I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Series: The Belles #1
Published by Disney-Hyperion on February 6, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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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.
The Belles has been a much-hyped book and I have to say, I think it’s warranted. I haven’t felt this excited about a series in a long time. Everything about the story came together in a compelling book that provided food for thought and some surprising twists and turns. First, I’d like to talk about the world building. The setting, in a place called Orleans, is magical in itself. Beauty is an obsession with everyone there and not only is fashion of the utmost importance, but the way you look, as well. Your nose, your skin color, your hair….all of it can be changed and controlled, and as the book says the people in Orleans “hate the way they look”. Their original forms are abhorred and so the Belles, with their gifts, are seen as saviors, in a way. The Belles are closely watched and isolated in their training and are raised for the sole purpose of exploiting their gifts to help people achieve whatever beauty standard they want. So, while they are revered, they are also like prisoners. They really don’t have any power over their destinies, which is the perfect set-up for a story and will provide so many opportunities for exciting character growth. Each chapter seemed to draw me deeper into this world that was beautiful but also seemed almost sinister right under the surface. So much emphasis on outward appearance seemed to make it much easier to see who people really were, and it wasn’t always pretty, so to speak. Those that did not have the means to change themselves were not as lucky, and I can’t wait to see if that is explored in the subsequent books. The sisters who make up the Belles are both close and competitive and that tension makes for complicated relationships.
The story itself was well paced and seemed to present a different question or intrigue at every turn. It’s hard not to think about the obsession with looks and how that is reflected in our world, as well. Camillia starts to see the dark side of that obsession in her role as a Belle. While things seem great, the feeling that there is something sinister was so deftly woven into the story that I had a hard time putting it down every night. The beautiful writing created scenes that made me feel like I was involved in the story and it was thrilling and a little stressful. I have so many questions and so many hopes for the next book that the wait will be torture. It’s a pretty thick book, but the story was so good that it felt like I raced through it too quickly. The Belles lives up to the hype and should be on your reading list!
3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE BELLES, US Only.
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