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.
The Belles is a book that I borrowed from my library in anticipation of the NoVaTeen book event. I’m going to this at the end of March and Dhonielle Clayton is one of the authors that is going to be there. My goal for March is to read at least one book by each of the authors attending the event. I have heard so many mixed reviews for The Belles. I know some that absolutely loved it, some that thought it was average and some that didn’t like it at all. I am of the group that is in the middle.
My problem is that it was so slow for the first half of the book. The ending was exciting and full of action, but the first half was full of what was supposed to be world building but was not very good world building.
The things I liked were the characters. Camillia was fiery and feisty, always breaking the rules and pushing the limits. I liked this. Except that when it got to a point where she SHOULD be pushing limits, she lets herself get pushed around. It was a little annoying. I really liked the concept of the Belles, Camillia and her sisters. But I would have appreciated more information. Camillia is slowly telling another character all the Belles secrets, but I still felt like we never actually learned anything about how the Belles came to be (aside from the origin story) or how their abilities actually work. I was disappointed in the world building because we didn’t learn more about their abilities, we didn’t really get much in the way of setting. The characters really carried the stories, except that even there we didn’t get more from any of the characters aside from Camillia. We are given enough for them to be interesting, but not enough for me to be invested in them. The only exceptions are Camillia and Princess Sophia.
I would like to add that there is a very diverse cast of characters. There are female/female relationships, a diversity of skin colors (including some with the color of the night sky with stars included). And the book brings a good conversation about unrealistic beauty standards to the table.
There was considerable potential here for this story, but I feel a bit disappointed. I overall enjoyed the story. I had an enjoyable reading experience, but I wanted so much more. I liked it enough to pick up the second book in the series. I need to see if my library has it or will be ordering the ebook.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.