The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Published: February 8th 2018 by Gollancz
I am a Belle. I control Beauty.
In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle’s powers can make them beautiful.
Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.
But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater – and far darker – than she ever imagined.
When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever.
This book was one of my highly anticipated reads for 2018. I was completely drawn in by the beautiful cover and the blurb had me intrigued – as well as all the amazing reviews this was getting! I absolutely loved this book! It was magical in so many ways, whilst highlighting so many social issues.
The world building in this book was phenomenal! It was magical, lush and vivid and I was never left struggling trying to picture anything! I could easily envision the treatments, the rooms, the city itself, the characters and it was a world that was easy to get lost in.
I liked the representation of beauty in this book – both the good and the bad sides. I liked the fact that Clayton represented the idea that beauty is ever changing and that the trends are set by a select few in our community and that everyone is always clamouring to have the last thing. I also liked the fact that Clayton didn’t shy away from the ugly side of beauty – the unhealthy body images that are constantly being presented and the fact that people are willing to change their bodies to extremely unhealthy lengths, just to be trendy, was very reflective of today’s society. Camellia tried to advocate for a natural and healthy body type, but was constantly being shut down, which, again, is constantly taking place in society. Beauty was painful and expensive to uphold and it really reflects everything about the beauty industry in today’s society.
Aside from beauty, Clayton also represented other societal issues – Media influence, sexual harassment/assault, rape culture, Politics and power in politics etc. Clayton managed to weave in various issues and represent them in a way that mattered and didn’t feel flimsy. I also like the fact that Clayton had LGBTQ representation throughout in various places.
I largely enjoyed the plot, but I’m still not sure where this series is heading? Books usually have an end game/a goal that the characters are trying to reach by the end of the book/series and it’s their journey to get there and the challenges that thy face throughout. I can’t say I really know where this series is going and what the characters are ultimately setting out to do because it was never made clear. So,while the plot itself was good and had good twists etc. it seems a little lost in where it’s going.
I would have also liked to have seen a little more development in certain plot points – specifically things like the crying in the teahouses. It is mentioned throughout the book and we are reminded at various points throughout, but I feel that the answer to what it was and what was really going on should have been more fleshed out. The author could have made more out of the mystery.
I liked Camellia as a character. She had no issues questioning things that she knew wasn’t right and she ultimately stayed true to herself throughout, despite what was being thrown at her. I liked the fact that she tried to do the right thing and made things right that she knew she had done wrong. I also loved her interaction with Auguste! They were hilarious and sassy and really helped to lift the mood when various plot points had brought it down. I found myself laughing at them often and always looked forward to when they would verbally spar!
I would have liked to have seen more of a relationship development between Remy and Camille. I enjoyed the tentative relationship that they had the and the judgyness that came from Remy regarding Camille – but I would have liked to have seen them get to know each other a little more (especially Remy) and I would have liked to have seen Remy’s perspective change a little bit more fleshed out – especially because of the ending.
I have a love hate relationship with Sophia. She was well fleshed out and I liked the subtlety of her actions at the beginning, which became more erratic and obvious as the book carried on. She was conniving and manipulative – I can’t wait to see what the author is going to do with this character.
I loved the ending! I was not expecting things to go down the way that they did and I was not expecting a certain character to be at the middle of it! I was pretty shocked when I found out what had happened and I felt betrayed! The ending wasn’t predictable at all and I loved it!
All in all, I absolutely loved this book, despite the few issues that I have with it! The characters were mostly well fleshed out and the world building was just magical and amazing! I gave this book 4/5 stars.