A blossoming adventure awaits in Dhonielle Clayton’s return to Orléans as Camille’s escape from Sophia and her harrowing reign truly begins. Picking up just about precisely where The Belles leaves off, The Everlasting Rose promises action and suspense from the very beginning. And, in a way, it does deliver. In others, unfortunately, it falls short. And to be completely frank with you all I can put my grievances with this sequel in the very simplest sense of this fact: The Everlasting Rose should have been longer. The confectionery language that beautifies and foils the darker, rotting world within is back and readers are immediately well immersed within the world of Orléans and ready to take those next steps toward peeling back the sugary coating to the world’s most foul sort of treat. But we do not get enough.
To begin with, I never truly felt as though I got to know the characters well. In fact, barring Camille, we only ever get pieces of each characters’ stories and by the time I have closed the book on the final page, the only one I feel that I have really grown close enough to throughout the course of the book was Edel, and even my connection with her was lacking. It just about killed me not to feel a stronger connection with Remy, not only as a character in his own right but also within the potential of his relationship with Camille. While I will not say that what Clayton accomplishes with her characters is anything short of brilliant, because it truly is so, I definitely think, as readers, we needed a lot more than was offered. And I say this in reference to every character, from Padma and Valerie to Remy and Auguste. We just needed more.
And this is what it comes to with the plot, as well. The story was brilliant, the journey was exceptional, the allusions to the horrifying truths of the enslavement of these women and the commentary regarding not only beauty but the tendency for those in power to use whomever they can to achieve their own ends and desires could not have been more noteworthy. I will forever appreciate these books for those achievements. But I will say that I think the majority of events happened too quickly and ended too soon. It was all just far too easy, at the end, and none of the losses on the path to overthrow the disturbing reign and regime of Sophia’s hit very hard at all. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the story or the plot and I feel as though The Belles really set up an expectation of those feelings.
Basically, I feel as though the build-up was so amazing that it resultingly outshone the climax of the series. And this is not to say that The Everlasting Rose is bad, because it is not. The merit of this novel far outweighs that of a great many I have held in my hands and read over the years. But it was too short, too quick, and did not delve deeply into the characters I feel we needed to learn more about in order to really connect with the story in a deeply emotional way as we had done with the first novel. It is still an emotional story filled with exceptional messages and heartbreaking moments, but as a follow up to Clayton’s debut it was a little below my expectations.