The Everlasting Rose
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher
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, Remy, 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 Orleans.
I really, really loved The Belles and it was one of my favourite books of 2018, so obviously I was excited for the sequel to see how it was all going to wrap up. Unfortunately, something about this sequel left me feeling a bit underwhelmed overall and I didn't love this as much as the previous book.
We pick up with Camellia, Edel, Amber and Remy who are all searching for Charlotte, Edel shows Camellia a cool new aspect/way to use their power...glamour. I did love getting to explore that, it did have it's limitations which added a sense of tension whenever they used it. There's an underground newspaper and a resistance called The Iron Ladies who are kind of creepy, but that might be because of the spiders. Again, another new element to the story that I enjoyed and was excited to get to delve in to. There's tension because they're being hunted and are on the run. There's the threat of the Belle prison being created and the horrifying ways Sophia wants to use the Belles. My fave, Gustave, popped up again too!
We got to see some more of the world of the book, which is another thing I was excited about as I was curious to see more of it. I really love how the world is all ostentatious and glamorous and all about beauty and the descriptions match that and paint some brilliantly vivid pictures, but then we have darker undertones in both books that show you that being beautiful isn't always what it's cracked up to be and it has a cost. I also liked how this one went darker with Camellia doing some things in the name of justice, and because of her anger that aren't what you'd call "heroic". She loses it a little bit and she makes things unpleasant for some characters and I loved seeing her twist BUT I'm not here for animal murder, okay.
However, I was disappointed with Auguste when he popped up again. One of the things that had me losing my mind in The Belles was Auguste and his betrayal. I didn't see it coming. I was mind blown, and I was looking forward to seeing more of Evil Auguste in this book, but he reappears as a love interest again. Clayton appeared to be redeeming him, and going back on the betrayal from the previous book, and it just seemed a bit weak to me. Plus it was like he was being reintroduced as a love interest, after he betrayed her and she chose Remy!? It seemed like a weak stab at a love triangle in the last part of the book which is one of the reasons I was confused as to whether this was a final book or not.
This felt, a lot of the time, like it was the middle of a trilogy and not the final book. I ended the book with a lot of questions and not feeling like everything had been settled. Some things did come to a satisfying conclusion but I had to look up whether this was actually a trilogy or not. I was also disappointed that after all the allusions to Camellia's mother, nothing more came of it. I was expecting there to be more to her mother, and it wasn't the only thing that was built up with a lot of mystery in the first book to kind of wither out in this book and come to nothing.
The first part of the book was full of tension building, Camellia worrying about her sisters, and trying to get to Charlotte, avoid being captured and so on, and while there were a few points to spice it up and pique my interest I did find my interest wandering. The final part of the book seemed quite rushed to me, a lot of things suddenly happened at once, I felt like a few things happened mainly for the shock factor, the death of a teacup pet, what happened with Amber. Considering how Camellia and Edel kept arguing about Amber, I was waiting for something bigger with that, or for a bigger reveal than we got. One of the other reveals seemed quite out of place and trippy, to be honest, considering the genre of this and what genre it isn't.
Overall, I was just underwhelmed with this one because for me it didn't have any of the mind blowing, shock plot twists that the previous book did. The beginning was a bit slow with the build up and everything happened in the final part of the book, some things that had been built up ended up fizzling out with no satisfying resolution. One of which being what happened with Sophia. I was waiting for the big showdown with she and Camellia but I ended up being hugely disappointed with how things went with Sophia, considering everything she'd done. Considering this was a finale, I expected a lot more, and I wasn't blown away as I had been with the previous book.