I absolutely jumped to take up the chance to be on this blog tour, because The Belles was one of my favourite reads last year, full of court intrigue, beautiful descriptions, and danger lurking under the prettiest exteriors. The Everlasting Rose picks up just where The Belles left off, and it feels as though you never stopped reading…
Book: The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton
Read before: No
Ownership: Paperback review copy sent free of charge by publisher for review. All opinions my own.
Camellia Beaureguard is a Belle. She can make you beautiful. Though there is always a cost. With a price on her head, the evil Queen Sophia out for blood, and no idea who to trust, Camellia must race against time to find the ailing Princess Charlotte, who has disappeared without a trace. Sophia’s imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep Camellia, her sister Edel, and her loyal guard, Rémy, from returning Charlotte to the palace and her rightful place as queen. With the help of a secretive resistance movement called the Iron Ladies – a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely – and the backing of underground newspaper the Spider’s Web, Camellia must use her powers, her connections, and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orléans.
This is going to be an exceedingly tricky review to write without giving away any spoilers, as honestly, I feel like this is just a single book split over two volumes. The Everlasting Rose is very much the second half of The Belles, and as such, if you try to pick it up without having read the first book, you’ll be absolutely floundering. You need to bring your own backstory to this party, and your own emotional depth, as this book largely sees the characters dealing with the aftermath of the shocking finale of the first book. As such, they’re on the run immediately, with little time to fill you in on what’s been happening.
That being said, it was easy to fall back into Camille’s narration, as she has such a natural-sounding voice. She does over-do it on the similes, comparing everything to jewels or food or flowers, but I kind of love this, because it shows how very different the culture she grew up in is from ours – everything is that dramatically beautiful in Orleans. There are teacup animals of all sorts (including dragons!), dresses that transform while they’re on the wearer, post balloons and moving newspapers… We spend less time at court, so there’s less Marie Antoinette-ish scenes of excess, but the leaner settings make way for some really pacey plot movement – the whole book almost tumbles over itself once things really kick off, and it’s really thrilling.
The ending was a little simple for me, and I would really have liked to have had things left more open, hinting at more exploration of this world. It’s a satisfying conclusion to the story, but I hate to think that we’re leaving Orleans behind just because Camille’s story has finished – there is so much corruption in this gorgeous place, I would have loved to see the characters struggling with restoring some sense and goodness to the world. But, I am known to love a ‘learning to rule’ story, like The Goblin Emperor. If we’d have had one of these, this book would have been absolutely perfect for me.
If you loved The Belles, you definitely need to finish up the story with The Everlasting Rose. Returning to Camellia’s world was an absolute delight, and I raced through this. I hope we see lots more from Dhonielle Clayton in the future! Four out of five cats for this as an individual volume, but five out of five for the series overall!