Madame Tussaud's Apprentice

Madame Tussaud's Apprentice
Written by Kathleen Benner Duble
Historical, Romance, French Revolution
Published November 2015
320 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★
In 1789, with the starving French people on the brink of revolution, orphaned Celie Rosseau, an amazing artist and a very clever thief, runs wild with her protector, Algernon, trying to join the idealistic freedom fighters of Paris. But when she is caught stealing from none other than the king's brother and the lady from the waxworks, Celie must use her drawing talent to buy her own freedom or die for her crimes.

Forced to work for Madame Tussaud inside the opulent walls that surround Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Celie is shocked to find that the very people she imagined to be monsters actually treat her with kindness. But the thunder of revolution still rolls outside the gates, and Celie is torn between the cause of the poor and the safety of the rich. When the moment of truth arrives, will she turn on Madame Tussaud or betray the boy she loves?

From the hidden garrets of the starving poor to the jeweled halls of Versailles, Madame Tussaud's Apprentice is a sweeping story of danger, intrigue, and young love, set against one of the most dramatic moments in history.
Celie and Algernon can never be sure where their next meal is coming from, with the two teens living life on the streets. Celie is a talented artist with a photographic memory so when she's caught posing as a blind girl begging for money by the king's own brother, her savior comes in the form of Manon Tussaud, the Parisian wax artist who wants the young thief to work on her displays. Reluctantly Celie agrees but plans to escape back to the freedom of the streets and Algernon after her debt is repaid. But Algernon needs Celie and there is nothing that the young Parisian artist would deny him.

A revolution in France is brewing. Rebels fighting against the oppression and greed of the royal families in power and Algernon enlists in their cause. Just as Celie finds herself warming to Madame Tussaud, she's torn between the boy who rescued her from starvation and promised to always keep her safe and a future with Manon, the woman who has shown Celie that life is truly worth living.

Kelly's Thoughts

I loved it. Over the past few months, I've developed a love for young adult fiction based upon the French Revolution, and Madame Tussaud's Apprentice is among the most passionate and engaging I've read thus far. Celie is homeless, thrown out onto the streets of Paris an orphan and not being able to afford the roof over her head. Rescued by Algernon, a young man living on the streets and has taught her to steal from the wealthy to survive. Algernon seems oblivious to her feelings towards him and while he promises to protect her, Celie is caught posing as a blind girl and swindles the Comte of his gambling winnings. In a stroke of luck, Manon Tussaud has also had her prized possessions stolen and seeing Celie's rare artistry, strikes a deal with the Comte to not only take the young orphan under her wing but to rid her of a life of crime.

Celie is no Eliza Dolittle, but a girl who now feels trapped by her debt to Madame Tussaud. She constantly worries for Algernon and his survival while she is seemingly living the high life according to her companion. I liked Celie's character, she was determined but also learnt from her mistakes and her indecisiveness only stemmed from her feelings for Algernon. He on the other hand was nothing more than a controlling presence that used guilt to keep Celie loyal. I loathed him. He isn't the villain, but I found no redeeming qualities within his character. Algernon is manipulative and only truly cared about his own interests.

At the heart of Madame Tussaud's Apprentice is the French Revolution, where the ruling monarchy was overthrown in favour of a republic. Lasting ten long and brutal years, Kathleen Benner Duble vividly describes the Revolution for the younger audience. But it does feature brutality and the execution of the royal family, beheadings and the gruesome task of creating wax models from the vigilante murders of officials and those deemed against the rebellion. Just a gentle warning for those who are sensitive to violence.

'Words are weapons Celie,' Manon says, 'as are symbols. Never forget that. The power of change can come not just by force, but by speech or a peaceful marching crowd.'

I loved Manon Tussaud. She was stern but incredibly patient and despite how abrasive Celie could be. She came to love the young orphan as her own child. I would have loved to have seen more interaction with the wax museum itself as it was such a big part of Manon's life.

The Final Verdict

Madame Tussaud's Apprentice was a fantastic read that will appeal to both young adult historical readers and those with a pendence towards the French revolution. Wonderfully written, it was a vivid tale depicting the Reign of Terror. Passionate, brutal and engaging. I loved it.

Kelly is currently craving bacon and cheese loaded fries. Actually, she can't stop thinking about them. Mmm, bacon face cheese pants.


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38 comments

  1. This cover is really really pretty! I'm not huge on historical romance, but Celie sounds like a very interesting character -- photographic memory doesn't often come into stories in terms of art, so that should be fun.

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    1. I never used to be either Alyssa, but having read a few lately like These Shallow Graves and now Madame Tussaud's Apprentice, so now seeking out more. I love fictional that stems from the French Revolution. Definitely give this one a read Alyssa, it might really surprise you.

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  2. If you're a fan of YA Historical fiction set in the French Revolution, you should check out Jennifer Donnely's Revolution (that is, if you haven't). Thanks to Lés Mis, I think I've developed a taste for it as well. I need to add this to my meagre pile. :D

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    1. I actually haven't read that one yet Joy, but have just added it to me never ending Goodreads list. Even as brutal as that era was, there's such a sad beauty to characters rising above the oppression. I loved These Shallow Graves, so no doubt I'll love that one too. Thanks for the recommendation Joy.

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  3. I haven't actually heard of this one! It's right up my alley and I'm so glad you loved it, Kel! <3 So happy you're enjoying some historical fiction. :D

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    1. I'm absolutely loving it poppet, when even a year ago I would have scoffed at reading anything historical. I'd love more recommendations if you have any too.

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  4. AHHHHH I've been teaching myself French recently so I can't wait to pick this up. And also I love Les Miserables so, you know, perfect :)

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    1. I have actually never read Les Miserables, I think the length always seemed daunting really. Now that I'm seeking out more historical reads, it would be prefect to pick up during the Christmas break. Good luck with the self French lessons poppet, I always wished I'd learnt French at school.

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  5. That sounds so good! I love that cover, and I'm always up for more historical fiction, so I'm glad to see that you loved it. A thief with photographic memory sounds interesting, and French Revolution? This book was on my radar because of the cover, but you now have me wanting it for the story.

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    1. I can't wait to see what you think of it Shannelle, it's an awesome read!

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  6. The French Revolution is a brutal and iconic time, so this book definitely sounds interesting covering it all here! Thanks for the great review Kelly!

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    1. Thanks Jeann. I love the era. The brutality, the artistry and sad beauty that the people of France overcame. A bit scary how it almost mirrors recent events over there as well.

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  7. This is historical fiction? I am always a fan of Madame Tussauds I think her work is great. And a good review Kelly!

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    1. She's truly incredible isn't she, those figures look so lifelike, it's creepy! Thanks Ailyn, I really hope you enjoy this one too.

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  8. Kelly how is it that every time I visit your blog it gets more gorgeous? I didn't even know that was possible. LOVE the newest design <3 I haven't heard of this book before but I would love to read more from the French revolution so this sounds perfect.

    Lovely review, Kels <33

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    1. Aww, thanks poppet. Same design, but a new, festive banner. We've just tweaked the colours a bit too.

      There's something about the French Revolution that fascinates me, now seeking out more too. And to think, even a year ago I wouldn't have read historical fiction and now I can't get enough!

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  9. This wouldn't be a typical read for me because I'm not really a fan of anything historical but something about this book makes me think I might like it. Maybe I'll give it a try. Nice review :)

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    1. It's really lovely Jazmen, and I used to feel the same. I wasn't a fan of historical fiction either. The book that turned me around was Prisoner of Night and Fog. You can't go wrong with either of those and they might even help you find a love for historical reads.

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  10. This sounds like a wonderful book, Kelly! I love my historical fiction novels but I don't think I've ever read anything set during the French Revolution! The premise of the book sounds fascinating and Celie seems like a strong character and interesting character. Not sure about the romance though... since you thought Algernon was a bit of a jerk. But I'll keep a look out for this book!

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    1. He was a complete and utter asshole Jenna, but an important part of Celie's story though. I have a new found love for it now too, especially the French Revolution. I'll hit you up on Twitter for some recommendations soon.

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  11. This cover is stunning, Kelly! I love that this one takes around the French Revolution. I don't think I've actually read anything in that era. I also love that Madame Tussauds is a character. That would certainly interest me as well. It sounds like the book was great overall, so I'll look into it.
    Wonderful review, Kelly!

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    1. Thanks Nick and please do! I think it's one of those books that will appeal to even no historical fiction readers as well. I loved Celie's journey and would love to see what you think of it.

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  12. Sounds like this handled the French Revolution really well. Thanks so much for sharing! I am quite curious about this one. My sister loves history - so I think she'd adore this one!

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    1. It was such a wonderful read Lauren, and even though it was pretty brutal for a young adult novel, I absolutely adored it. If she's a fan of historical fiction, I have no doubt she'll love it too!

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  13. Beautiful review Kelly! Recently I've become extremely interested in the French Revolution as well (my history teacher keeps on banging on about how relevant it is today and I can't help but agree with him) and this book sounds amazing. I've always been a fan of historical fiction (the few times I've come across it) and so I'll keep my eyes open for this one. :D

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    1. Thanks Mawa and it really is. Especially with citizens rising up against oppressive governments which what sadly seems to still happen in some countries. If you come across any other French Revolution based fiction, please let me know. I'm adding all of them to my every growing pile.

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  14. I hadn't heard of this until now. It sounds like there are some great characters here, especially Celie.

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    1. Celie was such a wonderful character Christy, I think you'll really enjoy her journey.

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  15. This one sounds so interesting! You know me, I never say no to a good historical fiction. :) Especially during the French Revolution (Vive la France!) Madame Tussaud definitely seems like an intriguing character and I'd love to see Celie's character development. (Although Algernon sounds like someone I'd like to punch while reading)

    - Aila @ Happy Indulgence

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    1. He was such a prick Aila, I wanted to throttle Celie for even falling for the asshole. But luckily Madame Tussaud shows her what family really is and she was able to make her own decisions. I loved her character development and can't wait to see what you think of it.

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  16. This sounds like something I would absolutely LOVE! I don't think I've ever read a story that was set during the French Revolution, but because I'm a fan of historical fiction, I will definitely be adding this to my TBR. Not to mention I like when the characters I read about do criminal things. I get to live vicariously through them lol. You already know how much I adore your writing and reviews, you make me want to read everything! Amazing job Kelly ;)

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    1. Thanks lovely girl.

      And yes! I can almost guarantee you'll really enjoy this one too. I think you'll have issues with Algernon too, he was such a prick who really tried to manipulate Celie's emotions. The storyline would have been a five start read for me without him.

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  17. Once again, loved your review :)
    I nominated you and kendra for the One Lovely Blog Award :)

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    1. Thanks Muna, that was awfully lovely of you.

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  18. I want to read this! Aaaaaah! French revolution! I have been dying to read one! Awesome review, Kelly! <3<3<3

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  19. Hi, Kelly! I love you holiday design so much! Historical fiction is not my usual genre, so I’m not sure this book is for me, but I glad you enjoyed it. Merry Christmas! I hope you have wonderful time with you family!

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  20. *chin-hands* I was going to add this to my TBR based on the title alone, but you really sold it! Great review Kelly! Thank you so much for sharing :)

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  21. I haven't heard of this novel until now! I'm a huge fan of historical fiction and romance so I'm excited to have a great recommendation to try out now. :)

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