What: Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller
Who: Sourcebooks Fire
When: February 4th 2020
How: A copy of this novel was provided by New South Books for review.
Emilie des 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 wor.
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 frivolous war, Emilie and Annette must work together to help the rebellion end a war that is based on lies.
I had an inkling that I was going to enjoy Belle Révolte, considering that Mask of Shadows is one of my favourite books ever. And boy was I right. From the very beginning of Belle Révolte I knew I was going to enjoy this book. When I finished it I posted on Twitter the main reasons why I love it, and why I also think everyone should read it. You can read those reasons here. In this review, however, I’m going to go a little more in depth as to why I fell head over heels with Belle Révolte.
Belle Révolte, while being a being a fictional fantasy novel set in an alternate historical France, included themes that are so incredibly relevant today. One of the major themes in this novel is equality between people who have copious money and therefore power, and those that do not. In the world of Belle Révolte magic drains the body and eventually leaves you either magic-less or, more commonly, dead. So of course the rich use the bodies of the poor so that they can live while the poor die. Sound familiar? It did to me, as well.
Our narrators, Emilie and Annette, are both fighting against inequality in different ways. Annette’s focus is more on the divide between rich and poor because, if it hadn’t been for Emilie’s offer, she might have ended up being used by the rich and dying before her time. Annette tackles the situation with quiet rebellion, which I absolutely loved. There are those who are capable of making noise, and those who are more suited to taking a stand in more subtle ways. There is not only one way to fight the system.
Emilie is focussed more on gender inequality. She wants to be a physician, someone who uses magic to heal. But the role of physician is only filled by men because they are stronger and can handle the more volatile magic far better than a woman could. Sound familiar? It did to me, as well. Emilie is determined to show the teachers at the boy’s magic school that she can be more than just a channelling vessel, that she has just as much magic and control as the boys she takes classes with.
It was delightful to see Emilie realise that the problem was bigger than just her not being allowed to study, and to see her take up the cause of far-spread inequality across her country was awesome. Sexism was still the fire in her belly, but watching her fight against the very system that had shaped her entire upbringing was just *chef’s kiss*. While Annette was working behind the scenes, Emilie was literally on the front lines, fighting with the magic she’d been told she couldn’t wield. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty but she did it anyway.
I think the reason why these girls were able to grow and flourish in their respective roles was because of the people around them. They were both lucky enough to find a mentor who believed in them and the cause. And they also found family. Family that supported them no matter what, and who were taking a stand against the same things. These support systems were integral to the girls’ growth and their strength.
Belle Révolte is at its heart a story of girls doing it for themselves. It is the most beautifully and fiercely feminist YA novel I have had the pleasure of reading. It is inclusive of queerness: Annette is asexual, Emilie’s love interest is trans, and there are many other queer characters as well. It is relevant to today. It is inspiring. I think Belle Révolte is the book every YA reader needs to read this year.
© 2020, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.
trigger warning blood and gore, death of sister (drowning), death of friend, war themes, murder, reference to abuse, murder of friend (beheading)
blood and gore, death of sister (drowning), death of friend, war themes, murder, reference to abuse, murder of friend (beheading)