THE BELLES, by Dhonielle Clayton, Freeform, Feb. 6, 2018, Hardcover, $17.99 (young adult)
It’s been a long time since I’ve read something that makes me feel the way Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles does — confused, angry, enchanted and exhausted. All of these things are good things, btw.
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, 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 Orleans 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 Orleans 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. —Synopsis provided by Freeform Books.
Quoting the publisher’s synopsis of a book isn’t something I like to do very often. I figure if you’ve read the book, you should be able to summarize it. In the case of The Belles, however, I kept finding myself going down the rabbit hole where my thoughts and emotions became too interspersed with the basic blurb.
At first, I didn’t think I’d like The Belles. I’ve never really been into the beauty/makeup/fashion scene. And since having a daughter four years ago, I’ve been hyper sensitive about showing her the beauty in nature. Having worked in the news industry and later as a social media specialist, I know only too well how judgmental people can be over appearances.
So it came as a pleasant surprise to find out The Belles was more in line with my way of thinking than not. As Camellia is thrown into her work as a Belle, she learns that beauty can be very ugly.
The world that Dhonielle Clayton has created feels very much as if she zoomed in on the intimate lives of the Capitol residents in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Now the actual setting is very different, but the extravagant dress, the showmanship and social standing elements were an immediate parallel.
Clayton’s characters are strong, smart, devious and dangerous. She does an excellent job setting the scene and pushing readers just to the edge of uncomfortable. I’m excited to see where Clayton takes the rest of The Belles series.
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