Date Read: January 15, 2018 – January 2018
Release Date: February 6, 2018
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.
I figured that since it was April (Happy Easter and April Fool’s Day!!!!) I would finally get this done. It has not helped that I have been in this weird writing but I want to read everything slump lately but not I am energized and I want to get it done!
I loved this book and it was, to me, totally deserved all of the hype that it got up to its release. I would also like to thank BookishFirst for sending me a copy to review.
The first thing that you notice when you start reading The Belles is how lavish the world is. Fashion is everything in Orleans so of course, Clayton highlights this extravagantly. But it is not just the fashion that is so beautifully talked about but the carriages, the palace, the people. When I was reading it I compared it to eating entire Parisian bakery, you are a bit sick to your stomach but you keep eating because it is so good. To explain, the world is lavish, to the point of giving me a headache, similarly to the lavish styling of Monstress, but I keep reading because I just had to know more. And this was probably one of my favorite parts of this book. Clayton focused heavily on the little details, like the adorable post balloons and the teacups animals, of Camellia’s world that it was not hard to have images of the world in my head. Also when this becomes a movie, I just know that it will, I hope that these details are not ignored because they are what makes Orleans, Orleans. And as a little side note, I totally want this movie to be done like Marie Antonitee (2006) as the story is inspired by that era of France as well as I think the pastel candy colors just work so well with this story.
The characters in the book are as lavish as the world is. First there is the leading lady Camellia and her sisters. I love their bond. Even though they are all competing to be the favorite they don’t hate each other for it. They are very supportive of one another and all want the best for each other. Then there are the royal family, which is so good because the family dynamics and how Clayton wrote about the youngest daughter, Sophia, was just exquisite. I am going to go into more detail about them at the end of this review because I have a bone to pick with the Queen and there are lots of spoilers but I editted out the one about the end of the book.
For the overall plot of the novel, it moves at nice pace once you figure out how the world works. There were some slow points after the beginng but I do not feel that Clayton added anything in the novel that I felt was out of place or not important. I did figure out the big plot twist in the end which I don’t think was that hard but how it fits in with the rest of the book totally works. It also ends on this cliffhanger, where I was like wait, what is happening! but it is the first book in the series so it is acceptable. But there was one thing that I did not expect for this book and that is how dark it is. Not just from the terror that the antagonist produces but from the beauty treatments that some of these people want that can kill them or that plot twists at the end about the Belles (that is one thing that I am not going to spoil for you should experience them on your own).
Spoilers below! You have been warned! This is for my bone to pick with the Queen.
Okay so my bone to pick with the Queen. In the book, the antagonist, Sophia, is the psychopath. She has done a variety of horrible acts such as forcing a Belle to turn her teacup alligator into a dragon because she got an alligator instead of a dragon for her birthday and then to make matters worse she tries to make it fly by throwing it off her balcony. Then there is the time that she made Amber turn one of her friend’s skin invisible and another time when she had a competition between Amber and Camellia to see who could make her friend look the best and they ended up changing her looks so many times that she dies. And talk about girl hate, on a side note Sophia and Fallion Bane (The Black Witch) would get along so well, Sophia emotionally and sometimes physically abuses her ladies and no one does anything about it because she is the princess. Now that I have explained how much of a horrible person Sophia is now it is time for this bone. The Queen does nothing throughout the whole book about Sophia’s behavior. The Queen uses Charlotte’s, Sophia’s older sister, illness as the reason why she lets Sophia do whatever she wants. The Queen was all like “oh the poor dear, how distraught she was over her sister” and I am sitting here screaming at the Queen “You are literally letting your daughter get away with murder. Maybe you should put aside your own grief and stop your little demon.” Is that a bit harsh? Yes, her one daughter has been in a coma that no one can figure out the cause and of course, it is natural for her to have grief over that. But to completely disregard the terror that your perfectly healthy daughter is causing to the palace is bad parenting. Then there is over, of course, the whole deus ex machina that Clayton was doing over the plot and that makes sense as to why the Queen was completely disregarding Sophia’s actions. But overall, Sophia is an excellent character. I am kind of terrified of her and I do fear for the characters as she is ruthless and will kill you to get her way.
(Cover Image and Synopsis from GoodReads)