Cover Image: Belle Révolte

Belle Révolte

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Member Reviews

Miller's Belle Révolte takes a familiar premise - characters switching places - and hits the ground running.

Privileged noble Emilie des Marais has never been one for needlework, illusions, and fancy gowns. She's interested in medicine and the traditionally "masculine" healing arts, and is willing to give her noble title to a complete stranger so she can sneak away and go learn. Annette Boucher isn't sure why anyone would trade a life of comfort to step into her shoes, but taking Emilie's spot at a fancy finishing school will allow her to meet an idol of her, so she quickly agrees to the switch.

Emilie is quickly confronted with her privilege and has to reassess what she's been taught. Annette learns confidence, and wants to use Emilie's borrowed influence to make things better for the lower class. But there's not much time for them to figure their new selves out - their country is at the brink of war, and each will fight in their own way.

Kudos to Miller for solid trans and ace representation, and making good use of her non-writing job history to make Emilie's medical scenes feel quite real.

The downside here is that the plot is very, very quick; we don't get to know our characters deeply. I would have liked a bit more setup before the switch, and I also feel like there's a missed opportunity for us to explore Emilie and her barely-mentioned father, to make certain plot elements resonate more. But all in all, Miller's an author with interesting ideas, and I'll happily read more by her in the future.
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A gender swapped Prince and the Pauper retelling with ace and trans representation set in a French inspired fantasy world. The synopsis hints at political intrigue and a magical journey of self-revelation for two girls with magical powers bound by a fate they do not accept. 

Emilie is a woman of noble birth  bound by societal norms and her family's wishes to study the midnight arts at a prestigious boarding school where she will hone her skills at divination, scrying, and illusion crafting. Midnight artistry is generally considered the fairer of the two magical specialties  as it is less taxing on the body to channel and is not required on the battlefield. The noonday arts, in contrast, are reserved for more gruesome tasks like surgery and combat medicine and are taken up by hardened soldiers and commonfolk. Emilie is dead-set on being a noonday artist despite her name and title. On the day that she is to enroll at school, she happens upon a commoner by the name of Annette who is too poor to afford the midnight school that she desperately wishes to attend, and a swap is made. 

Unfortunately the execution of the premise ultimately falls flat for me. The writing style was difficult for me to get through because the sentence structure was choppy and lacked a natural rhythm. I found myself  completely thrown off by the syntax and had to re-read paragraphs frequently. Both of the main characters as well as the secondary characters lacked depth and sounded very similar. I couldn't get a grasp on the characters' motivations and just didn't feel emotionally connected to their plight.

I really wanted to enjoy this read because the premise sounded fresh and interesting. Unfortunately it just didn't resonate with me.

Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read a digital copy in exchange for an unbiased review.
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I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I absolutely loved the concept: a gender-swapped Prince and the Pauper with a unique magic system, as well as an asexual main character. On the other hand, I did find the world difficult to get into, especially considering it is a standalone, so all the world-building was done in this book. However, there wasn't very much world-building at all, and I found myself very detached from the politics of the world and what was going on with the monarchy.
Furthermore, the magic system, while very unique and initially interesting, was very strange and limited. There are noonday arts, which encompass healing and battle, and the midnight arts, which encompass divination and scrying. This seemed to be all the magic present in the world, and it was all incorporated into daily life, with universities and finishing schools dedicated to studying these arts.
The two main characters were very hard to distinguish in terms of their voice: Emilie is nobility, being forced by her mother to study the midnight arts while she actually wants to study the noonday arts. Annette is a commoner who wants to study the midnight arts but has to apprentice herself to a practitioner of the noonday arts in order to survive. When Emilie sees Annette outside her carriage, she offers to switch lives with her. The thing I most enjoyed about the book was that while Emilie and Annette don't spend much time in person, they communicate through Annette's scrying and form a bond. 
However, my problems with the book mostly stemmed from the confusing, limited magic system, as well as the overarching conflict concerning different kingdoms. I didn't find the history behind these conflicts very illuminating when considering the situation as it is at the beginning of the book. I also absolutely hated every character besides Emilie, Annette, and Yvonne. All of the other characters were either annoying or predictable.
I'm rating this 3/5 stars because while I really wanted to love this book, I just didn't.
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Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller was high on my list of books coming out in 2020 that I was excited to read. I didn’t even realize until I was already reading it that there was queer and ace representation, which was a pleasant surprise. It’s a modernized, fantasy twist on the classic Prince and the Pauper tale.

TRIGGER WARNING: Gore

The story takes place in a French-inspired world, and there are strict class and gender roles. Noble women are generally limited to practicing illusions, scrying, and divination, which fall under the midnight arts. Healing and fighting are practiced using the noonday arts, and are generally learned by males and the nobles. Since strong magic significantly shorts the lifespan of practitioners, noonday artists frequently make use of hacks, or commoners who are trained as apprentices, used for their skills, and then discarded.

I really wanted to love this book, but I was underwhelmed by it. The descriptions of the elaborate dresses and decadent foods evoked a sense of Marie Antionette-era France with added magic. I had a difficult time connecting with the characters. The vast majority of the characters were difficult to keep straight — there were many who weren’t fleshed out, and were so one dimensional that I could barely recall their names.

As for the main characters, I was surprised to see no discernible difference in the voice between two different girls who were raised on completely different ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. I’d expect patterns of speech, word choices, and mannerisms to be different. They weren’t. 

The magic system was a little confusing, and it only got worse as the book went on. The writing was awkward, and this is just something that bothered me, but the characters were frequently described as sniffing. I’m not sure what the sniffs were meant to convey, but it was something that occurred far too often for my taste. 

Finally, the pacing just felt off to me. I found the first quarter of the book to be interminably slow and boring. There really wasn’t much happening during this part of the book, and I just couldn’t really form any connection to the characters. The story picked up a bit, although I still wasn’t overly invested. The pace was rushed at the end, and the entire story was lacking in suspense for the most part. Everything wrapped up in a hurry, and it felt very oversimplified.
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Honestly The book felt rushed from the start while also feeling a bit too wordy if that's even possible. It was a bummer because it had potential and I was excited to give it a shot since it reminded me of the Belles and I greatly enjoyed that book (not so much the sequel but that's another story) The book could have been a great one but too much was forced in right from the start to jump start the plot when in reality it could have flowed a little better. The first chapter alone felt like everything but the kitchen sink was tossed in so there didn't need to be anymore outside characters or exposition. It was disappointing.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

So I was very excited to the representation in this book – especially the ace. I was so pleased about that and I was ready to love the book. And yet, somehow, I didn’t. It was okay, but I didn’t love it and I am so upset because I am always wanting more ace, trans and f/f rep. 

This book however, didn’t do it for me. The rep was so good, and that was the one thing that I really, really liked about the book. But I liked almost nothing else. 

I thought the magic system was so interesting, but unfortunately it felt really underdeveloped. Half the time I wasn’t sure what was going on. 

One of the other major problems: the book was boring. Boring to me at least. I was 40% in and wondering if I could DNF the book. And I felt that it didn’t even pick up from there. In fact, I rather felt that I could have read the beginning and the end and would have been fine. That’s how little happened for me. 

On top of that, I don’t think the writing style and I meshed very well. I wasn’t a huge fan of it. I also wasn’t a fan of the alternating POV’s. The girls read almost exactly the same, and they didn’t feel very well fleshed out. Sadly, that can often be the downside of a standalone. 

Overall, this book wasn’t for me. I was so excited for the rep, but the plot, the content and the writing weren’t my style. I however know this is going to be really popular with other people, especially since it is like the princess and the pauper. 

My conclusion is: probably a good book, but not a good book for me!
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher I was able to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
***
Belle Revolte is a princess and the pauper style story in a world full of magic with a magic system I’m not entirely sure I understood but was fascinated by none the less.
Emilie wants to study sun magic and become a physician, something denied to her both as a female and by her mother’s wishes for her to focus on moon magic. Just her luck that the day her mother drops her off at the finishing school she’s to attend she finds someone who looks just enough like her and is desperate for the attempt to further her own magic, Annette. 
A bit contrived sure, but the story is fun, there is a lot of death (some really really awful deaths), the world is interesting if a bit confusing, there was also a lot of french words and names being thrown at me that I gave up pretending I’ll ever know how to pronounce, and I loved many, many characters. Mostly the side characters more so than the MCs. They helped the MCs shine really. (I would die for Charles and Madeline.) What follows is a lot of flip flopping as we go back and forth in POV between Annette and Emilie adjusting to their new lives when they uncover a huge conspiracy. They may be far from each other but they find they’re working for the same thing and they have to work fast if they want to prevent war.
The back and forth between the characters is fun and witty (Coline is queen of witty and deadpan.) There is an asexual (Ace) MC who not only comes out, but has a safe, healthy conversation about what her boundaries are with the person she’s getting together with. I’m boggled, I cried over this. It was beautiful.
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*eARC provided by NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review*

My feelings for this book are mixed. On the surface, it seems like a great idea. A princess and the pauper style retelling in an alternate version of France just before the revolution (kinda) but also, magic. This and the gorgeous cover had me thinking it would be perfect. It was just okay. 

The story is told in two POVs: Emilia, the noble lady who wants to studying healing magic and Annette, who is a poor girl Emilia finds on the street and convinces to trade places with because they look similar. The POVs alternate every chapter, in first person, so it is sometimes hard to keep track of at the beginning. 

Before I go much further, I should describe the magic system. There are two types of magic: one derived from Lord Sun (noonday magic), a healing/fighting magic that is more acceptable for men to learn (which Emilia excels at) and one derived from Mistress Moon (midnight magic), an illusion/divination/scrying magic that women are taught (which Annette excels at). Note, while there are a few women studying noonday magic, there are no men studying or using midnight magic, though that is a whole other can of worms I probably shouldn't open.  

While Emilia and Annette are trying to live their best lives as each other (somewhat, Emilia keeps her name), there is a revolution going on! A group called the Laurels wants to overthrow the king because he is bad. Specifically, French Revolution-esque bad. Taxing the poor beyond what they can afford and just being an all around jerk. Both Emilia and Annette get involved in this rebellion and the story involves them learning magic and trying to overthrow a king, fun!

Also! This book has tons of LGBTQIA+ representation! Annette is asexual and a lesbian. Emilia's love interest is a trans man. The princess is a lesbian. It also makes some really interesting statements about being trans and how the world sees you and how you see yourself. 

So where does this book go wrong? I don't know that there is one part that made me dislike. I mean, I don't dislike, I just didn't love it. It's got all the right parts: rebellion, magic, gay people. But it just didn't click with me. Annette and Emilia aren't very compelling heroines. Though they both challenged their new worlds to see from their perspectives, they themselves never changed. The side characters were lacking and hard to remember. Even Emilia's magical training and friends, which to me were the most promising, fell flat. It was a good book, it just wasn't a great one. I gave it 3.5 stars.
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To start off I will send a big thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. I also have to thank Avhlee from Tea Cups and Torn Pages for talking about this author so often, because I likely wouldn’t have requested this book otherwise. 
I really enjoyed this story. It was fantastical and magical, exciting and dramatic. Many reviews complained about the beginning, where Emilie and Annette switch lives happens too quickly, which I can understand, but it didn’t really bother me. It was made clear that both characters desperately wanted to find a way out of the situations they were in, so they made it happen. I also think that we get to know both girls well enough that it makes sense the further you get into the story. 
I liked Annette. She’s ace and I really thought her explanations of this identity were thoughtful and well done. I loved her blossoming relationship with Yvonne. I enjoyed the relationship between Annette and her new roommates. There was a large cast of characters though, so I did find myself a bit confused here and there about who was who. 
Emilie was interesting in the sense that she’s nobility, trying to pretend that she isn’t. There are many trained behaviors that sort of give her away, but I liked her anyway. She was passionate and stubborn. I really enjoyed her friendship with Madeline and her relationship with Charles. Their competition and banter were so entertaining. 
I thought the magic was fascinating. There are midnight and noonday arts. One based on the moon and the other the sun. I thought the limitations were well explained, too much magic literally destroys the user’s body. Some reviews I read complained that the magic was unclear, but I didn’t think so. The differences between the different things that can be done with magic were maybe not clearly explained, but were easily inferred. An example I saw brought up was the difference between divining and scrying in the midnight arts. While it wasn’t explained specifically, it was obvious that Annette could only scry things happening in the present and divining was seeing things of the future. 
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was slow at a few points, but I still liked those slower parts. I liked the characters. They were diverse and interesting. The politics of the world were dark and horribly captivating. I will definitely be recommending this one to the fantasy lovers in my life.
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At first glance, this book intrigued me - I will happily try any YA fantasy with LGBTQ+ representation, especially if it involves magic. I had high expectations going into Belle Revolte, and I’m disappointed that I had to DNF it. I found the narrative to be disorganized and rambling, the descriptions awkward and choppy, the dialogue unnatural and indistinct between characters. The characters themselves didn’t engage me, and the most interesting characters were only side characters. The magic system was fascinating, but it wasn’t enough to keep me absorbed in the story itself. If the characters had been stronger, I could have stayed with it, but overall this book just didn’t capture me.
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Im more disappointed in myself for not liking Belle Rèvolte then I am at anything else. I loved Linsey’s previous trilogy so I figured I was going to love this book too. I truly believe that this was more of a “It’s not you, it’s me” situation then anything else. The writing is beautiful and descriptive and the magic system was well done from what I read. 

But I started this book 5 separate times and after each time I wouldn’t make it past 20% before I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. I was bored and finding every excuse to do anything but read. 

I’ve seen so many positive reviews for Belle Rèvolte so I really wanted to love it but sadly I didn’t. I have no doubt that this book isn’t going to be well loved by others though and I can’t wait to see what Linsey is going to come up with next for her readers!
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I loved the magic system, and the give and take. I loved Emilie and Annette and their friendship. I loved the center around hope and how different doesn't mean Different, how working together can yield great results and the things that divide us can bring us together (and are often created by those in power to stay in power).

It did get a bit slow right before the Big Battle, and the reptition of noonday arts in the beginning was a bit much, but I really enjoyed this book overall! Already preordered it!

And it's so nice to have a standalone fantasy for once, I really appreciate that
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A Prince and the Pauper type story set in magcal France.

This sounded like it would be excellent, but I just couldn't get into it, and I can't figure out why. It should be everything I like in a novel; magic, intrigue, girls being awesome. I made it to 26%, with much difficulty, and just put it down. This isn't the novel for me, but I'm sure other readers will enjoy it.
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This book is so wonderful.

Using a Prince and the Pauper premise, Emilie, a comtesse, and Annette, a commoner, switch places in order to achieve their goals in learning magic. What they didn’t plan for was war to come to the country and to be caught up in the secrets and lies of the nobility while working with the resistance to reveal the hard truths.

This started slow in some ways as I familiarized myself with the world, but as it got darker and more dangerous I found it harder to put down. The magic is fascinating and while it has gendered connotations, those beliefs are challenged and there’s theorizing from mentors about how both Noonday and Midnight arts are two sides of one coin rather than opposite powers. I really enjoyed the detail of the magic and the different ways it was used.

This book is also deeply heartbreaking. Friendships are forged and sometimes they don’t survive the challenges war brings. There is so much grief, especially around sibling deaths. The death and violence shown doesn’t feel gratuitous but rather shows the horror of the events going on while still keeping hope alive with the friendships and romances that grow and strengthen.

I really enjoyed this book and I think it’s one that’s going to stick with me for a while. I loved the asexual representation and the romance between Annette and Yvonne felt so good, especially with Yvonne immediately accepting that there will be no sex in their relationship. I also really loved the development between Charles and Emilie; I will always be weak for antagonistic passion shifting to more romantic passions. Another great thing to see was the way pronouns were always respected and used correctly, no characters being misnamed or misgendered. It felt good to read this book, as rough as some of the content could be.
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Okay so FIRST OF ALL, the last line of this book is beautiful and I loved it a lot. 

Belle Révolte first popped up on my radar via a Twitter thread with upcoming books featuring ace characters and I'm really glad that it did. Admittedly, it started somewhat rough as Annette and Emelie are able to switch places a little bit too conveniently but once I got a bit further into the book, I found myself rather caught up. Miller has created a world where magic is supposed to operate along a gender binary and simultaneously challenges that idea with her own characters. It's fascinating and something I haven't seen done quite like this before. And yes, that means there's a diverse cast of main and supporting characters including sapphic relationships, trans and nonbinary characters, and a biromantic ace girl. I cannot emphasize enough how much I ADORE how Miller handled the latter. It was so very beautifully handled.

The book also went a lot further into the war part than I expected it to which is to say that it leapt past its Prince and the Pauper thing much sooner than expected. Seeing how not just Annette and Emelie but all of their friends fought back against the warmongering king was excellent. There are more ways to fight back and do something than by picking up a sword. It feels like the perfect choice for a book like this. 

Anyways, if you want a book about two girls who fight for what they want and for what they believe in, this just might be the book for you.
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Belle Révolte was an evocative and thought provoking tale of rebellion, magic, and love. The story follows two young women divided by class but are determined to change their futures. I don’t read many YA fantasies with complex magic systems and although this was sometimes slow, I found I appreciated Linsey Miller’s take on it. Drawing a connection from magic to healing was ingenious and I found her execution original. Many times we see characters with abilities that help them be stronger warriors and in here, that’s not the focus. I liked how Miller’s concept showcased the efforts people take to preserve life through healing rather than the fighting. But be warned, there are many scenes that are gory and quite vivid as well as a few deaths throughout. This is not a light and fluffy piece and it does seem to perhaps border between YA and adult fiction. This is the first book that I’ve read by Miller and I have fallen in love with her strong and effective writing so this will not be my last.

“My mother did not shackle me despite my last escape attempt. It didn’t matter—the corset, layers of satin and silk, and summer heat were chains enough. I was certain I would be the first young noble lady of Demeine to arrive at finishing school under the watchful eyes of two armed guards.”

I loved this opener! I could feel Emilie’s hatred for her noble life right from the beginning. It felt real and powerful. She is a girl that knows she can do better and doesn’t need to be stuck in her mother’s world. Relatable and very effective! From then on, I was engrossed in the plot. I wanted to know how Emilie was going to pursue the life she wanted and the stirring rebellion was the perfect, dark backdrop for her to figure it out. This set the mood and gave a very strong voice to this novel’s first main character.

“Illusions were, as far as I could tell, nothing but lies. My mother was a wonderful liar.”

I devoured Miller’s poetic and emotionally charged writing and I couldn’t wait to continue this story. The composition above reminded me of Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series, and the reason I loved that series so much was the beautiful poetic prose mixed with a dark, war torn world and we see that again in here. The contrast between the beauty of the words mixed with the darkness of the actual story creates this undeniable pull that keeps you hooked. I envy this writing style immensely and this combination is very effective.

“I ate dirt as a child.”

This was a striking, bold, and harsh statement that rivalled Emilie’s introduction which made it the perfect intro to Belle Révolte’s second main character, Annette. The drastic differences between these two only worked to increase the idea of class divide and having two characters representing each world equally made this a balanced story.

I loved many things in Belle Révolte but I didn’t like the constant flow of names from both perspectives because it was too hard to follow. Many characters had specific strengths in either the noonday arts or the midnight arts and it was slightly confusing to remember who could do what and who knew who. I think this happened because of the sheer amount of female characters on Annette’s side as well as the male characters on Emilie’s side that all seemed to have two and three titles each. It was an information overload. That being said, I also found a slight issue with the idea that’s very common with rebellion and that’s the idea of one name for all those associated. In here Miller used the name “Laurel” for the resistance but there were too many scenes where members were referred to by that same name, which made it difficult to know all the members of the group and what each of them were told and when. I couldn’t keep it all straight. I feel like this choice made Miller’s writing suffer because there’s only so much you can use to try and describe a scene when the same name is given to many, especially given a large operation.

Despite these minor setbacks, I really enjoyed Linsey Miller’s newest novel, Belle Révolte and I give it an 8 out of 10! I look forward to reading more from her and I will definitely check out her other series called Mask of Shadows.

- Review to be published January 17th 2020
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definitely got Audrey rose vibes from one of the main characters but I mean that in a good way! 

I enjoyed a couple things about this book, the asexual and trans REP. Yes. I don’t think we see enough of that and Sourcebooks is so good at picking books with good rep and strong females. I think they did their job with this pick. Yay! especially with fantasy. We don’t get enough diversity and representation, so to have those things in a fantasy book at all was amazing! I do think there were some issues being that this book was a stand alone. Usually with stand alone’s, the ending is rushed. The ending definitely felt a bit rushed for me. Secondly, the characters. One thing about a series is that we get lots and lots of character development which I prefer. With stand alone’s, it doesn’t really allow for a lot of character development, and so I found that lacking in this story. Needless to stay it was still enjoyable.
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2 1/2 Stars

While I liked the two main characters and appreciated the diversity in the book, I struggled to finish due to the awkward pacing and underdeveloped and confusing magic system. I was so excited about this book, but sadly it just wasn’t for me.
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Belle Révolte pulled me in several different directions. The things it did well it did VERY well, but the things it lacked went down hard, and I'm torn between loving it and being indifferent with no in-between to compromise on.

Let’s start with the things it did well!

1. The stakes. Linsey Miller really went out there and made “sacrifice” real. I was genuinely worried for the lives of both of the POV characters, and I felt the deaths in this book harder and more emotionally than any book characters’ deaths in other books for a really long time. They were real. They were brutal. There was no getting out of them. There were no happy endings for the people who deserved them. Annette and Emilie both had to sacrifice their magic and some of their health and well-being at the end, and I was impressed.

2. The representation. As I mentioned, there’s ace rep, but also lesbian, bi, trans, and non-binary representation as well, all done smoothly and casually despite some characters still keeping parts of their sexual and gender identities secret. It was never a big deal, which I appreciated.

3. The character relationships. I loved Laurence and Estrel both by themselves (especially Laurence) and their relationship, as well as Charles and Emilie’s relationship (once Emilie started working with Charles and I could manage to pick out Charles from the other characters). I like how Emilie and Annette wrote letters to each other and became close (as we see in the end, especially) even though they barely knew each other in person. I appreciated the storyline with Emilie’s mother and how she, Emilie’s perception of her, and her perception of Emilie changed and evolved throughout. More generally, I loved the consent between any of the romantically involved characters, who kept asking before kissing.

4. The themes. Sacrifice and privilege, especially, but also self-confidence and self-image. Friendship. The cost of revolution. There were some lines and sections that had me nodding my head, brow furrowed in respect, because the themes I don’t often see touched on were elaborated upon very well.

Things I thought it didn’t do as well:

1. The magic system. By the end, I understood that the midnight and noonday arts were a spectrum and each had different strengths, and that they wear the user out. That’s about it. Throughout, I was highly confused with how each of the girls and everyone else were using the arts, and how powerful they were and how they affected others. I was also especially confused with the midnight arts. I’m not sure if this was just because it’s an ARC, but scrying and divining both sometimes seemed to be used as a blanket term for divination AND scrying, and Annette kept claiming to not be able to divine but then… willfully and knowledgeably divining? I was also unclear if Emilie ended up knowing how to scry or not, and at what point it happened if so. Reading became a much more enjoyable experience once I stopped trying to understand the magic and just understood that "magic was happening and here’s the stuff it’s able to do in this particular instance they are using it".

2. The plot. The book took a different look at revolution, which I appreciated, but the pacing seemed incredibly off, and many of the things that happened seemed either highly unlikely, out of the blue, out of place, or just plain confusing. While the tandem ending scenes were certainly dramatic, they seemed… convenient, almost, or weird that these events were the deciding factors when so much else was happening. It was also less (or at least differently) political than other political fantasies. As with the magic system, things got better once I just stopped trying to sort out the inconsistencies and just let it happen, suspending my disbelief on a high shelf. However, there were several twists, betrayals, and reveals that surprised me that I enjoyed! And once I hit perhaps the 75% mark, I couldn't put it down, despite it seeming to drag endlessly before that.

3. The characters. I know I put character relationships in the "things done well" section above, and I stand by that. I also stand by the fact that some of the characters were well-developed! However, I wasn’t able to tell most of them apart for a good 75% of the book. I finally saw the main differences between Annette and Emilie perhaps a little before 50% of the way through (their voices were very similar). Most of Annette’s friends were indistinguishable from one another, and I confused the names of all the physician people besides Emilie herself, Rainer, and Madeline until I sorted out a few more around 75% and was still confused about the rest. There were… a lot of characters.

In summary: Glad I read it, but probably would not read again, or recommend, unless I get word that the finished copy has somehow fixed the plot and magic inconsistencies. Good representation, and good portrayal of themes, especially of sacrifice and privilege! I was just so confused the entire time.
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When I heard about this book, I was excited. Magic, ace+trans+queer rep, and overthrowing a corrupt government...what’s not to love about all of that?

The side characters were by far the most interesting parts of this book, and I wish we'd gotten to see more of them, to understand who they were on a deeper level. I liked the concept of the magic, and how the characters used it, and I liked that so many of them had different connections with either the noonday or midnight arts. Above all, I just really liked Laurence, and I wanted to see so much more of him.

I so wish I could say I loved this book because the whole way through, I could see how it might have been great if everything got a little deeper or were more organized. As it was, the whole thing felt contrived and unnatural.

Most of what happened just wasn’t something I could see as plausible, even from the beginning when Emilie looks out a carriage window and is like “wow, that girl looks vaguely like me, let me just jump out and switch lives with her!” There was no buildup, either to events or to character relationships, no consistency between what the characters said vs. what actually happened. It made for a confusing and inconsistent narrative.

The plot felt like it dragged and moved too fast at the same time, like all of the emphasis was in the wrong places. There was very little development from one event to the next, people seemed to die just to kill them off and not out of plot relevance, and you don’t really see the two narrators taking very active roles in where they are. A huge part of the plot is supposed to be that they’ve switched places, but you end up almost forgetting that they’re connected at all, and we don’t see them learning much about what they’re supposed to be learning at their respective schools.

The characters were even more frustrating than the plot. The relationships were poorly developed, the dialogue unnatural, and so many reactions and events felt cliché. Most of the time, the narrators reacted to difficult situations by sobbing, and no one seemed to actively do much to move the story along. The most interesting characters died before we got to delve into who they were, and the ones who should have been interesting weren’t.

The magic system felt disorganized, and there wasn’t much sense as to why it affected people the way it did, nor was it presented in a way that I could suspend disbelief and just go with it. But as far as I could tell, this was a running theme in this book. I like stories where the author doesn’t spoon feed every detail and allows the reader to infer things, but this felt like the author assumed the reader would be able to infer too much, so the details were incomplete.

I love the concept of this book. I love the idea. I love the potential. But I wanted more. I wanted to connect and love the characters and their journeys, and unfortunately, the execution of the story fell flat for me. Still, there was something that kept me reading to the end, and while I'm not sure whether it was hope that the story would improve or some attachment to the characters, it was sort of like a background read—something I didn't give my full attention, but that I didn't feel right stopping midway.
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