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 received an eARC of The Belles from the publisher, courtesy of Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
There is a whole lot to love about The Belles, from the cover to the writing to whatever comes next.
Clayton’s writing is lush and delicate, but fast paced. The short chapters help to make the reader feel how frenzied Camellia feels at the beginning, when she is learning what the true task of the Belles is, and how important they are to their society.
It does need some content warnings for fat-antagonistic comments, death of a queer character, leeches plastic surgery, body shaming, blatant classism, unpleasant comments about mental health, attempted sexual assault, and gaslighting. Please be careful with yourself if you choose to read this book.
I was struck by the realization that everything in the palace is stunning, gilded and colorful, while the rest of the world and its people are described as drab, gritty and gray. The descriptions were very Marie Antoinette-esque in that way, which very much suited the aesthetic of The Belles.
I wish we’d gotten to learn more about the world outside the palace, and spent a little more time with Amber and the other Belles. Camellia talks about how Amber is her best friend, but the only time we see them interact is when they’re fighting about something. I hope we’ll get to do both of those things in the next book.
I very much wish that the author had chosen another character to kill off other than the one she did of Lady Sophia’s ladies-in-waiting. It was disappointing to have her kill off the only one of them that we actually got to meet.
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