Review of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (Spoiler free)

My friend recently lent me a book that she recommended me reading. It was called The Belles and all she told me was that it was to do with a group of young women who have the ability to make people beautiful. But I wasn’t quite expecting the world I was brought into. 

If I am honest, I did feel the beginning was quite slow. It was a build up that was needed, an explanation of who the Belles are, what they are capable of, and how this new world works. It did jump straight into the action where the five Belles had to compete to be crowned the Queen’s favourite. The story follows Camille, one of the five who seems to interpret as everyone is beautiful and even though she has this power, to not limit to the social norm but heighten everyone’s inner beauty. This I loved, because it was proving that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and not the social normality of it. I especially loved later on when Camille says that she prefers a woman with curves and that skin type was not discriminated — but i’ll go more into that later. I did love the whole concept of the magic, that really it isn’t the usual magic system where people can do it. All of it comes with a price. First of all it almost comes across that the Belles just do beauty treatments, but in fact it is them harnessing their power. But what I especially loved was the risk to using magic. That it is painful to the recipient and they have to take this special tea to try and get through the pain. Also, not to mention that it is harmful to the Belle herself if she uses too much at one time. It proves that magic isn’t always this glorified produce, but in fact has deadly consequences. 

What I also did love was that it took a while to work out who exactly the villain was. It was clear that there was something building up against Camille, but what it was I couldn’t work out until half way through the book. To some readers, this might be annoying and distancing, but to me, I loved it. It made me question what was going on, with not only Camille, but her sisters as well. There were many twists and turns and kept you guessing for a while. And what I loved mixed in with all this was the sisterhood and motherhood relationships shown. It proved how important having those you trust around you since Camille is thrust into it all, alone. But I did love the new friendships she made with Bree and Remy. I do feel there is more to explore, but I did love the growing trust Camille started to have for them. 

But as I said earlier, the shining part to this story is the idea of beauty. As a species, we are obsessed with it, and to bring that across in a novel is masterful. But what I especially loved was that there was no one thing said to be deemed as perfection. It didn’t matter what skin colour, what size, what shape. In fact it was mentioned that there was different trends, just like we have different styles in the fashion industry, it was just that with beauty and body image. It was proving to a reader that beauty is not one thing. One person who was skinny and pale skin was seen as beautiful, and another who had curves and a dark complexion was also deemed stunning. It was more the concept of being obsessed with beauty that was running throughout, and every client Camille had asked for something different. 

But alongside the concept of beauty, I also felt another difficult subject was handled. When Camille was faced against someone with power trying to commit a crime, it proved how someone who feels they have the social status can get away with whatever they want. I want to keep this review spoiler free so I will not mention who or what happened. But I felt it was so powerful as it proved what really does happen in this day and age when someone who has status commits a crime, or attempts to. This is a subject that needs to be talked about more, for both men and women, and I do love when an author takes it and deals with it in such elegance. 

I would admit though, that I did feel the ending of the novel was very predictable. I suppose there was no other way to take it with a sequel being put in place, but I do wish perhaps there had been something thrown in I wouldn’t have expected. It felt like the first half, even though it was a bit slow, was giving twists and turns, and then in the middle it was building up the suspense, all for it to fall a little short at the end with the obvious take of the story. But in saying that, it sets up perfectly for the story to continue, and I definitely want to pick it up to see where the story leads. 

Overall, this book needs to be explored with the level of topics it covers. To prove that beauty is not all that it’s believed to be. That you do not need to be seen as perfect to succeed in life. I would highly recommend for any book lover of fantasy. I have tried to keep this review as spoiler free as possible because I am hoping to convince those that haven’t even heard of this book to pick it up. This is one clever concept that I would love to see more of.

Buy your copy here: https://amzn.to/3lGB02f

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