Title: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Date: 6th February 2018
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
This book blew me away. From the incredible writing and mesmerising descriptions, to the detailed characters and plot twists. I loved everything about this book. I can’t even think of something bad to say. I feel so lucky to have been approved on NetGalley to read The Belles before it comes out in February. At first I didn’t know what to expect from this book and I think that is why the story has completely captivated me and the ending has left me wanting more. As any good book should.
In Orléans beauty is everything and without it you are nothing. The Belles were created to gift the people, known as the Gris, with beauty after they were cursed with grey skin, red eyes and straw like hair, cursed for life. The Belles can use their talents to transform how people look and because of that they are precious to the people of Orléans, most of all to the Queen and the Princesses. Camellia is a Belle, but it isn’t enough. She wants to be the favourite, the one the Queen picks to live in the palace and tend to the royal family. It is all she has ever wanted, but not everything is as it seems. Camellia soon learns that there are secrets lurking within the castle and that her powers could put her in grave danger. The Queen has asked her to do something that seems impossible and it could mean risking her life to help the princess who hasn’t woken from her coma. Camellia has to make a choice and either one could have grave consequences.
The first thing I noticed about this book was how Clayton brought everything to life. As I was reading the descriptions of Orléans and the way of the Belles, I could see the vivid colours, taste the delicious delicacies and smell the flowers blooming. Everything was so clear and it felt as though I was right there, that I was Camellia. I haven’t felt that strongly for a book in a while and I found myself wanting to read more and more. As the story progresses and we learn more about the world of Orléans, their customs and the history of the Belles, the secrets unravel in such an intriguing way. Not everything is as it seems and there is always a hint of something darker lurking.
I was so interested in how Clayton came up with the idea of this novel and how she exposed the darkness that comes with wanting to be beautiful and what people would be willing to risk to achieve it. Her note at the end of the book put it all into perspective. How much would we change about ourselves if we could? It’s a dangerous question to ask and shows our obsession with waning to be perfect, something that is mirrored perfectly in The Belles.
All of the characters in this book were amazing, each with their own voice and they were so well developed, which is something that can be difficult to do when there are a lot of characters. Camellia is kind, strong, so sure of herself and inspiring. She wants to do so much good for the people of Orleans, but at the same time she yearns for the times with her sisters and before she became the favourite. She has a strong voice that wants to be heard and eventually is, proving that staying quiet never helps a situation.
The Belles had me gasping in shock and my blood boiling, cursing the spoilt Princess Sophia who is never satisfied with her looks and is, in fact, monstrous. She elicited such a strong reaction in me and that is when you know a character has really come to life, even if they are cruel and vindictive.
The last quarter of the book had me flipping through the pages faster and faster, needing to reach the end. There was twist after twist, as horrifying details emerged and the lives of the characters were at risk. The Belles has left me wishing I had the next book in my hands because I need to know how it will all end.
Overall, this book has become one of my favourites very quickly. Definitely in the top ten and it is one that I could read again, which isn’t something I say often. It challenges our ideas of what is beautiful and shows us how far some people will go to reach those standards, even if it destroys who they are inside. This book deserves all the love it is receiving and more. A five star read for me!