Morning mortals! Today I’m phenomenally excited to be reviewing one of 2018’s top YA releases. The Belles is everything I didn’t know I needed from a YA novel and I’m so excited for everyone to read and enjoy this book. I was lucky enough to get approved to read this in advance of publication so I’ll keep this review spoiler free for you. But if you were wondering if this was worth preordering – let me tell you why it is.
If you want to win a copy of The Belles you can head over to my twitter where I am hosting a giveaway!
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 word that jumps out at me most from this review is ‘opulent.’ Everything about this book is opulent. From that absolutely stunning cover image to the map on the inside cover (sneak peaked on the author’s twitter if memory serves), to the gorgeous descriptive writing everything about this book is dripping with opulence.
I definitely wasn’t expecting to like this quite as much as I did. I think this may be because I’m more attracted to the ‘floofy dresses and drama’ genre than I think I am? The heavy dose of magic that accompanies those elements definitely helped me to enjoy it more than I did The Selection which is inherently a very different book but has some elements one might compare.
I think Camellia as a character is fabulously written. You know that old-ish saying about you wearing the clothes rather than the clothes wearing you? I think that applies to Camellia. In the hands of a lesser author, she would have been nothing more than a hanger for descriptions of pretty dresses and a vague plot about a love interest. In this case, however, she’s strong at the same time as being hugely ambitious – not always a character trait writers are comfortable bestowing on women. I read Forest of 1000 Lanterns just after reading this and I couldn’t help but notice they both have characters with these kinds of personalities. I believe it was Justine of I should Read That who was remarking that we need more characters who are ambitious and I couldn’t agree more.
I also think this plot is utterly enchanting at the same time as being terrifying. The world which Clayton has built will, I’m sure, resonate with many as it did with me. The ability to change one’s entire appearance (not painlessly but fairly quickly) is something I know I shouldn’t want, yet found myself wishing for. Clayton clearly understands this and has managed to craft a plot where she exposes the negatives of her own world while never feeling patronizing or preachy. The story starts off fairly superficial and gradually becomes something so much more before you know it you’re embroiled in political turmoil.
I adored this book. I hope that’s coming across.
There is an element of romance, for those interested. It’s not the core of the story (unlike many other similar books I could name) but it does play an important part – though not, I believe, in the way most will suspect.
I am just so grateful for this book. It’s the perfect example of a title that could have been another pointless frilly book on a shelf but instead transcended all of the clichés and nonsense and chose to tell a powerful, thought-provoking story with a phenomenal main character and a gorgeously crafted setting. If you were on the fence about this one I hope I’ve pushed you firmly onto one side or another!
My rating: 5/5 stars
I receieved a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Are you planning on reading The Belles? Let me know in the comments below!