By Cynthia Bujnicki
Emilie des Marais wants nothing more than to be a physician, but her gender and social status locks her in the midnight arts. Annette Boucher is treated poorly by her family because of her sex and only wants to study the midnight arts and escape the confines of her own. When the girl’s cross paths they switch places, each eager to achieve their goals. But when they each discover the heinous acts of the king, they join in the rebellion to end the lies and abuse of the nation.
Belle Révolte is an exceptional novel with strong female characters and a compelling enough premise to make the novel gripping with elements reminiscent of the classic Prince and the Pauper; the novel has a life of its own as two girls switch places. Annette Boucher comes from humble beginnings, is very underappreciated by her family, but has the power of the midnight arts to divine. However, being from humble beginnings, her chances to go to a school to help her hone her gifts are slim. Her Annette, her story arc is all about learning to harness this power, let go of the past, and the doubt her family, her mother, especially instilled in her. Annette goes on this incredible journey to learn that she has power, that she has worth. She is a compelling character in every sense of the word, including the literal, but she does not feel powerful, at least until the end, to follow this journey is fantastic for her. Annette is also an asexual character, which is essential for representation. It gives her and the story some dimension and allows the character to stand out while also resonating with the reader as a real character.
Emilie is a much hardier character than the softer Annette. She feels she has more to prove because Emilie wants to use her powers to heal people, and she wants to study the Daytime arts, a practice of magic reserved for men almost exclusively. Women in this world are thought of as the weaker sex, unable to handle the strenuousness of that type of magic. So Emilie has to prove herself not only to herself but to those around her.
At the base of the story, it is about two girls discovering their worth and just how powerful they are. It is an excellent base for a story, especially one featuring a revolution. It is reminiscent of the French Revolution, where the poor are rising against the aristocrats and the tyrannical king, but there is more to it that gives it substance. The magical element highlights such a distinction between class and sex. It presents a good argument for the reader to analyze; It makes the storytelling more thoughtful and thought-provoking,
Full of depth and compelling writing, Belle Révolte is a magical and thoughtful read. (★★★★☆)