Saturday, 28 April 2018
Review: The Belles - Dhonielle Clayton
In the opulent world of Orleans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle's powers can make them beautiful.
Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle - the one chosen by the queen to tend the royal family.
But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater - and far darker - than she ever imagined.
When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever.
The Belles Series:
Future titles and release dates to be confirmed
Visit Dhonielle Clayton's website for more information
It's taken me a long time to write my review of The Belles, I kept putting it off because I have no idea how to rate it and I'm still struggling to decide whether I liked it or not. There are a lot of wonderful things about this book and I can see the way Dhonielle Clayton was trying to make us look at our own culture and the value we place on physical beauty being the most important part of a woman. The way she highlighted the ridiculous lengths we sometimes go to to fit in with society and to live up to expectations.
At first I loved the incredibly descriptive writing style but in the end I found it bogged down the story and made the first half of the book an incredibly slow read. We get page after page after page of descriptions of the latest beauty trends and how these looks are achieved by visits to the magical Belles who are able to physically transform everything from people's skin, hair and eye colours, to the size of their waists and even their heights. The work is excruciatingly painful and gradually your body will revert back to it's original shape and colour so to remain "beautiful" you'll have to constantly put yourself through more of this torture to top up your beauty and to follow the latest trends.
This is a long book but nothing much really happens until you're halfway in because so much time is spent on describing everything about the world in such great detail, from the food to the buildings to the clothes and of course the beauty treatments. To me it felt like you could have cut a lot of that and given a much more interesting and faster paced story. It was interesting enough to keep me reading and the pace certainly picked up in the second half but it was so easy to put the book down and walk away that it took me over a week to finish reading it and I read multiple other stories in between.
I don't think it helped that I guessed nearly all of the main twists well in advance of them actually happening. There are plenty of betrayals but none of them were surprises because they came from characters I never trusted in the first place. I also thought that the main bad character was like a cardboard cutout villain, there was literally nothing nice about them so you were never surprised by the awful lengths they would go to. If you have a villain who is more complex and you feel there is a chance of them redeeming themselves then it's always harder to see the evil things they do but that just didn't happen here. Evil person was evil. No questions, no doubts, they were just 100% nasty and capable of any despicable act you could think of.
The last few chapters were where the story was most interesting for me and that ending does have me curious to see how the story continues in the next book but I'm honestly not sure if I'll bother reading it or not. Overall while I can see why there is so much hype around The Belles ultimately this book just wasn't the best fit for me. I still think it's well worth checking out though because so many other reviewers loved it far more than I did.
Source: Received from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review
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Paperback / Kindle: