If you liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you’ll probably like Rachel Hawkins’ Rebel Belle. If, like me, you rabidly love Buffy (I’ve watched the entire series and its spinoff twice in the last year), you might be unduly critical of what is, in fact, a fun take on “girly girl gets superpowers.”
Harper Jane Price is a driven Southern Belle, and a teenaged girl to boot. You can imagine that it was a bit of a shock when the school janitor sort-of kissed her and bequeathed his Paladin superpowers and responsibilities to her during the homecoming dance. She is tasked with the protection of David Stark, her high school arch-nemesis. Hilarity ensues as Harper stumbles into a world of magic, prophecy, and life-or-death battles that hinge on the proper use of a high-heeled shoe.
Harper herself is real and relatable. She feels fear and pressure, and routinely takes on more than she can handle. Her romance is lovely. And while she’s dense at times, it adds to the dramatic tension–even if it can be frustrating. She loves, hates, and is a real teenaged girl. I only wish that I could properly imitate her accent in my mind. (I’m a Yankee from Massachusetts, and she’s a Belle from Alabama. Some things are just hopeless, I suppose.)
I found the story slow when compared to its cinematic counterpart–but I can forgive that, as it’s merely one of the foibles of the written word. Where Buffy’s internal struggle over her destiny as the Slayer can be dealt with in the space of ten minutes, Harper has the opportunity to take her time; shrugging it off and outright rejecting it before accepting that her fate is now tied to the well-being of the world at large. What I have trouble forgiving, however, is Leigh-Ann Price. Initially, The Leigh-Ann Factor brought a hint of intrigue to the story–why won’t Harper even think about her? After revealing her, Leigh-Ann turns into a plot device, rather than a character that’s been loved and lost. Hopefully Hawkins has opportunity to expand on the sisters’ relationship as the series continues.
The final battle at Harper’s cotillion is absolutely brilliant. It was punctuated with drama, surprises, and punch-to-the-gut heartbreaking moments that left me begging for more. But I won’t go on for fear of spoilers! Suffice to say, when Lady Hawkins gets it right, she gets it really stinking right. I can’t wait to get my hands on Miss Mayhem!