The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles #1)
Publisher: Disney Hyperion (Freeform Books)
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Summary: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.
*Received a finished copy through a giveaway*
*Trigger Warnings: attempted sexual assault*
My Thoughts: The Belles is a dazzling, thought-provoking & unique tale that explores the concept of beauty! As a Belle in Orléans, Camellia Beauregard wants nothing more than to secure her spot as the Favorite, but things aren’t all that they seem as this immersive YA Fantasy explores a number of themes and topics from family to beauty, even political intrigue!
The concept of the Belles was so fascinating! They are young women born with the ability to control beauty, which means they use their power to alter not only people’s appearances, but can even heighten or lessen emotions/temperaments (which was fascinating!). There was mythology explored, but also mystery surrounding the Belles and it was presented in such an intriguing way.
From the very beginning, the descriptive and dazzling writing you are immediately transported to the world of Orléans. The detailed way the setting, food, atmosphere, and especially clothing were crafted was just described in such a way that sparkled!
What I loved so much about The Belles was Clayton’s writing-style. Through Camellia’s first-person POV, you not only get such a character-driven perspective, but also one that balances a number of differing themes and topics.
The topic of beauty is really a foundation for this novel. Not only does it play a huge part in the world as the Belles are given the ability to manipulate it, but it also explores it in depth from a number of angles. For instance, what one is willing to do to achieve beauty, the high standards one sets for it on themselves, and so much more!
Camellia, though she has her other Belle sisters by her side, wants nothing more than to be the Favorite (the one Belle chosen by the queen) and is driven to achieve her goal. Her determination to not only reach them, but also prove to herself all that she’s worked for can pay off, was so inspiring. I loved how driven she was to pursue her goals.
Though things don’t go the way she plans at first, she soon finds herself as the new Favorite and knows her dreams have finally come true.
However, the power of the Belles is complex and soon Cameilla sees a side to her world (mainly through the youngest princess Sophia) that the quest for beauty can sometimes come at a cost.
My favorite themes and topics explored was definitely the sisterhood between the Belles and the political intrigue. Clayton shows us through flashbacks of Caemilla’s past & especially through the Belles dynamics in the beginning, just how close they are. Regardless of competition, they all want the best for each other and while it is explored less throughout the middle of the novel, its a clear and present aspect of not only the history of the Belles in Orléans, but also through Cameilla’s POV.
The main characters were all really wonderfully developed and while I felt some characters could have had a bit more page time (like more of the sisters) Clayton really gave such depth to the main cast and while you can see the complexities to their character, their also given the perfect elements of mystery.
Now as to why I took off a star: While I loved the writing and felt the world was presented through such unique descriptions, I couldn’t help but feel the pacing was really slow for me personally, especially throughout the middle of the story. And while it does pick up nearing the end, it took me much longer to read this novel than I had planned.
Regardless, the ending really leaves you wanting more when more secrets are discovered and I cannot wait to read where the story is headed in the sequel!
The Belles is a magical and unique tale that immerses you from the very beginning! The various themes and discussions of beauty become such prevalent aspects of this novel and are explored with such depth. The world, characters, and plot all weave together wonderfully through the descriptive and dazzling writing!