by Dhonielle Clayton
Series: The Belles #1
Published on February 6, 2018 by Disney Hyperion
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
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This was a book that I wanted to love. For its unique world. For its take on beauty and the idea of perception, both our own and others’ view. But. . . but. . . it just had some issues that didn’t sell The Belles for me.
First, the story. Good, but not great. My biggest issue is with the slow pace for a good chunk of the book. I wasn’t really a fan of Camellia, the protagonist. I felt like, so often, she made stupid mistakes for the sake of the story moving forward. And those mistakes, those decisions, didn’t really go anywhere. If there were any intended plot twists to keep the tension high, I missed them because the plot became predictable. Not in the sense that I’ve read it before, but everything was lined up from start to finish so obviously that I wasn’t surprised at the “twists.” It took well over half the book for me to feel invested enough to finish it, and I’ll be honest when I say that I nearly DNFed the book but kept reading because I thought I missed something. So many people raved about this book and I wanted to love it. I did. But that’s not what happened in the end.
It’s a shame. And on top of that, Camellia wasn’t a protagonist that I really wanted to follow. I liked her perfectionist vibe, something I could really relate to, but she wasn’t someone that made me care about her situation. She could be a bit catty and frustrating to follow, but not a bad character. Just not one I connected with at any point.
Then we get a romance subplot thrown in and it was cringe-worthy. Like zero chemistry, forced situations, and not enough depth to warrant including in the first place.
Also, it’s a somewhat minor thing but the way every detail was described drove me a bit over the edge. It was very list-all-descriptive-words style and, I mean, it was definitely consistent so props for that but it grew old and dragged the writing down.
Honestly, the worst part about this is that I wanted to love this book. I felt like I needed to love this book. There’s so much about it that is great for the YA book world. But the plot? Predictable, with no real twists or mystery. The protagonist wasn’t bad but I had no real interest in following her on her adventures either. Which doesn’t work so well when her point-of-view is the only one you’re reading. And the writing just doesn’t working for me. It didn’t flow and dragged for too long to keep me invested.
The saving grace was the uniqueness of the world. Teacup elephants. Individuals able to control physical traits. It all came together and the ending was exciting enough to make me consider reading the sequel. As so many people enjoyed this book so far, I may be a black sheep on this title so if it sounds like your cup of tea, definitely give it a go! Just wasn’t mine but we’ll see how the sequel goes!