Emma Theriault is the genius writer behind Rebel Rose, Book One of Disney’s new The Queen’s Council series. This new series will reimagine the stories of some of our favorite Disney princesses and the very real historical settings behind their stories. Rebel Rose is the continuation of the beloved Disney tale of Beauty and the Beast, picking up with Belle and her husband Lio in 1789. Historical fiction meets Disney in all the best ways in this young adult novel. They’ve only been married a few months, but find themselves facing the impending French Revolution and what that might mean in their own kingdom of Aveyon.
The fairytale finds its historical roots as the story unfolds from Lio’s visiting King Louis at Versailles to Belle’s work to better the lives of her people with real political changes to the relationship of Aveyon with the rest of Europe. The rich, vivid world created by Theriault highlights all the extravagance of the French monarchy while Belle and Lio visit Paris. As Belle ventures out into the streets, readers are also given a look at the undercurrents of violence, fear, and hatred of the Parisian commoners fighting for their lives against the monarchy’s constantly increasing taxes and vagrant disregard for their well-being. From historical moment references to Belle’s first-hand account of part of Bastille Day, Rebel Rose takes you deep into the heart of the political turmoil of the times and makes readers feel as if they are living it.
Theriault gives the same attention to detail for each of her characters as well. Throughout the story Belle chafes against the title of ‘Princess’, preferring to remain just Belle despite the fact that everyone around her thinks of her as their Princess. This aspect, coupled with others throughout the story, feels authentic to the progressive, head-strong Belle that we know from the classic story. Rather than breaking the character down to bare bones and building her back up, Theriault takes the Belle fans know and adds layer upon intricate layer until we can easily picture Belle as an actual historical figure. Readers also meet several familiar faces from the castle and a few surprising ones from outside its walls (but I won’t spoil who!) The inclusion of deep backstories for the supporting characters that make their way into Belle’s life adds to the richness of the tale. Belle’s ideas and desire to help her people drive the fast-paced story from start to finish.
But it wouldn’t be a Disney tale without a little magic and the story delivers on that front. The complexity of the story only grows with the imaginative take on the broken curse, and the way the truth behind the magic that cursed Lio goes deeper than just a curse on a cruel-hearted boy. Though the spell has been broken, the magic revisits Belle in eery and ominous ways with visions of a burning city and dire consequences if Belle doesn’t heed the advice a familiar voice gives her.
While the book is billed for the Young Adult audience I am certain adult Disney and historical fiction fans will love Rebel Rose. The attention to detail, vivid scenes, and fast-paced story make it a must-read and impossible to put down. Rebel Rose will be available in stores and online November 10. You can pre-order your copy now!