Hi everyone! I hope the new year is treating you well so far! We’re back in lockdown as of today in Scotland which is a wee bit disappointing but not unexpected (although I am a little relieved that we finally are). Today’s post is actually going back in time a little to my last read of 2020 with a review I wanted to write a few days ago but just got distracted by reading other books, instead!
Title: Dangerous Remedy
Author: Kat Dunn
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, LGBT, Young Adult
Synopsis: Camille, a revolutionary’s daughter, leads a band of outcasts – a runaway girl, a deserter, an aristocrat in hiding. As the Battalion des Mortes they cheat death, saving those about to meet a bloody end at the blade of Madame La Guillotine. But their latest rescue is not what she seems. The girl’s no aristocrat, but her dark and disturbing powers means both the Royalists and the Revolutionaries want her. But who and what is she?
In these dangerous days, no one can be trusted, everyone is to be feared. As Camille learns the truth, she’s forced to choose between loyalty to those she loves and the future.
Ever since I was little, visiting the National Museum of Scotland was a real treat, and one of my favourite things on show was the Scottish predecessor to the guillotine, The Maiden. Despite it being housed in what I used to call ‘the boring part of the museum’, aka the part with all the Scotland-specific history and no interactive areas, I would always beg my mum and dad to take me to see it as soon as we arrived! This macabre curiosity around this death device has led to a further curiosity with the guillotine and, by extension, the French revolution. I delighted in learning about the latter during my time at university (although, admittedly, I have forgotten a great deal of what I learnt), and since have tried to find books that would sate my desire to learn more about this tumultuous period in time, but sadly to no avail. That is until I picked up Kat Dunn’s debut novel, Dangerous Remedy.
Dangerous Remedy follows the Batallion des Morts, a group of teens who are on a mission to cheat death by freeing those who are set to be executed during the Terror of Robespierre’s rule. However, when their latest rescue mission goes a bit awry, and they end up rescuing a girl with some rather interesting abilities, the Batallion must shield her from the royalists and the revolutionaries alike, who each want to use her as a weapon for their own gains.
This book was so much fun! Unlike other YA books I have read set during the same time period (*cough* Enchantée *cough*) I found myself so absorbed in the fast paced plot and couldn’t bear to put the book down. There were so many twists and turns to keep you on your toes, and at several points in the book I found myself, mouth agape, having to put the book down for a second to fully digest what was happening to the main characters!
Speaking of, the characters were by far the highlight of the book! The Batallion des Morts is a gorgeous, dysfunctional found family with really great queer rep that I know will be loved by many! One of the main characters, Camille, the leader of the Batallion, is dealing with the stress of her role as well as the grief of losing her family only months prior to the books events. You really feel for her, having to shoulder the responsibility of the group, and you also fall in love with the gorgeous romance between her and Ada. Ada is the other character whose point of view we get to read from, and she was definitely my favourite of the two. Ada is a mixed race young woman who moved to France with her father after her mother died, but after her father shows his true colours, she is desperate to gain her independence from him. Living so near the university, Ada is desperate to be able to study there, as science is her true passion, but her knowledge really excels among the Batallion. One of the other members of the Batallion I really liked was Al. Being the son-in-hiding of an exiled noble family who threw him out for being gay, Al is an extremely complex character who, at the start of the novel, is a real mystery to the reader. Despite his standoffish attitude, I found myself quickly warming to him, and I think he may well be my favourite character in the book. Olympe, the mysterious girl that they rescue was also a real sweetheart. After being the subject of hundreds of scientific experiments her whole life, and being seen as nothing more than a deadly weapon, all she wants is her autonomy. She is the perfect example of a female character whose strength is in her softness. Finally, the last member of the Batallion is one I would really have liked to have seen more. All we really know about Guil is that he used to be a soldier and that this is a real asset to the group, but he never really gets his chance to shine, and we don’t get to see much of his personality, either. I really hope that we get to see more of him in the rest of the series because I really am intrigued by him!
A lot of the book deals with the topic of independence and being the person that you want to be, not the person that your family expects or raises you to be, and I think it was done very well, with the story every single one of the main characters in the book having something to do with that theme. There is, of course, a really sweet sapphic love story in the book but I didn’t feel all that connected to it. Camille is extremely secretive around Ada and, without spoiling anything, is a huge hypocrite, and I really found myself wanting Ada to just find another girl to fall in love with who actually deserves her! That being said, I am hopeful that the rest of the series will develop on the romance in a way that leaves for a much more satisfying conclusion!
Overall, this was the perfect end to 2020 and I had a real blast reading this book. I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of the found family trope, complex and sometimes unlikeable main characters, and a well-developed historical fantasy setting!