Book Review | The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
I don’t get that much chance to read things which aren’t in my eARC queue (at least I feel extremely bad when I do) but when it comes to audiobooks, I take advantage of working life by listening to them in my car on the way to and from work. I’ve been listening to The Belles pretty much since my second or third week of work and I’ve loved the story so much that I’ve ordered the hardcover (so it’ll be with me in time to get it signed at YALC!).
Title: The Belles
Series: The Belles #1
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Release Date: 8th February 2018
Source: Audiobook from Audible
‘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 story follows our main character, Camellia, as she and her fellow sister Belles as they essentially graduate to becoming the next generation of Belles. They’ve been training whilst their older sisters have been dealing with the public, and they have to perform in front of royalty for the Queen to pick the ‘Favourite’ out of them. Camellia is desperate to be chosen, as her mother was and she wants to live up to her legacy.
In terms of world-building, I love the world that Dhonielle has created! Set in Orléans, it’s a fantasy world where people can even purchase teacup animals, such as teacup elephants and dragons, and the beginning explanation for why people looks as they are without the Belles had me interested from the start.
Romance wise, I found myself rolling my eyes a lot when listening to the main love interest. I don’t know why exactly, but he didn’t seem like a nice person to me. I found myself grinning a lot when it came to Camellia and her guard, hoping that she’d stop swooning over the wrong boy — Auguste. Auguste is written as a charming guy, don’t get me wrong, but I just had a feeling there was something really bad about his character. I didn’t like the romance story building up between him and Camellia either, it just felt wrong for the story in general.
The descriptions of fashion in the world were beautiful, as can be expected with a book surrounding beauty. Listening to it was almost therapeutic at times and there were elements reminiscent of changing clothes in The Hunger Games.
One area I felt this book was lacking in was LGBTQ+ representation, considering there were so many characters there aren’t many who came under the umbrella term at all. There isn’t much more I can say without giving away spoilers, there was a couple of characters but I don’t think their stories were handled all that well towards the end.
The pace was sometimes quite slow, there were times I’d listen to the audiobook for almost an hour and it would feel as though not much had happened. But it’s worth noting that a lot of the story is built upon suspense, so perhaps without these quiet periods building up it wouldn’t have made the revelations as poignant? I’ve actually bought a hardcover copy of The Belles (well, I need a physical book to get signed at YALC) so I think I’ll probably be reading the physical copy sometime soon! I’ll update this review at some point whenever I get round to it.
Content warning: Sexual assault
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About the Author
Dhonielle Clayton (“Dhon” like “Don” or “Dawn”) spent most of her childhood under her grandmother’s dining room table with a stack of books.
She hails from the Washington, D.C. suburbs on the Maryland side, but now lives in New York City. She was an extremely fussy and particular child with an undying love for Cheerios (honey nut only), pink lemonade, and frosted animal cookies. A self-proclaimed school nerd, she loved covering her books with brown paper and filled her locker with Lisa Frank stickers. She loved putting headings on her homework, odd-looking pens and freshly sharpened pencils, and numerous notebooks to fill with her research. On most Saturdays you could find her with her equally nerdy Dad at Crown Books and then the comic bookstore where she stocked up on her weekly reading material. Plus, she was so spoiled that her grandfather took her to the library after school almost daily.
She attended Our Lady of Good Counsel High School because her parents thought Catholic school would keep her out of trouble. She went to Wake Forest University, and studied pre-med until she received a fateful F in Chemistry. This setback prompted her to change her major to English, and earned a BA. She rediscovered her love of children’s fiction by re-reading Harriet the Spy, which pushed her to earn an MA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University and an MFA Writing for Children at the New School.
She taught secondary school for several years – at a pre-professional ballet academy and a private K-8 school. She spent most of her twenties in and out of America – living in London, Paris, a small Japanese town, Bermuda – and wandering the planet. She’s been on five out of seven continents, and has grand plans to reach all of them.
She is a former elementary and middle school librarian, and co-founder of CAKE Literary, a creative kitchen whipping up decadent – and decidedly diverse – literary confections for middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction readers. She is also COO of the non-profit We Need Diverse Books.
What’s next? She will be enrolling in culinary school in New York City and plans to open up a restaurant in the city of her soul, Edinburgh, Scotland.
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What did you think?
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