The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Publication date: 08 February 2018
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Page count: 448 pages
Format: Paperback proof
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Belles! I’m so thrilled to bring you my review for one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2018. Let’s dive in, shall we?
I have been hearing amazing things about The Belles for ages now — it has been hard to avoid the hype on bookish social media. I know that the hype can often ruin books for me, so when I was given a chance to read an early copy of The Belles, I accepted immediately. I had been looking forward to this book all year, and it did not disappoint!
I am a Belle. I control Beauty.
In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle’s powers can make them beautiful.
Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.
But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater – and far darker – than she ever imagined.
When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever.*
The first thing that I must say about The Belles is the lush world-building. Everything feels so sweet, like the words are coated in a layer of sweet frosting. You have teacup animals, post balloons, beautiful descriptions of pastries and sweet foods, and the lush, gorgeous setting of the palace and surrounding city. The way that this contrasts to the realities of Camillia’s world is absolutely stunning. It’s a whirling confusion of intense beauty and absolute horror. I don’t think it could have been more perfect in this way.
Camilla is a wonderful character who couldn’t have been more perfect. She’s sharp and smart with a rebellious streak that she tries to contain, but still stays within the social conventions and constraints that have been drilled into her by from birth. She struggles with position as a Belle as she tries to survive in the cutthroat environment she finds herself in. She can be incredibly naive at times, and I think that this might turn some readers off, but her personality so perfectly suits who she is and the world she comes up in. The other characters — from the other Belles to the royals and nobility — are people we see much less of, but still enhance the story and will likely become much more important later on. I don’t want to say too much more, but the villain of The Belles is both completely horrifying and slightly over the top, which suits the over-the-top nature of the book.
I really only had a couple of small issues with The Belles. I felt that it could have been a tighter story. The book tends to meander around the main plot and wander off in other directions. I feel like she often is about to discover something important and relevant to the plot, then goes about her business for a couple of weeks before returning to it. There were a few places that could have really done with getting her back on track.
Otherwise, I have a few questions about the world that need to be answered. I found that while the world-building was beautiful and well done, there were a few things that were a little unclear. My preference in fantasy tends to lean toward the incredibly fleshed out worlds and I felt there were a couple small holes. Finally, I have some questions about the romance, but I will hold onto those until the next book, when I believe they may be answered.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Belles — I had incredibly high expectations for this book and it did not disappoint. The issues and questions I have are small and didn’t really distract from the story as a whole. Clayton achieves something I often see in sci-fi but rarely in fantasy — she manages to take the serious issues surrounding beauty and perfectionism in our society and puts them in a new setting where we can examine, and be rightfully horrified, with our own standards of perfection. It’s a fascinating look at the pressures we place on people, particularly women, to be perfect. The way she balances the lush and gorgeous setting with the horrors of the Belles’s magic and the expectations placed on them is astonishing. She manages to create an unsettling, horrifying world that gets its hooks into you and doesn’t let go until the last page.
Just a quick heads up, this book deals with some serious issues. This includes extreme body dysmorphia and attempted sexual assault.
Fancy picking up a copy of The Belles? You can find it at the following sites (affiliate links):
So, what say you? Have you read The Belles? Is it one of your highly anticipated reads? Let me know!
This is the final day of The Belles blog tour, but don’t fret! You can check out the other stops on the blog tour, and keep an eye out for some Belles-related fun from Gollancz!
*Copy courtesy of Goodreads