“Deficiency is weakness. Beauty is power.”
Last year, Dhonielle Clayton introduced us to The Belles last year and their illustrious world filled with lush landscapes and beautiful men and women. However, as stunning as their world can be, what lies underneath demonstrates ugliness and cruelty.
At what cost, beauty?
In her sequel, The Everlasting Rose, we see how far the ugliness grows and those willing to resist and rebel to keep it from spreading and existing. As the story begins, we see Camelia, the once-favorite belle, still on the run with her sisters, Edel and Amber, and their male servant, Remy. They are fugitives with expensive prices on their heads, if caught, and with a mission to find Charlotte, the rightful queen of Orleans. Should their mission succeed, she can make right what Princess Sophia plans to destroy.
As the story progresses, they face danger, like hunger, fatigue, and distrust. In addition, they meet a resistance group called The Iron Ladies, a group of non-colored (Gris) women aim to end the Belle system and place the rightful Queen upon her throne.
Once again, Clayton uses a slavery allegory with such inclusions as “The Fugitive Belle Act” much like The Fugitive Slave Act and how Belles are treated in the hands of the Belle system. For example, the use of brutal punishment techniques, such as whips and chains, find themselves on the page. Princess Sophia offers bone-chilling horror to her subjects. She’s not one to be on the wrong side.
- LGBTQA Representation. Hear me out. The first book caused controversy because of the death of Lady Pelletier, a lesbian. However, there is a major surprise regarding that character and it made sense for me, given the story. It was a wonderful surprise. But, I cannot speak for everyone. Also, there are additional LGBTQA characters involved in the fight against regent Queen Sophia’s madness.
- Strong Female Characters. Enough said. They get things done.
- Racial Diversity. I enjoyed hearing about the various shades of brown, which you do not get often in fantasy.
- It’s a duology. I expected a third book. But, Clayton ends this “series” with this book. So, if you’re like me and you prefer standalones to series, you get a mixture of both.
- I expect more of a showdown with all the buildup presented between the books. The ending’s too clean.
As almost always, the sequel does not match-up with its first installment. Nevertheless, it’s a sequel worthy of reading, even though the ending’s a bit of a letdown. Grab a copy.