to be a comforting presence. 

The main thing I will say about this book is that it asks quite a lot of you right at the start. When I read the premise I assumed that a good portion of the book would be taken up with building the relationship between these two girls and then the swap would happen, if not that, then perhaps there would be a presupposed relationship between the two of them, the building blocks of which would have happened before the book even started.

Nope.

I don't think it'll spoil the book for you (it happens within the first few pages)to say that essentially Emilie gets out of her carriage, finds a girl who is similar looking and they swap lives just like that. That's essentially it for the setup, the book requires you to just sort of nod and smile and pretend that you can't see any potential issues with that idea. Personally, I was able to do that and just let the actual plot of the book happen - but if you don't think that's something you can do then I'd suggest leaving this book for now. 

If you can suspend disbelief for just a little bit, I think you'll get to read a very fun and interesting YA fantasy novel. Yes, it is tropey, but it also talks about some themes which I always love to see in YA, dismantling power structures, imbalance of gender, privilege and so forth. Does it take place in a world where there are two kinds of magic and of course they are named after the sun and the moon - yes of course it does! Did I mind? Not so much!

I can't think of too many other YA fantasy novels that have crossed my radar where the main character wanted to become a doctor/healer. I know often they are, or they have healing powers or some such, but I found I could connect to Emilie's desire to learn and to comprehend and to help people, just as I could connect to Annette's sense of being a misfit, of feeling like a constant failure. I appreciated that, while this was a 'life swap' scenario, the two girls aren't pitted as polar opposites, the story acknowledges their similarities as much as their differences.

The plot of this book, unsurprisingly, focusses in on war and revolution in the country (that is probably not France...) in which these girls are living. Initially, I wondered if I would get that dissonance you get in books that start in peace and go into the war (not necessarily a bad thing, look at The Poppy War) but actually, it's a fairly smooth transition, largely because one character remains in one place. 

If you know the plot to Mask of Shadows you'll know that it's USP is that the main character is gender fluid. With that in mind, I thought there would probably be some kind of gender non-conforming representation in this book too - especially in a world where the magic is primarily split by gender. Happily I can say there is trans representation in this book. Much like in Mask of Shadows it's a 'here is this character who happens to be trans' as opposed to any kind of brutal outing as emotional fuel for the book. I appreciated the discussion of gender in the book - it was a happy addition to the story. 

Mostly I thought this was a fun, fast-paced read. I will say that I feel it was perhaps a little too short. In order to properly develop some of those key concepts, as well as the ending (which also fell a little flat for me) I almost feel as though you could have added a third to the length of the book. Perhaps then it would have dragged, but I think that some more time to dwell on finer details would have been pertinent.

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own. 

Belle Révolte publishes February 1st!
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I was super excited to read this. I loved the queer rep and the premise of the story. I haven’t read a good swapping places story in a while and in that sense, this did pique my interest. But I had trouble following the writing. It just didn’t flow very well for me. The characters were great, especially Emilie. But there were times what it moved too fast for me to really get the grasp on character development and pace. This is a stand-alone book and still deserves to be checked out due to the fact that the representation of women being able to fully excel in a world where they are looked at as less was really great! I look forward to reading more from this author!
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DNF at 20%

Sadly, this one just wasn't working for me! The concept sounded super fun and I thought it could be a good one to snuggle up with and tear through in a weekend, but I just couldn't get into it.

The pacing was completely off -- within the first 5%, Emilie is running out of her carriage and proposing to swap places with a complete and total stranger who looks like her so she can study medicine. It all happens so fast it was just completely unbelievable -- I felt like I was missing a big chunk of backstory or something that would make me invested in this decision and why these girls were taking such a huge risk. Then, the pacing slows to a halt and I really struggled to stay invested in the story.

I'm a big stickler for worldbuilding and magic and both felt incredibly messy to me. It just didn't seem to make much sense!

I wanted to love this, but it just wasn't for me.
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I was selected through NetGalley to receive an early copy of Belle Révolte, so that I could write a review!

Two girls, separated by wealth and desires but united by the physical similarities they share.  Emilie wants desperately to go to university to study to become a physician, who channels noonday magic to heal the injured and sick.  Her noble mother has strictly forbidden it, however, as the channeling of magic can have dangerous affects.  Instead, she is sent to boarding school, where she will learn the art of midnight magic, which is used to create illusions and scry distant places.  On her way to the school, she runs into a girl bearing a passable resemblance to her, and a plan is struck.  Annette comes from a peasant family, and has been taught to underestimate herself constantly.  When she is offered the chance to study at a boarding school and hone the magic she already possesses she cannot pass it up.  Both girls are at great risk, for if they are caught, the punishment could be dire.

Lindsey Miller is one of my favorite fantasy authors, because of her frequent and diverse LGBTQ representation and her complex story lines!  Belle Révolte is her latest novel, which boasts a cast inclusive of asexual, lesbian, and trans identities, all of which could we could use significantly more of in fantasy.  I really loved the dual perspective used in the story too, and the ways that the two girls lives interweave to create a full story

You can get your copy of Belle Révolte on February 4th from Sourcefire Books!  

My Recommendation-
If you are seeking to diversify your fantasy reads, Belle Révolte is an amazing choice.  If you love stories of magic, revolution and female perseverance, you will be delighted by Belle Révolte.  If you love Natasha Ngan or Marie Lu, Lindsey Miller’s books will be an excellent fit.
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I was predisposed to like this but instead I found it fairly predictable. Those who enjoy fantasy tropes will enjoy this. I really couldn't get past  the noble protagonist having a last name of "swamps"
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This book kind of snuck up on me. At first I wasn’t connecting to the two main characters. They were meant to look similar, which allowed them to swap roles, but one was a commoner raised in poverty and one a noble raised in luxury. They should have been quite different personality wise but I could not tell them apart most of the time. I would forget which was which, a problem that was compounded by each taking the name of the other. Everything from their attitudes to their language seemed the same. I really wanted to love this book but I was worried that it was not going to be the story for me. Then rather suddenly I found myself teary at an emotional death scene and realized I was completely engaged and involved. I don’t know how it happened but by the last quarter I loved it! I never did really connect with the main characters but the secondary ones stole my heart and they are what made the story for me.

The inclusion of transgender and asexual characters was a breath of fresh air and the romantic relationships were perfection. I don’t generally like romance to be the focus and I found it to be done just right in this one. Not too much and not too little. While love is in the air, for the most part it is war and danger that is in the air. This is truly a story about girls fighting for the power that is denied to them and changing their world for the better. This is a stand-alone so in the end everything is wrapped up and resolved. It all happens rather quickly and neatly but I was satisfied with the conclusion. Belle Révolte is an entertaining and dare I say inspiring fantasy that should please anyone who delights in watching strong female characters get their due and causing the fall of the patriarchy. And really who doesn’t want to see that?

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.
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Girls - romance - trans - reformation
This story revolves around two girls who would to pursue each others career.  So they switch places and become a part of something larger.  I liked the concept of magic but in a lot of places I couldn't particularly understand certain magical terminologies.  I wanted to feel so much for the girls but I just simply couldn't care more for them or their actions/consequences.  The ending was rushed and I couldn't agree to certain decisions/actions.  The book has a great plot but the writing didn't sit with me.  I really tried to love this book!
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Belle Révolte takes two very different young women, both of whom have ambitious dreams, and sets them in a society which places those goals out of their reach. But with an impulsive 'Prince and the Pauper' style swap, both Emilie and Annette put themselves on a path to excelling in their chosen fields: Emilie becomes a physician’s assistant and Annette studies divination. However, political unrest soon draws both girls into something far bigger than either had bargained for.

Although the names and settings seem heavily influenced by revolutionary France, Belle Révolte is high fantasy and not historical fiction. I'm also pleased to spot a standalone fantasy novel, as they seem less common than series. I'm especially pleased the Belle Révolte works perfectly within the single book: it didn't feel like the story had been condensed or cut short.

I loved the characters, both the two driven protagonists and the diverse supporting cast in each girls side of the story. All the characters felt well developed and complex. Emilie and Annette, especially, were characters you wanted to root for and both were charming and relatable in their own unique ways.

There were a few spots in the books where I felt there were a few minor pacing issues, but the strong, appealing characters and the unique political and dual magic systems made Belle Révolte a compelling and exciting read.

A really enjoyable read and one I'd thoroughly recommend.
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