Book Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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.


2 star

I received an advance copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This falls into the category of books that I had a feeling about, but got caught up in the hype and figured I must have been wrong. Usually books that focus on appearances and beauty are not my cup of tea. But then I wished for this on NetGalley and somehow ended up with it, and figured that it would be fine.

And when it comes down to it, I can totally see what people are into this book, and why it’s getting the rave reviews that it is. It’s got some great diversity and some fantastic things going on throughout the story, and it has the makings of a great book for sure.

It’s just my taste that causes me to lower my rating, because I did struggle to get through it, and it irritated me at times. I really could not care less when it comes to fashion, beauty, styles, and that’s the focus of this entire book, so for me, it felt vain and vapid. I kept wanting the characters to think of something other than appearance, but it never came. All that matter was if you looked beautiful, which was fun in the beginning but got boring rather quick.

But let’s get into some details, shall we?

The Good Points of The Belles:

World building is absolutely amazing. The descriptions of the world and the places and the things that Camellia sees is fantastic. Clayton has got the whole world building thing down.

The diversity is well done. You get a little bit of every skin colour, personality, sexuality, body shape and size, and everything in between, which was really great to see in a book. (There has been some discussion of treatment of homosexual characters in this book, but I think that particular plot point qualifies as a spoiler, so you can look at up, if you want to.)

Despite the fact that she could be irritating at times, I loved Camellia as a main character. She was beautifully naive – which we don’t see a lot in YA fantasy – but still intelligent and headstrong. Her love for her sisters was absolutely amazing, and even in the moments where she got on my nerves, I was rooting for her to succeed.

There is some beautifully done betrayal in this book. I’m sure there’s more to it than we see in this book, but holy cow, that was good.

The Downsides of The Belles:

Despite the amazing world building, the magic system isn’t explained at all. Perhaps this is on purpose, and it’s something that will come up in later books, but it just made this one kind of confusing. I still don’t quite get how the three arcanas work, or how they’re replenished, or what the deal is there, and I think I would liked it more if I’d known how it all worked.

Everything was so surface level and vapid and vain. Everything in this book revolves around looks and appearance and how you want to change your appearance. Which is cool, but for me, got old really quick. I wanted the characters to think for themselves and see something deeper than appearance, but it just didn’t happen.

I found the first 60% or so of this book to be very slow and draggy. We learned a lot about the world in this time, but it seemed like nothing was happening. And then, once you get to the last 40% or so, it picks up like crazy, which was nice, but it made for a strange reading experience.

Aside from that one betrayal bit I mentioned before, this book was painfully predictable. You knew exactly what was going to happen as soon as things were coming up as issues. Which is fine, but I would have liked a bit more surprise myself.

With the point we’re at with dystopian YA books, I don’t think this book brings much new to the table. If you’re super into beauty stuff, maybe you’ll disagree with me on this point, because that’s so not my forté. But there was nothing about this book other than the beauty stuff that we haven’t seen before, which was a little disappointing.

All in all, I totally see why The Belles gets the hype that it does, but it’s not the book for me. If you are really into fashion, traditional dystopian themes, and great sister relationships, you should definitely give this one a go, though.

Find The Belles on Book Depository

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