A look at beauty that is as lush as it is chilling, or my review of The Belles

the belles

The Belles (The Belles #1)

By: Dhonielle Clayton

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Publication Date: February 6th, 2018

Format: Hardcover

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.

In The Belles, Dhonielle Clayton certainly has brought to life Camellia and her world of Orléans. Her deft prose has rendered a world that is just as intoxicating as the perfume of the flowers these Belles are named after. As for the characters that populate it? They are rich in their beauty, personality, depth, and motivation.

The Belles centers around Camellia, and her opening scene is an assault on the senses in the best way. The reader is not only plunged right away into Camille’s hopes and fears, but is immediately introduced to the beautiful side of Orléans’ religious obsession with beauty. This is a world built on lush descriptions of jewel tones and patiserie flavors that contrasts with the dark revelations later on.

This is also a world, at least for Camille, built on sisterhood. Camille is kind, strong, open to growth, a heroine you not only learn to like but one you can support wholeheartedly. She has to balance her ambition with her loyalty to her sisters, but she does it realistically and without being hateful or catty. She is confident in herself, has every right to be, but doesn’t lord that talent or the power that comes with it.

What really showcases Dhonielle’s talent, however, isn’t her ability to make beauty leap off the page. It’s her ability to make your skin crawl using the exact same method. There are darker aspects to Camille’s godlike gifts and a villain willing to exploit them. The descriptions here are show, don’t tell, just how maniacally obsessive our villain is in their pursuit for beauty.

Built on a fantastic mythology, the world of these Belles is amazingly crafted, and the world building is inclusive and intricate: rooms are diverse, and this vast array of color is celebrated, queer characters are recognized in society and normalized, and the way trans individuals would interact with this world is addressed as well. This is a fantastic foundation for a series that is bursting with originality.

Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. A copy of the book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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