Beauty and the Beast's entrancing doe-eyed bibliophile, Belle, is about to enter a new arena of civil unrest in late 18th century France as the first book in Disney Hyperion's The Queen's Council series of historical reimaginings of its beloved princesses rolls out Nov. 10. — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive chapter excerpt on tap to share the magic.
Based on Disney's 1991 Academy Award-nominated animated feature, Beauty and the Beast, The Queen's Council: Rebel Rose is written by Canadian author Emma Theriault and acts as a reimagined fantasy sequel inspired by its famed source material.
The plotline picks up after Belle has broken the Enchantress's curse on the Beast and she assumes the responsibilities of being crowned queen just as the French Revolution looms in the year 1789. This empowering fable touches on resonant themes of balancing loyalty, duty, love, and sacrifice while navigating through the murky fog of sinister political intrigue.
After restoring the Beast to his human form and resurrecting life at their castle in the Aveyon province, Belle realizes the flaring fires of change in Paris will soon touch their kingdom, bringing with it the uncertainty of the rebellion.
Now she discovers herself residing in a lavish palace, torn between her past as a simple peasant and her future as exalted royalty. While Belle struggles with her newly-gained position, there are many lurking in the shadows who would stop at nothing to hold her from power.
When she uncovers a magic mirror that holds a fateful warning, Belle wants nothing more than to ignore the supernatural voice calling her to accept the royal title she never desired. Can she rise above the strife to become the queen her kingdom needs, or be ruined by the calamitous events unfolding.
"When I got my hands on the pitch, my first thought was that it was the perfect opportunity to explore the enchantress from the film," Theriault tells SYFY WIRE. "I always thought there was something rather callous about her cursing a young prince, even if her intentions were good. In Rebel Rose, I tried to give her a bigger reason for doing so, and she plays an important role in the events of the book. Without spoiling too much, I will say that Belle is at the forefront of her mind when she reluctantly curses the prince. She has foreseen the violence of the Reign of Terror and she wants to spare the kingdom of Aveyon."
In expanding the fairy tale after Belle emerged from the animated film as such a capable character, the challenge for Theriault was figuring out where her weaknesses would lie.
"She is a commoner married to a prince, a fact that forces her to reside in two different worlds but feel as though she belongs to neither," she adds. "She is a girl who lives in a castle that was once her prison, being called to rule a kingdom she spent her life longing to leave. The landscape of Europe is shifting, and Belle has read enough from enlightenment thinkers to know that the answer doesn’t lie in absolute monarchy.
"But falling in love doesn’t imbue someone with so much confidence that they will never face doubts again. Destroying a curse that shackled a kingdom doesn’t mean someone will never make a mistake again. I wanted to take Belle’s strengths (her empathy, her intelligence, her stubbornness, her outspokenness) and imagine how they would be tested in a rapidly changing world, one she needs to find her place in."
Sprinkled with the turbulent events of the French Revolution, the novel is an educational experience and Theriault encourages history nerds to follow along and anticipate some of what’s coming next.
"As for surprises and twists, without getting too far into spoiler territory, I will say that there is a point in the book where Belle has to contend with the possibility that the curse she fought so hard to destroy might not be as broken as she thought."
Now enjoy our exclusive chapter excerpt from Disney Hyperion's The Queen's Council: Rebel Rose, arriving on Nov. 10, as we find Belle and Lio (the Beast in human form) newly returned from the chaos of Paris, desperate to make sure their kingdom is spared the worst of the violence they fled.
Check out the excerpt below:
As soon as she stepped back into the room, Belle sensed something was amiss. The air was tinged with the metallic scent of fear, and the bed was empty, the sheets and blankets in disarray.
It didn’t take long to find Lio crouched in a dark corner, still in the grips of the nightmare that had taken him.
She rushed over and shook him, not caring in that moment that it was usually better to let him come out of the darkness gradually. “Lio, Lio, I’m here.”
Her touch and her voice brought part of him back to her. He reached his shaking hands up the length of her arms all the way to her face. “Belle.” There was anguish layered in the way he said her name. “You were gone.”
“Shhh,” she whispered. “I’m here.”
“I was the Beast.” She sat down on the carpet beside him and pulled him into her embrace. “I—I was him again, I felt his claws in my hands and his fangs in my mouth.”
The admission startled Belle. Lio’s nightmares had always been vague shadows of the fears her carried with him every day. To dream he was a monster again must have been torture.
“You aren’t the Beast anymore,” she tried to assure him.
“But I am him, Belle, don’t you understand?” His voice was frantic. “I lived as him for so long he will always be a part of me.”
Belle couldn’t help but think back to the vision she had been shown in Paris, of the people of Aveyon rising up against them. She had dismissed it as false, but a small part of her wondered what would happen if their people ever discovered the truth of Lio’s ten years as a recluse. An even smaller part of her wondered if it could happen again, if some enchantress could decide that her husband wasn’t doing enough for his kingdom and curse him like one had cursed a child so long ago.
But that sort of catastrophizing was anathema to her. She refused to entertain it.
Belle knew there was nothing she could say to ease the nightmare from his mind and the feral panic from his bones. He had to come back to her on his own, bit by bit. She twined her fingers in his hair and waited for his pulse to stop beating so forcefully on her skin.
They sat in the silent dark, two people adrift in a storm, holding on to each other for dear life, but in time, the fear left him. She knew it was gone when he sat up straight, his spine no longer weighed down by darkness.
“You dreamed of the Beast?” she asked, probing as gently as she could manage.
He pushed his hair from his face. “Yes,” he whispered, perhaps too frightened to lend the nightmare any more credence than it deserved. “I don’t think it would have been so bad, but I woke up in the middle of it to find you missing.”
She ran her fingers through the hair loose around his shoulders. “I was in the library. I couldn’t sleep.”
“I know, but logic has no place in my mind during a nightmare.”
She tried for levity. “Did you think someone had kidnapped me from my bed and you’d managed to sleep through it?”
He cast his eyes down as his cheeks reddened with shame. “Is it worse to admit that my first fear was that you had left of your own volition?”
Her chest tightened. Of course he would think the worst of her absence. She nestled close to him, finding a spot in the crook of his arm, desperate to find the closeness that came easily before. “One disagreement isn’t going to make me want to leave you, Lio. I chose you and I’ll keep choosing you, even when it’s hard.”
“I know,” he breathed into her hair. “It’s just, with the coronation and everything happening in France, and our earlier fight… it was harder to pull myself out of the nightmare. Usually I—” He hesitated.
“Usually I can make it through the worst of it because I’m anchored to something.” He paused. “To someone.” Belle waited for what she knew was coming. Lio shifted slightly. “In every other nightmare, I’ve been anchored to you. I know it’s a nightmare and it will come to an end because of you. For some reason I didn’t have that awareness this time.”
Belle knew in that moment that she couldn’t tell him about the mirror in the library, or the strange phantom woman with a disturbing vision who had haunted her from Paris all the way to Aveyon. It wouldn’t do him any good to know that, in some way, the curse lingered. So she bottled up the words she had been prepared to tell him, burying them deep in the recesses of her mind. She would have to discover what it all meant without him.
“Losing you or losing my kingdom used to be my worst fear, but this nightmare gave me a new one,” he admitted, his voice rough.
“And what is that?”
“Losing myself.” He gripped her hand harder. “Losing myself to the past, losing myself to the Beast again, or losing who I am because of some threat or villain I don’t understand.”
Belle could understand that fear, for it was one she shared with her husband. Belle didn’t fear losing herself to her past but rather to her future. She feared life with Lio might require her to become someone she was never meant to be. So when she reassured him, in a way she was reassuring herself as well.
“You are much too strong a person to lose yourself like that, Lio.”
She believed the words she spoke, but when her mind flickered to the mob killing the marquis de Launay, she remembered what fear and anger could do to people.
Belle had tried to make Lio see that the real threat lay with Aveyon’s commoners. She wanted them to work together to enact reforms and make sure Aveyon was the kind of place revolution could never take hold in. But Lio had chosen to focus his efforts on his noblemen, and she couldn’t fault him for it. That left Belle to figure out a way forward with Aveyon’s commoners, and maybe with Lio and Bastien gone, she could truly devote herself to the cause.
Belle swore an oath to the darkness that night, one that promised she would do everything in her power to make sure Lio’s greatest fears were never realized.