No cat pictures today 🙁 I read this as an ebook… on my phone… And it took me the best part of forever, but I’m blaming the format rather than the book itself, which I did quite enjoy!
Emilie des Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.
Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.
Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.
But when their nation instigates a terrible war, Emilie and Annette come together to help the rebellion unearth the truth before it’s too late.
I feel like the summary is a bit too mild for the novel. It’s not just that the two girls switch lives. Throughout, they both want to change the way the world works, to go against prejudice whether that’s sexism or the abuse of the poor, and really they’re tied hand in hand.
I enjoyed the way the author creates a whole system that magic works in her universe (or rather, that magic is taught) and how that informs its own kinds of bigotry for our heroines to fight again. I enjoyed even more how these dynamics played out, and she did not hesitate to interrogate the motivations of her characters, with Emily especially taking into account her privilege as a rich girl, and the fact that her dreams of becoming a physician and showing the men in power what a woman can do was… actually pretty narrow-minded and self centered compared to everything else.
I knew it was queer but I expected, as always when there’s two main leads, that it would be between them. It’s not. They each have their love interests, and there’s loads of representation besides. I really enjoyed the ace rep especially, it’s way too rare to see it in books and it was done very well – but also the trans and nonbinary rep. The leads don’t have any issues with it but it’s clear that not all society agrees, and it’s one of the things our rebel friends fight for. And both main relationships were wildly different but equally satisfying. As were the friendship and loyalty between Emily and Annette, and all “good” characters’ relationships if I’m being honest. The relationships (in the wider sense, not just romantic) are really what made the book for me.
Without spoiling, the “twist” at the end with regards to the leaders of the revolution made a lot of sense, though it was maybe not bold enough. Another thing that really threw me off was the French. I mean it’s in the title, but the whole universe is French-inspired, and it’s off-putting (as a French speaker, for those who don’t know me 🙂 ) to see French words for titles, as well as first names, in the middle of sentences. Especially when there’s perfectly good English words for the same. Also, it’s Pierre, not Pièrre. It’s tiny but it really threw me every single time I read it… But I mean, this is my main criticism and it’s mainly down to me being prissy.
I did have a hard time getting into it but that’s also mostly because ebooks and I aren’t great friends. Then the pace picked up and I really couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. Now I gotta get over the fact that it’s a standalone, but I’m also really satisfied with the way it wrapped up.