Book Review: Rebel Rose (The Queen’s Council #1) by Emma Theriault

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Disney+Hyperion
Publication Date: November 10th, 2020
Pages: 352, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

Happily ever after is only the beginning as Belle takes on the responsibility of becoming queen and learns to balance duty, love, and sacrifice, all while navigating dark political intrigue-and a touch of magic.

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.

Rebel Rose is the first in the Queen’s Council series, an empowering fairy tale reimagining of the Disney Princesses–and the real history behind their stories–like you’ve never seen before.

Rebel Rose starts off strong, but the middle loses its footing and the book doesn’t seem sure of how to achieve a court intrigue plotline. At times the middle portion of the book felt like it was simply filler material until it could get to the third act.

The ending is tight, and I appreciated the inclusion of a Black queer woman, and the further canonization of LeFou as being a gay man. (I also appreciated that it’s made explicit that Gaston was abusive/a bully towards LeFou as well.) 

However, Belle and the Prince (here called Lio) are only in Paris for a brief few days before returning to their own castle to try to get ahead of the danger. Belle also spends a lot of time inside the castle, so the danger never felt very present or very much like a threat. This is mostly solved in the third act where the danger comes to the castle and Belle actually has to deal with it head on, but it was a little late after the meandering second act.

Still, it’s nice to see that Disney is willing to age up their canon, with Bastille Day being an on-the-page event, and even some of the characters cursing. Though I did find it funny that, while violence and cursing are okay, the book is mostly scrubbed of any intimacy past kissing and has only one real subtle nod to sex. (Not that I think we need to read about Disney characters having on-page sex scenes, but the contrast between a dude getting beheaded on page and the chaste kisses Belle and Lio share was a little off-kilter.)

A problem I find in a lot of these Disney books is that the characters simply don’t sound like the ones we saw in the movies. This is still a problem in Rebel Rose, as sometimes the characterization of Belle and the others slipped. I’m willing to cut a little slack in this case, as it can’t have been easy to strike a balance between the somewhat modern language used in the original movie, and the need to have the characters talk like they actually live in the late 18th century France. Still, Belle came across as surprisingly passive here, especially in the aforementioned troubled middle section.

Overall, I’m not sure I’d recommend Rebel Rose. It has its strengths, but I’m not sure they outweigh the faults.

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