Guest Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton


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Title: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Hardcover, 448 Pages
Published February 2018


Summary: 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.
Today on the blog we have a guest review from Louise over at BookMurmurationShe was kind enough to stop by and review The Belles and share her thoughts on it! So without further ado, let's get into it!


Dystopian novels don’t have to be set in gritty urban warzones. The Bélles is set in a world which is, on the surface, as sugary and light as candyfloss. It is a world of the beauty carnivals and tea houses, tiny pets and dresses dreamt up by teenage beauty-queens. The contrast between the initial appearance and the darker political reality makes this a great book. Questions build as you read – what starts as a mild sense that something is out of place grows beneath the surface until it is apparent quite how much is not as it seems.

The Bélles are interesting characters. They can control the arcana – the magic of beauty – unlike everybody else in their world. You would think they held all the power, but where power exists there is a host of people ready to exploit it. Camellia and her sisters are also girls. Young, vulnerable and naïve, their hopes and ambitions change as they realise how out of their depth they are in the wider world.

The novel and the arcana raise some interesting questions. Is beauty about being alike or being unique? Should we measure against others, or against our natural selves? How greedy would we become if there was a power which could change our appearance, and how far would we go? How much pain would we endure? How might we behave towards others if we had this power under our control? This is one of the most frightening questions the book asks, and it sees Camellia in a terrible situation where one person commands her to harm the appearance of another. There is huge scope for conflict in this world and I was hooked to the pages as a result.

I love the diverse portrayal of beauty, and the descriptions which make these many types of beauty real – skin tones and eye movements and hair-care all described to include readers of every origin. The book does a brilliant job at diversity. Same-sex relationships are described in exactly the same way as hetrosexual ones, and female soliders and guards are referenced alongside male. Huge thumbs-up for a no-fuss approach to diversity. This isn’t an exploration of one ‘issue’ or another, but a portrayal of people and relationships in all their wonderful variety.

The afterword says this book was brewing for twenty years, and I think the result is the author writes about this unusual world as if she knows every corner of it. I can’t wait to hear what else Dhonielle Clayton has to say, and I recommend putting this high on your list for 2018.
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We'd like to once again thank Louise for stopping by The Book Bratz today to post this guest review. You can read the original review over on her blog by clicking HERE!


** Psst! Interested in guest reviewing on The Book Bratz? Shoot us an email at thebookbratz@gmail.com or DM us on Twitter (@thebookbratz) and we'd love to have you!

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