book review – The Belles

Dear Reader, this book contains my personal monster

Under a lovely surface of magic, colour, beauty, royalty, fashion and imagination lurks a very real, ugly monster. This book is very important.

In the world of Orléans, people are born grey and colourless and cursed. Only with the power of the Belles can people transform to match the ever-changing trends of beauty and colour. Belles are revered, with one favourite in each generation chosen by the Queen to tend to the royal court. Camellia, along with her Belle sisters, desperately wants that position. But when they arrive at court, many mysteries and secrets begin to creep up on them; mysteries behind their own powers and existence, and dark secrets of the royal family.

I have to say that Dhonielle Clayton’s world-building is incredible. She writes with so much colour and has a fantastically vivid imagination; post-balloons, teacup elephants, dragons and other exotic pets, a huge amount of delicious sounding food (like, seriously, this book made me hungry)… this world is glamorous and fantastical in a way that feels very real. The beauty of the writing perfectly contrasts the horrors of the unfolding plot.

Of course, the heart of this book comes from the obsession of beauty; the insatiable desire to be the most beautiful and how the meaning of beauty is constantly changing. How far are people willing to go, what agony will they put up with to achieve perfection? The reality that Camellia discovers is sickening, and, at times, almost terrifying.

The only cons I can think of: everything about the minor romance subplot was kind of dull and predictable, in my opinion, and there was a sad example of the Bury Your Gays trope. I also felt that the beginning was a little slow and took a while to get into the main plot. However, the writing is so wonderful, it’s easy to stick with it.

It was a page-turning, beautiful, monstrous book and I can’t wait for the next.

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