Book Review: REBEL ROSE by Emma Theriault

Title in white on red with black thorns
Genre: Fantasy (Retelling)
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - book 1 of companion series

Synopsis:

Book cover for REBEL ROSE: title in white on red with thorns

It’s 1789 and France is on the brink of revolution. Belle has finally broken the Enchantress’s curse, restoring the Beast to his human form as Prince Adam, and bringing life back to their castle in the province of Aveyon. But in Paris, the fires of change are burning, and it’s only a matter of time before the rebellion arrives on their doorstep.

Belle has always dreamed of leaving her provincial home for a life of adventure. But now she finds herself living in a palace, torn between her roots as a commoner, and her future as a royal. When she stumbles across a mysterious, ancient magic that brings with it a dire warning, she must question whether she is ready for the power being thrust on her, and if being Queen is more than just a title.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

Um, Sifa, I’m sure you’re thinking, this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and you are on the record as having said that’s your least favourite property to read retellings of, as it’s done so often.

Yes, I am on the record for that, and yes, I think there are too many, but this book is billed as a POLITICAL FANTASY, which trumps everything for me when it comes to deciding if I will pick up a book. Plus it’s set post the traditional fairy tale, so I avoided the story I’ve read many times!

Despite this, I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it, or if it would be too much like just another Beauty and the Beast retelling for me. I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was.

One of the things I had been a bit worried about was that Disney Princesses are nice, and kind, and put others first (no matter what – they are always so nice even when everything goes wrong) and that Belle would somehow succeed in politics despite this. Which is just incredibly unlikely and also I hate that aspect of Disney Princesses. So yes, Belle is very nice and doesn’t have conversations with her husband about the problems he’s letting himself be talked into causing because she doesn’t want to add to his burdens. And she was a bit of a pushover at times for the nobles. And yes, there were a few times I wanted to yell at her to be more assertive.

However, I liked that her “Disney Princess” nature made the situation worse. It was shown that her shrinking away and deferring let the noblemen pursue their plans and gave them more reason to talk over her. And she did finally stand up to them by the end.

I liked how it was woven around the French Revolution. Belle’s home is a semi-independent Principality on the edge of France, so they get reports about what’s happening in France (having started the book in Paris as the Bastille falls). It adds urgency to Belle’s goal as you can see the consequences of failure being played out in France, and the seeds growing in her home. It was also a really fun background against which to explore what happens when a ruler is gone for a decade – the nobles getting power, which only makes dissent worse (but this time, in BOTH ranks, as the peasants have been ignored by their monarch and the nobles don’t want to give up power).

As well as the “traditional” cast of Mrs Potts, Cogsworth, Lumiere, and chip returning, there are some new characters to fill the noble ranks. There are two main ones – the duc de Vincennes and Margariete. As far as I can tell, they are both made up and the title is made up too (Google seems to be telling me Vincennes was never a title, but part of the royal estates? The castle certainly was a royal one). I liked the two characters – the noble cousin of the prince who you could never be sure quite what he wanted, or what side he was on (a must for any good political fantasy) and the friend Belle needs.

I am now curious to read the other entries, if I can find them (as the way their published in the UK is a little weird).

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