“Beauty sent the Belles to be roses growing out of the dark and ravaged soil, destined to bring beauty to a damned world, like how the sun brings light”
Camellia Beauregard has always wanted one thing: to become the favorite. Camellia (Or Camille, as she prefers), is a Belle, one of the few girls blessed with power to shape beauty. The people of Orléans are born gray and dull after being cursed by the God of the Sky, and it is the job of the Belles (Blessed by the Goddess of Beauty) to maintain the color and pageantry of the islands.
Camille has been trained from birth, alongside her five sisters, on the art of controlling the arcana (The technical term for their power). This can mean anything from changing the shape of bodies to blending the color of skin. She can make curly hair straight, brown eyes blue, an angry man happy and a shy girl bold.
Camille longs to become the favorite, the Belle chosen once a year to serve the royal family, a position of the highest honor and one once filled by Camille’s own mother. As Camille climbs the ranks of Orléans, she discovers more than she ever wanted to, a web of pain and deceit that leads back to one person: the demanding Princess Sophia. Camille must make the impossible decision between preserving her dream or preserving the future for herself, her friends, and all the people of Orléans in this heartbeat of a novel by We Need Diverse Books COO Dhonielle Clayton.
If Leigh Bardugo and Suzanne Collins were in a battle for my heart, it is Dhonielle Clayton who picked up the pieces and poured them into this beautiful book. The Belles could slide by on vivid language and stunning character development alone, but instead it punches back with a courageous plot that belongs in a genre of its own. It does remain a fantasy novel overall, as it is well laced with magic and made-up words, but at the same time recites a powerful message about beauty, servitude, and what it means to be unique. It also sneaks in sprinkles of romance, and really, who doesn’t love sprinkles?
The Belles was one of those books that, when I finished it, I was disappointed was only an ARC as I immediately want to slam it down and talk to all of my friends about it. This novel is a luscious treat that you’ll devour quicker than that cake-eating kid from Matilda and will leaving you starving for the sequel. (And fresh macarons - It’ll make sense at end, I promise.)