Today’s review is on The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton.
The Belles takes place in the world of Orleans where beauty is treasured, but comes at a price. Most of the people in this world are born without color, however a chosen few are born with color and beauty and the power to make the colorless beautiful, they are know as the Belles. The most coveted position amongst the Belles is that of the queen’s favorite, and Camellia Beauregard is determined to become the favorite just like her mother. However, she soon discovers that everything that she knows about being a Belle and what she is supposed to do is not all that there is to life and that there are some dangerous secrets concerning the Belles that have been hidden from everyone except for a select few people. She also learns that beauty is powerful and can be used for evil if used by the wrong people. The kingdom is at risk and soon an evil scheme might destroy the Orleans that everyone knows and loves for the sake of beauty.
The Belles is an interesting story, I will admit it was a bit slow at first and also slow-paced throughout the novel. There was a lot of build up to the climax which ends up happening in the last twenty pages and even then is left unresolved until the next book, which is slightly annoying. However, Dhonielle Clayton writes a compelling story that had me hooked and intrigued me enough to want to eventually pick up the sequel.
One of the core themes of this novel is beauty and what it means to be beautiful. In this world, beauty is dictated by the rich and famous, as well as the Belles. However, all Camellia wants to do is change the standard of beauty to be more inclusive, especially of those who might have a different body shape. It is also interesting that the antagonist of this story, Princess Sophia, wants to gain the throne so she can have the power to change the beauty standards as well as undo the laws that her mother put in place to prevent people from partaking into much treatment. The main reason Sophia wants to change the beauty standards is that she wants to be in the newspapers for her outstanding beauty, which she ahs yet been able to do, she wants people to emulate her and become miniature versions of herself, and even has devised a nefarious plan that would involved using the Belles. We also see how she uses the magic of the Belles to hurt those around her who do not do her bidding. Beauty is power, especially when you are able to manipulate those who have the magic to change appearances to make others more beautiful. An example of Sophia’s abuse of Camellia’s power is when she forces her to turn one of her guest’s noses into a pig snout. Camellia is shocked by these actions because it is gross misuse of power, an it makes her realize that she has to do what she can to help prevent Sophia from gaining power of the kingdom.
Another theme that is woven masterfully throughout the novel is that of secrecy. As mentioned before, Camellia has born and raised believing that everything that the Belles do is for the good of the people and that after a few years they can retires from their positions. However, she soon discovers that there is a price to pay for using magic to make others beautiful, and that that is what ultimately leads to the demise of the Belles. She also discovers that there are other Belles who, due to deformities, have been hidden away in the various beauty houses, but are used to make the mistresses of the beauty houses more money while the Belles rest. She starts to unravel that everything she knew to be true is a lie and starts trying to search for the truth even if it hurts her.
The characters are compelling, readers will enjoy following Camellia on her journey as well as the snippets we get from her sisters throughout the book. As mentioned before, Sophia is an interesting antagonist especially since she gives the facade that she is sweet and just simply wants to be popular for her looks, however it is soon discovered that she is very sinister. The other minor characters are great, and we get to learn about a bunch of them. The world-building is fantastic, and the magic system is fascinating, however, I do wish it could have been explained a bit more, but I guess part of the novel is that not even the main character really knows what is going on.
Overall, a great fantasy read, especially for those who are not huge fans of fantasy. I looked forward to reading The Everlasting Rose soon. 4/5 Stars.
Janelle L. C.