Belle Révolte

Sourcebooks/Fire. Feb. 2020. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781492679226.
Gr 9 Up–Emilie wants to use her magical power to become a physician, but her mother insists that she attend finishing school to prepare for life as a noble ruler of her province. Annette wants to learn to use her magic independently, but her common birth dooms her to work as a “hack” who contributes her power to noble-born magicians. The teens switch places, with Emilie receiving medical training while Annette impersonates Emilie and learns to use her own supernatural gift. Chapters alternate between Annette’s and Emilie’s points of view, as both girls endure danger and hardship while protecting the common people of their French-inspired realm from an evil king and abusive magical ruling class. The novel features a large cast of characters with white, brown, and black skin and span a range of gender identities and sexual orientations: a noble-born boy assumed to be female at birth whose parents are now delighted to have a son, a queen-in-waiting whose lover is also female, and Annette herself who likes flirting and romance with both girls and boys but isn’t sexually attracted to anyone. The characters speak often of their intent to overthrow their ruler and reshape their country into one that supports all people and identities, but the subtext of acceptance never overwhelms the action of the plot.
VERDICT Fast-paced fantasy with a pair of determined female protagonists. A welcome twist on the tropes of sword and sorcery novels.

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