CBR 13 Bingo: Flora
The Everlasting Rose is the sequel to Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles. To quote myself regarding The Belles, “This was fantasy the likes of which I haven’t read before, full of decadence and frippery, a magic system based on beauty, and I was entranced.” The Everlasting Rose is a different beast of a book compared to its predecessor as it is a fugitive and resistance story.
The soon to be new Queen of Orleans, Sophia, is setting the pieces in place for a tyrannical rule. Monitoring the daily lives of her citizens and mandating beauty standards, while also ripping away the laws considered limiting for beauty potential (such as getting rid of a restriction for how small a waist can be). For Orleans must be the most beautiful and Sophia is the ultimate arbiter of what is beautiful. The Belles once revered for their unique ability to bring beauty are now considered by Sophia to be mere tools and expendable, as she desires a Belle in every household. Camille is determined to avert this horrible future. Chilling new reveals abound in this book as Camille discovers the depths of what Sophia is bringing about and the means to get there, giving Camille further determination to try and avert this horrible future.
Something I appreciated more deeply this time visiting Clayton’s world, were the steampunk touches. Time is kept using hourglasses that automatically flip on the hour. Lights are like little blimps with trailing ribbons so you can tie them in place, or let them drift around. There are beauty lights so a person can always have the best possible lighting, there are specific day and night lights, as well as healing lights that are a cerulean blue. Post is delivered by mini dirigibles. News reels are put into teletropes to be watched. Black gossip balloons hover hoping to snatch up a juicy story to be printed in the papers.
Another aspect I found interesting was how Camille describes her world visually through the comparison to food, particularly sweet foods which seem to be a staple of the Orleanean diet. Even though they are cursed to ugliness apparently they were blessed with magical metabolism as entire meals are described like a dessert table.
Rich light brown skin like hazelnut butter.
The plum darkness cracks open like an egg, releasing ribbons of orange and yellow and tangerine.
The white flakes cover him like sugar dust on a molasses tart.
High ceilings hold glass windows that gaze down into the belly of the house, with each floor a decadent layer on an expensive cake.
Clayton has created the perfect conclusion to the story that began in The Belles. Along the way more of the world and history of the Belles are disclosed. I have one or two minor quibbles about how some things occur/happen in the story but overall this was a great read. In a final stretch of The Everlasting Rose my anxiety kept increasing and I had to keep reading. Aside from being an exciting story “The Belles” books have a lot to say on appearance, who gets to decide what is attractive, finding acceptance and beauty in how one is born, and how to create a paradigm shift from the unrealistic traditional approach to beauty to one that is more open and celebratory of all. I highly recommend this duology.