Monday, February 5, 2018

Book Review: The Belles (The Belles #1)

Release Date: February 6, 2018
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 448 pages
Source: NetGalley

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.



Protagonist: Camellia is a driven and talented Belle, who wants nothing more than to be the best, and to be chosen as the Queen's favorite, just like her mother was. Camelia is neither extremely obedient, like her sister Belle and best friend Amber, nor is she an avid rule breaker, like her sister Belle Edel, instead she likes to experiment and try new things with her abilities. As she and her sisters arrive at court and the story takes off Camellia will have to face some very hard truths about who she is, what she can do, and how far she'll be willing to go to prove that she deserves to be the favorite. I really enjoyed how Camellia develops over the course of the story, there's a good amount of finesse in her growth, mixed with a little more obvious character development, still, I loved watching Camellia grow and change over the course of this story and become someone that, while she's still true to the inquisitive girl at the beginning, has come to understand where the line should be drawn.

Romance: Since there was no romance discussed in the synopsis, I went into this story expecting little to no romance overall, and when it's revealed that Belles are forbidden to fraternize with a man, I knew I was wrong... sort of. While I truly feel no author can resist a forbidden romance, I have to commend the author on how she handles the romance in this story. First off, it isn't a very large plot point for the story, I was actually surprised that the author refrains from really trying to drive home the forbidden aspect of the romance, we don't see Camellia brooding over how she can't be with a man she finds attractive, instead, she focuses on the real issues of the story, which felt like a breath of fresh air. There may be a love triangle in this story, I sincerely don't know since this possible romance not as focused on as the other romance of the book, but if there is a love triangle, as of the ending of this first story, I think it's handled very well and I for once in a very long time can't wait to see what comes of this romance.

World Building: I love the idea of basing a fantasy world on the culture of New Orleans, while I've never been, when it's shown off in the media it feels so vibrant and colorful that no wonder it fits in so well with this storyline. In a world where humans are born without color, it would make sense that people would embrace as much color and vibrancy as they can. I also love how this world feels like an amalgam of a few different genres. There's the fantasy genre of course, with a new world based on a culture of ours with magic and dragons and the like, then there's a bit of steampunk with weird contraptions like messenger balloons that fly into rooms like zeppelins, and then finally there's a dystopian feel with dark secrets, corruption, and a shady underbelly to a seemingly perfect and beautiful world. Another thing I really enjoyed was how Beauty is such a commodity in this world, so much so that people can go mad over not feeling beautiful enough, rules set in place to limit things such as how narrow a waistline can be, what counts as a suitable hair color, etc. How beauty is handled and how it's regulated make up a substantial portion of the world building and plot and I just loved how it's built into this story and the commentary on our society.

Predictability: On the whole, this story is fairly unpredictable. I mean, there were times when I was completely floored by something that either someone does or says in this book more times than I can remember. The author does a good job at keeping you on your toes, though I do have to say that she does show her hand a few times with a little bit of heavy-handed foreshadowing. There's one time in particular that once the crucial bit of foreshadowing was introduced I instantly figured out a fairly large plot twist. That being said, while I was never 100% sure on anything, the story did sort of appeal to the side of me that likes wild and crazy theories and I had a lot of crazy theories about this world and the main plot and only a few of them were true.

Ending: Dear Authors of the World, NEVER END A BOOK LIKE THIS! Don't get me wrong, I understand that a cliffhanger is the most tried and true way to bring a reader back to a series, I understand that in order to do that you need to rip the reader to shreds, but please, don't pile them up. See, this story has so many climactic moments at the end of this book that my eyes hurt from reading so fast. There are game-changing things that happen in pretty much each climactic moment, there is so much revealed and so much to explore in the next book that we only get a taste of in this one, then to end it all with probably the most shocking cliffhanger I've ever read? There's a part of me that felt like the author was trying to give her readers a heart attack, or at least get them to curse her name for all eternity... or well, the next year.


While the story can be a bit slower paced toward the beginning, it more than makes up for it with a spectacular and heart-pounding ending. I can't wait to see what happens next and where the author will take the world and these characters!


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