I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley. I am providing my review voluntarily.
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
Emilie de Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.
Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.
Emilie and Annette swap lives — Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.
But when their nation instigates a terrible war, Emilie and Annette come together to help the rebellion unearth the truth before it’s too late.
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.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars