The Belles by Dhionelle Clayton
Published: February 6th 2018 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Well! Of course, I had to read The Belles. And I really, really like it. It has a definite Marie Antoinette meets The Hunger Games vibe? And I’m not mad at it.
This. Cover. Though! Gorgeous.
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.
But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.
With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.
I liked the premise of The Belles immediately, if mostly because I thought it would be a good way to make snide remarks and allegories about plastic surgery/beauty standards. What I did not see coming were all the twists and turns and confusion that make this book so worth it.
The writing is gorgeous. Beautifully woven sentences, descriptions that leave you feeling and smelling and tasting everything going on in this world.
What I adore most is that this candy-colored, beautiful world is so grizzly. I love the incongruity between a cutesy, pretty setting with really awful things going on. For me, this was my favorite part of the entire book.
Initially, the vibe reminded me so much of Marie Antoinette and Panem from The Hunger Games. The world of Orleans is very similar to these. Luckily, the world has very unique aspects so it doesn’t feel like a ripoff.
The setting is so fun, with people riding in carriages and the different beautiful tea houses.
I will say it took me a while to get into this. I needed about 100 pages to get through what felt like a lot of setup and info dump, to get into the real meat of the story. Once I did, though, I was in and couldn’t wait to see what would happen and the pacing from that point is phenomenal.
So the characters are tough for me, because I don’t really like any of them. I end up caring about Camellia, our narrator, and I eventually root for her, but I don’t know that I ever really like her. Her obsession with being the favorite, her willingness to abandon all sisterly love, even though that’s all she’s ever known, for the sake of being the favorite, is a pretty big turn off for me.
I do love the antagonist. She’s absolutely awful, but brilliant, and I love a scary, evil, intelligent female antagonist. She’s written very well. I was scared during some of her scenes, so freaked out by what she may do next.
There’s also a very exciting element in that there are so many minor antagonists, and you never really have a firm grip on who can and cannot be trusted.
The magic in The Belles is so very cool. I love the way the Belles work, how Camellia is willing to push her magic further than many have before. The descriptions of changing people’s looks are gorgeous and so fun to read.
I went into this expecting a book about a twisted world that worships beauty, and got so much more than that. This beautiful, twisted book is awesome.
*Each of these beautiful photos links to an IG post, show these people some love!*
*I don’t own any of the photos used for aesthetics in this post. Each photo links to where I found it!*