**Warning, this review may contain spoilers**
A/N: This might be long because I have a lot of thoughts to get through. There is a lot to unpack and I'll try to hit on as many major points as I can.
I feel like I went into sugar shock while reading the first pages of 'The Belles' by Dhonielle Clayton. In the best way possible. The first in Clayton's new series, The Belles is a story about girls who have the power to make anyone beautiful. The sugary and sweet imagery that Clayton puts in the Island of Orleans pulls the reader into a beautiful world where the way you look is practically life and death. The Kingdom of Orleans, set in the country of France, values beauty over anything because they were born gray and the only people who can change that is the Belles. The girls who were born with color and the power to change the appearance of anyone.
The main character, Camellia Beauregaurd has a dream to be the favorite Belle, just like her mother was before her. Being the personal Belle to the Queen means that they can make new beauty laws and set trends that the people of Orleans would follow. Its every Belle's dream to be the favorite.
Choosing on who gets to be the favorite and the other assignments of the Belles is determined by a showcase of their talents to the royal family and the people of Orleans. The showcase is where the Belles change a person in front of everyone. The one that the Queen likes the most is to be the personal Belle to the royal family. The Belles are the most powerful people in the Kingdom of Orleans but at the same time they are essentially powerless. They are to follow the rules of the royal family and nothing else. They are to not have romantic relationships and to not go outside their place. That is the way it has always been.
Camellia is so pure in the way that she thinks but it slowly gets stripped away by the things that she learns about the royal court and the Belles. The character development of her maturity was real and intriguing to see.
Camellia was always taught to be herself and find beauty in everyone. She learns this from her mother and keeps this philosophy with her through her conflicts. She understands duty and honor but at the same time believing in what is right. This is the main conflict when she becomes the favorite. The conflicts heighten when she meets Princess Sophia. Camellia is so pure in her thoughts and ideas that it is so nice to see, but its not strong enough to change what has already been set in motion.
Sophia is the most evil and troubled person in the book. The whole book is somewhat centered around the problems that Sophia has grown to have living in a world where beauty is everything. She will be the most beautiful no matter the cost. She is obsessed with her looks and being better than her mother and her sister. She is controlling to the point of being a tyrant. I, at times dislike her but at the same time sympathize with her. To a person that knows nothing else but being the best, this is what a person becomes when they have everything at their fingertips and don't hear the word no.
I even feel bad for her at times, knowing that if she were paid more attention to the things that she does, then maybe this whole plot that happens wouldn't have happened. But that still doesn't justify for what she does.
Camellia and Sophia are just the products of the society that they live in. The only difference is that Camellia sees the wrongs and wants to change that. Camellia tries to fight this but sees the lack of power she has when it comes to Sophia. She realizes too late when she is set up to kill someone using her power. She in turn has to run away and that's how the first book ends. Give or take a few details.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings: The book overall was fabulous. The way that Clayton touched on the theme of a society that thinks of nothing but beauty is a genius idea. The way that what people think over what they think of themselves is a thought that plagues even the best of us. This book could help so many people to see the pedestal that they place on being beautiful and evaluate their ideas of what it means to be pretty.. I couldn't help but see the parallels that the author put in place about slavery into the book as well. The book puts in place a society where the Belles are people with such power but have no power when it comes to living their lives. They have no power in what they do or say and that could be a whole essay but this review could only be so long.
The first book was such a tornado of drama, mystery and reveals that every time I think of it, my head starts to spin. There is so much more that I didn't even get to talk about because this book is so much. In a good way, of course. I honestly cannot wait until the next book of the series.
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