I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
Camille, a revolutionary’s daughter, leads a band of outcasts – a runaway girl, a deserter, an aristocrat in hiding. As the Battalion des Mortes they cheat death, saving those about to meet a bloody end at the blade of Madame La Guillotine. But their latest rescue is not what she seems. The girl’s no aristocrat, but her dark and disturbing powers means both the Royalists and the Revolutionaries want her. But who and what is she?
In these dangerous days, no one can be trusted, everyone is to be feared. As Camille learns the truth, she’s forced to choose between loyalty to those she loves and the future.
Full disclaimer: I got an e-ARC of this but I ended up waiting so long that I ended up audiobooking it on storytel. The audiobook format helped me at least finish it quickly and I don’t know how different my reading experience would’ve been had I read it in written format.
This is one of those books I don’t know how to talk about because there’s very little I could say I outright disliked but it also just didn’t do anything for me. I also was annoyed the whole time at how somehow they couldn’t choose a bilingual narrator for the audiobook so I had to listen to French names being pronounced in an English accent, which just reminded me how (sometimes irrationally) annoyed I always get when authors from English speaking countries place books in countries that aren’t their own because they find them fascinating. I’m not even French but something about this is just very irritating. This is not even about this book specifically but more of a general statement.
Anyway, the good thing about this book was how queer it was, although it does fall into some common and honestly boring tropes specifically for the bisexual character (note that I’m nowhere saying “problematic”, simply boring). Also, established relationship is not something that happens frequently in YA and this book made me see why. On one hand it was great to see two girls already together and in love, but on the other it’s kind of hard to care about their relationship when you know there’s gonna be drama to specifically split them up and/or create conflict and I’m just not a fan of that in the YA context (but this is something I’m very aware might have to do with my own age, and me not being the target audience for this book).
It’s very clear that the book hopes its strength will be the historical/political context it’s set in, plus its magical side, and it was entertaining enough despite it being repetitive at times, although I always felt like it lacked that spark to really make it stand out. Sometimes a book is okay but it just doesn’t spark joy and I think it wouldn’t be fair to myself and my time or to the book itself to try to come up with a longer review: this book was fine and it will work for a lot of readers, it just didn’t fully work for me, despite being mildly entertained while listening to it.
TWs: alcoholism, death (on and off page), experimenting on humans