UK Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: YA, fantasy
Other Books: The Belles
Camellia Beaureguard is a Belle. She can make you beautiful. Though there is always a cost. With a price on her head, the evil Queen Sophia out for blood, and no idea who to trust, Camellia must race against time to find the ailing Princess Charlotte, who has disappeared without a trace. Sophia’s imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep Camellia, her sister Edel, and her loyal guard, Rémy, from returning Charlotte to the palace and her rightful place as queen. With the help of a secretive resistance movement called the Iron Ladies – a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely – and the backing of underground newspaper the Spider’s Web, Camellia must use her powers, her connections, and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orléans.
I’ve been waiting for this book since I finished The Belles last year, a book which was so lush and detailed and perfectly sinister that I desperately wanted the story to continue immediately. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to re-read it before The Everlasting Rose came out and… whilst I remembered broad strokes about what had happened, some of the finer details of the ending had escaped me which left me a little confused for a bit at the beginning of book two. Also, as things progressed, I began to doubt my understanding that this was supposed to be a duology. Had a misunderstood? There were 30 pages left to go, and the situation was dire, how could things be resolved in that time? Was this actually a trilogy?
Where The Belles last year spent a long time setting up the conflict, leaving breadcrumbs towards the deeper issues, and building the world, The Everlasting Rose seems in a rush to get to the end, sacrificing development of relationships, characters, and even fully exploring the potential conflict with the same depth as book one. I wonder if this effect is less stark if you read the books back-to-back, but even the period of time covered in the two is different. The Belles was set over several weeks, perhaps even months, but The Everlasting Rose follows almost immediately after the ending (a few days later perhaps) and covers a period of maximum a couple of weeks. There’s a lot of travelling to do in a lot of time, and pieces to move around the board to get to the end game.
For me, perhaps this book could have been split into two books and the period of time covered expanded – the middle book covering the escape and search for allies sympathetic to their cause, and the third book covering the finalisation and implementation of their ultimate plan. Instead of having a mourning period of a week or so, establish a mourning period of several months following the death of a monarch. This would give the characters time to build their connections, relationships, and strength.
I would liked to have seen Camille taking more time to explore the full extent of her powers, and have to learn to use them properly. I wanted to see her working to get past Auguste’s betrayal from book 1, and to see her feelings from Rémy develop. And I wanted to see more of her unlearning everything she had been taught about beauty and trying to understand what she actually believes. This would have really allowed Clayton to continue doing what she does so well – building this world and the tension, and fully fleshing out the characters. It would have also given her space to explore character motivations beyond Camille, like Amber, Edel, and Auguste. This would make the stakes feel higher, and the betrayals hurt more. It would also have been fun to see the world beyond the capital city explored more – it seems as thought Orléans is an archipelago, and there could be a lot of fun exploring the identities and cultures of the different islands.
I did enjoy the book, though. I think if I had gone straight into it after The Belles a lot of these issues would have seemed less prominent, but after a year my personal urgency had died down, so being thrown into such a frantic book and finding the characters continuing with the same level of stress from the end of book 1 was a little jarring and disorientating, which perhaps pulled me out of the narrative a little and meant I noticed these things more. I still think as a duology this is a strong series, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Clayton has to offer in the future.
- Less in-depth and somewhat more rushed than book 1, if you read both together this would probably work well.
- I wish there had been time to explore some more of the side plots and characters a little further to really twist the knife a bit further.
- Overall I loved the series but I just wanted more from book 2. More of everything.
Book Rating: 3/5
Series Rating: 4/5 – I haven’t done this before, but this is the first series I have reviewed as it has been released, rather than in one go (like I did with The Captive Prince). I think this is a great series with a great premise and message, and whilst book 2 didn’t do everything I wanted, I am still excited about the world and what the author may do next.