Book Review: The Belles (Dhonielle Clayton)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Gollancz

Pages: 448

Release Date: February 8th 2018

Summary (From Goodreads):

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.

Review:

There was a lot of buzz about this book last year, so when I was offered a review copy I jumped at the chance to read it – and I’m so glad I did!

In Orléans everyone is born a Gris – with grey skin and red eyes and straw-like hair – and only the Belles can make them beautiful. Camellia wants to be the favourite Belle, selected to live in the palace and be Belle to the royal family, but she soon learns that it might not be all she hopes for.

This book reminded me a bit of The Selection. It had a lot a lot of beautiful dresses and people, lots of palace life and glamour. Unlike The Selection though, there was a lot more plot and intrigue going on. It was like everything I wanted The Selection to be, and then some.

The writing is absolutely stunning. I just ate up the descriptions: almost literally, as a lot of it made food comparisons and made me really hungry. It was quite description heavy sometimes but it meant I could really visualise this world of beauty and hidden darkness.

I felt the world was built really well, without being too info-dumpy or too vague on things. I was interested in learning how the Belles originated and how their powers worked, and this wasn’t dumped on the reader, but leaked out slowly. There are still some questions I have on how the Belles are born and I’m hoping they’ll be answered in the next book.

The villain of the book made me shudder at times with her sweet face and despicable actions. She was like every mean girl in a movie times a thousand and you will just love to hate her.

Behind the fast-paced plot and pretty faces lurks something much more sinister: a raw look at society’s obsession with beauty, our desire to conform to what other people say is beautiful, and the lengths we are willing to go to (because the Belle’s work comes with a price of pain). Deep down, everyone in Orléans is unhappy with who they truly are and for many this tale will feel familiar.

I raced through this book and will be raving about it to anyone I can. It’s beautiful and dangerous and I can’t wait for another book in this series.