Belle Révolte is a tricky book to review – it has some flaws, but on the whole, I really enjoyed it!
Book: Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC sent free of charge via NetGalley. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: mild violence and description of injuries.
This is a fast-paced YA fantasy with two smart female leads, and it’s got a heck of a lot of queer rep (biromantic ace protagonist with sapphic love interest, trans man love interest, lesbian side characters). Though it tries to deal with some darker issues, the book is at its best in its frothier moments – the medical training school and finishing school scenes are much more enjoyable than the battle scenes or the attempts to look at inequality.
I liked both POV characters, and I appreciated that although this has shades of The Prince and the Pauper, Emilie and Annette were both clever and engaging enough to hold my attention in their individual stories, not just as foils to each other. I wish more time had been taken at both schools, as the first half of the story is where all the character development is, and I really enjoyed this section of both girls’ journeys. I would say that up to about 55-60%, this feels like a less robust/deep version of a Tamora Pierce first-in-series, and I was sad to lose that tone with the end of the book.
Unfortunately, the worldbuilding is a little bit thin. We have mostly French names, including the title, and the story focuses on a revolution against the nobility, but the author has been clear that this is not intended to be a parallel to French history but an entirely new world, which makes me think that really, we didn’t get to see nearly enough of the original aspects of the world, as it does just feel like France with magic. And I would have liked more explanation on the magic! Not enough information is also the cause of the other major flaw in this book, which is that it regularly leaps from one thing to the next too fast for the reader to follow – for example, people will be having a conversation and then storm off, and even going back and rereading the entire conversation several times, I couldn’t work out what had caused the change. Emilie and Charles’s rivalry at the start seemed to be based on absolutely nothing on the page – I wondered if it had been too heavily edited, and things taken out that the author assumed a reader would already have seen? It just felt rushed, and like I was trailing to catch up at times, which is strange for a book with such a simple plot.
Essentially, if you don’t think about it too hard, and let it wash over you, this is an enjoyable read with themes of dealing with systematic inequality. I dithered between three and a half and four stars, but I’ll round up as it is fun!