On the first page we’re given background information into the history of this world which makes Sophia seem even worse because the queens were first selected by Beauty to always care for the Belles. The new queen is incredibly paranoid about others being more beautiful than her so has created a scale; anyone prettier than her must downgrade or leave! It’s interesting to learn more about the origins of the Belles
Camille is understandably angry at the start of this book- but it is a little dramatized! That was just funny though, the person who annoyed me was Edel because she wasn’t just negative, she was incredibly cold to basically everyone except her sisters (certainly not counting Amber!) I do like her and Remy more as friends so I really wasn’t into their romance either, if there had to be one I much preferred her with August. As they weren’t at the palace anymore we got less of Sophia, which was frustrating as she was one of the most interesting parts of Book 1. We got about as much of Arabella, that being rather little, and she made one of the stupidest mistakes I’ve ever read about a character making!
Apparently this is just a duology for now and I can see the ending as just that: an ending. There is probably room for a third book exploring the world after the changes of this book, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
Edel teaches her how to transform her own face but hides the secret from Amber because she doesn’t trust her, so much so that she won’t help her when Amber is captured and taken to Sophia’s new Belle prison where she plans to use them all for her benefit. A shopkeeper makes Camille a poison so she can kill herself if they try to put her in here. Arabella sends Camille a message telling her to stay away until the elder Belle can work out what Sophia is planning but Edel wants to storm in now that they know it’s not just Amber who’s trapped. Her bullheadedness means she is nearly arrested whilst Camille is getting jealous over a woman flirting veryyy overtly with Remy as they seek an invisible post balloon.
Since they’re rapidly running out of money, they sneak into a teahouse to steal some Belle products to sell. Camille sends a message back to check Arabella isn’t being forced to write to her and when she proves herself, Arabella also tells them the remaining Belles are not in Sophia’s prison but scattered at teahouses to capture Camille because like her, Camille is the everlasting rose of their generation, whose blood is used to create the next generation. Sophia wants to experiment by combining both of their blood and she wants lots of new Belles: “one for every household”, which Camille won’t allow. She has the idea to use the perfect amount of her poison to remove the new generation’s power without killing them.
Camille wants to go straight to visit the Fashion Minister, who she is sure will help her, but the other two outvote her to go rescue Valerie. However there are lots of guards there and all they achieve is learning Elisabeth escaped the dungeons and is working for Sophia, ordering the transfer of Valerie.When Remy sees an image of his captured family in the newsies he immediately has to leave the girls to go save them, which they understand but Camille insists on changing his appearance so he’ll be less likely to be caught. When she learns Sophia has closed all exits to the palace except one, she sends Remy a message warning him and he returns the favour with a warning that post balloons are being monitored so just send letters- all of these messages back and forth were freaking me out, I was sure it was going to bust them!
The girls then go to see the Fashion Minister and maybe they should have gone there straight away because he happily gives them a comfy place to stay and plenty of money, since he is angry at Sophia because she has imprisoned his husband. He also gives them a banned newspaper called The Spiders which advocates their readers to help the Belles. Gustave also takes them to the Silk Tearoom for another try at getting Valerie. They aren’t treated by her, but by a ‘backup’ Belle Ada, who agrees to take them to their sister. Unfortunately Valerie is incredibly weak as her blood has been drained so she kills herself but they are caught by the Madam so Camille has her dragons set fire to the teahouse khaleesi style!
As they escape the lighthouses are sending out beams of light which would have captured the girls but they are kidnapped/saved by women with spider masks, which to me at least, immediately gave away that they were The Spiders, who live in caves and turn against beauty work. One of their members is Claudine’s lover so she is angry at Camille, but their leader Lady Arane wants them to fully heal Charlotte so she can rule, agreeing to help their sisters in exchange so none of them have to return to the teahouses. Ultimately Arane wants another Beauty Trial, new leadership to change everything. Arane sends them to the Gold Isles in coffins but Edel is discovered and taken to Sophia’s prison. Of course Camille wants to go after her but the Iron Ladies take her to Charlotte- and Auguste, who as I predicted is on their side now. Padma is also there as Auguste convinced the queen to let him bring her to ‘maintain him’, in reality she has been helping her sister.
Lady Pelletier believes it won’t work if they march Charlotte in so Camille suggests she change her appearance to pretend to be a dragon dealer sent by Auguste. However the two Belles are just starting to help heal Charlotte when they are interrupted with news Remy has been captured.
With this new identity, Camille arrives at the palace and is greeted by Du Barry, who escaped and has been receiving information from her daughter- so maybe Elisabeth isn’t quite as bad as we thought! Du Barry also explains originally Belles fell from the sky (except the aether, who apparently comes straight from the goddess, so are they reincarnations of her or her legitimate daughters or something?) but her ancestor found a way to extract their blood to create more.
Sophia receives ‘Corrine’ happily and gives her her sister’s rooms and a servant who we discover to be Bree rescued by Du Barry from the starvation box when she helps Camille out after she kills Sophia’s spying monkey Zo! Bree also warns her it’s probably a bad idea to save Remy as Sophia will quickly realise, although Camille does it anyway. The next morning Bree takes her to see Arabella, but for some reason the elder Belle takes the poison, even though Camille warns her of its deadly effects, which was very confusing!
Camille uses the fortune box August gave her to knock some guards out and open the Observatory Deck for the Iron Ladies to sneak in then goes to the ballroom as Sophia has requested. There, the soon to be Queen presents her favourite- Amber! It’s a little confusing what occurred here as Amber was apparently sharing information on Camille and her kidnapping was faked, but she is in chains. I would say we can’t trust Sophia, but Amber seems guilty. Either way, Sophia kills her, which Camille responds to by using all of her power to nearly kill everyone in the room until the others arrive and Charlotte stops her. She passes out for three days and when she wakes up is offered a role co-ordinating the new role of Belles in this new age, but turns it down to recover at home with all her sisters, including all the unfavoured ones liberated form the teahouse. Edel takes it instead, although she still seems disenchanted with the system, she’s excited for the new Beauty Trial Charlotte plans to hold rather than keeping her throne.
Auguste sort of disappeared at the end of the book, which frustrated me as if I had to pick a love interest for Camille it would be him because I think her and Remy have better friendship chemistry. Georgina Fabray is off on the run, there are riots in the Spice Isles, it’d be nice to find out what was going on with Amber; so I could certainly read a third book for some more answers, but on the other hand it also works as a duology with an opening, since life never really has closure. If there is a third one, it’d be interesting if Camille became the queen at the Beauty Trials, a Head Belle in charge of the other Belles- a new system!
“Resistance comes in many forms… sometimes it’s all fire and storms, cutting off the heads of important people. Other times it’s slow , a crack forming in glass, inching forward sliver by sliver, spreading out across the entire surface.”
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