THE BELLES *****
Updated: Mar 19, 2019
In the city of Orléans, the people believe they have been cursed by the gods – with grey skin, red eyes and straw-like hair they long for a world of colour. The Belles are the answer to their prayers to the Goddess of Beauty – women born in technicolour with arcane talents to manipulate bodies, shape appearances and alter temperaments. Camellia and her Belle sisters are finally at an age to be shown to the world, and compete take up their career positions. Being named the favourite, and given a chance to work at the Royal Palace is all Camellia has ever wanted, but at what price and is everything at the court really as beautiful as it appears?
The Belles is a fantastic story, it’s an interesting concept with well-developed characters and a complex world. Although there are lots of new phrases, objects and hierarchies to get in your head, you never once feel lost - Dhonielle Clayton leads you slowly and carefully through the eyes of Camellia to experience this world for yourself. The description in this book is truly beautiful (as really it should be!) and the plot builds at a nice pace headlong into its crescendo which had me racing through its pages to the end. I should mention this is a series and not a stand-alone book so there are some questions that still need to be answered and I’d still like to find out a little more about the wider world itself. Using a sheltered narrator who has experienced very little except what is going on around her works for this book but I think the world is so well drawn out I would like to find out even more!
Too often I read books billed as ‘young adult’ but they are only given that genre to make up for poor writing style and cliched creativity. The Belles, however, is young adult fiction at its finest – the themes and situations portrayed are easily relatable and accessible to people of any age or background. The idea that all alterations, including ‘manner’ ones that change core personality traits only last for a month and for those with a more intense personality or who are older will have it wear off even faster was a nice addition and shows that exterior beauty really is only skin-deep. Without drawing too much of a comparison, The Belles is everything I had hoped ‘Uglies’ by Scott Westerman would be but I was left a bit disappointed at the missed opportunities in that series.
Overall I cannot recommend The Belles highly enough – I’m sure it will be one of the stand-out YA books of 2018 and is already a favourite on my shelf. My only criticism is because I read an ARC copy, I have even longer to wait before the next book in the series comes out! Thank you very much to NetGalley, Orion Publishing Group and Gollancz for the opportunity to read and review The Belles.