*I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Title: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
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.
Review: There aren’t enough words to describe the beauty of this book. I felt like I was floating on a cloud while reading it because the writing was so intricate and detailed. First, don’t let the cover of this book fool you. It may look gorgeous on the outside, but the plot is fierce and gets surprisingly dark. This book had writing that was so visually stimulating that I literally wanted to devour the words. The constant mentions of sweets in general were enough to push me over the edge! It was all just so vividly imagined.
This book started up kind of set up like a fairytale. Each of the Belles had the same dream: to become the favourite. They were paraded in front of the royalty to display their talents and then it was decided where each of the girls would go. Camellia discovers that not everything is perfect and that there are cracks in the very foundation of the kingdom.
I have to say, the synopsis was misleading in a very satisfying way. There were some terrifyingly brilliant surprises in the plot. Clayton poses the question of what we would do if we lived in a world defined by beauty and perfection. It’s a very thought-provoking narrative that raises so many existential questions. In this book beauty is also only temporary, and having access to it means you need a high social standing as well as money. The temporality of beauty is interesting because it shows the divide between the people of the kingdom. There is just this hunger for beauty that is almost uncanny.
One thing I feel needs to be addressed is that this book should come with a content warning because there are possible triggers for people sensitive to sexual assault. But I guess what makes this book so important is that all of these different conversations about race, body image, mental health, deformity, and sexual assault are being opened up for discussion. That’s what makes this book so powerful because the author was not afraid to openly discuss controversial topics.
If you loved The Selection and The Jewel, then you will definitely love this book! I can’t wait to revisit this world in the sequels because I feel like there is so much to be explored and The Belles just scratched the surface. I’m definitely going to have a major book hangover because I have SO many questions. One thing I definitely want to see explored in the sequel is more background on the Gris. But if you love a YA fantasy filled with magic, betrayal, love, friendship, secrets, and shocking twists, you definitely don’t want to miss this stunning book!