The cover of The Belles is almost as beautiful as the prose contained in the pages within. Dhonielle Clayton is not only an incredible advocate, she’s also a brilliant writer. I don’t love overly descriptive writing as a rule. Nathaniel Hawthorne waxing poetic about the roses outside of Hester’s prison for PAGES? Hard pass. Dhonielle Clayton describing the rich world she created for The Belles? Super here for it.
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 really loved the first quarter and last third of this book. Like… So much. The parts in between that were still good, but I really just wanted answers. There’s a ton of plot set up in this book so the second book has so much to fill in.
Genuinely though, I absolutely adored the relationships between Camellia and her sisters. I liked the overwhelming gender disparity falling on the side of women, as opposed to men, which I feel like is something that you don’t see as often in fantasy. I also really liked that the book critiques some of the adult characters– this feeling may or may not be brought to you on account of my recent re-read of the first Harry Potter book.
So while sometimes I felt like I wanted things to be moving even faster than they were, I really loved the characters and the world. I think it’s so unique and I would definitely recommend it if you’re interested in a fantasy book with great characters. I am also so exited for book two!