Book: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Series: The Belles, #1
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 2.25/5 Stars
“No one is a prisoner. Even you have the power to make your own choices.”
*I was sent an e-ARC of The Belles by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*
Taken aback by the rich and vivid writing that Dhonielle Clayton weaved together in order to produce this story about beauty and what it means to a society obsessed with it, I was slowed down in my progress as I was getting used to the intense descriptions and imagery that Orléans had to offer.
In a society where people are grey, The Belles are a blessing to all as they are able to physically alter that fate and make people beautiful. Camellia Beauregard, one of six Belles from her generation, is vying for the position of a lifetime; the opportunity to be chosen as the Queen’s favourite. When her expectations are shattered, her talents gone unnoticed by the people who matter, Camellia feels a lifetime of preparation for that one moment was taken from her. She deserves to be on top. But there’s an eerie secret that has been going on without Camellia’s knowledge. A chorus of crying through the night, a sadistic princess, a cursed heir to the throne. It all begins to unravel as time goes on.
This book is about beauty, but it turned into something darker than I expected. It was contrasted with the innocence of the Belles, who only wanted to spread beauty to the people. Camellia grew throughout this book from an innocent giggling girl who danced in circles with her sisters, to a Belle who constantly had to deal with and discover evil at court.
In terms of my thoughts on this book, I quickly realized how much I was not a fan of this concept and obsession of beauty. In the physical sense at least. I was horrified at the mention of infants changing their appearances, at a little girl forced to endure the pain of change because her mother was desperate for her to be the most beautiful. It was hard to read about what people went through in order to portray and live up to their standard of “beauty.”
There was a chock-full of characters that contributed so much to the build-up and pacing of the story. My favourite being Rémy. I was not expecting him to have such a significant role in this story, which I was pleasantly surprised with. As the story went on, that was more and more apparent.
Then there’s Sophia, who surprised me in an unpleasant way. She added that creepy tone to the story, the kind that was chilling, unsettling, and difficult to read about. Her actions were manipulating, abusive, and just outright terrifying. But I must admit, it actually gave the story some substance, something that motivated me to want to turn the pages in order to see what happened.
Camellia, as I’ve said before, was motivated to grow into a less childish character as a weight of responsibility was put on her. She discovered the darkness hiding behind the flowers, Belle products, hair textures, fancy dresses, and overall creation of beauty. She was forced to perform acts that were wrong, forced to see the impurity behind her passion, forced to endure questionable relationships. Her development allowed me to like her character more, but she was honestly not the best protagonist I’ve read from. I feel as though she lived in a bubble until it was too late. I needed more action from her, so did the characters who relied on her.
Overall, this book was not for me, but at the same time I’m happy I read it because it still moved me. Beauty is not something that is significant in my life. I rarely wear makeup, I rarely style my hair, I rarely buy new clothes. That doesn’t mean I don’t have days where the way I look on the outside affects me. Beauty is valued in one form or another to each individual person, we define it differently. And it’s scary to think about the lengths these characters went through to transform into their perfect look and how without it they were nothing, they were not valued. Their desperation was absolutely chilling.