Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles by Dhonielle ClaytonThe Belles
Dhonielle Clayton
Disney-Hyperion
Published on February 6th, 2018

Amazon | Barnes & Noble Goodreads

About The Belles
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.

My Review
I had heard so much hype about this book, that I decided I had to read it and see for myself. I would describe this book as a cupcake. Fairly bland fluff, with too-sweet, artificial-tasting frosting. I wanted this book to be as amazing as I’d heard, but unfortunately, it just didn’t live up to its hype.

The characters felt like puppets, and there was many interactions that felt forced. A lot of the conversations went like this:
“Hello, how are you?”
“I’m doing great. Just got some beauty work done.”
“Oh. Looks nice.”
“Why don’t you love it?!?”
“Because I don’t!!”
“I hate you!!”
“Me too!!”

And I’d be left wondering what in the world just happened. (Yes, this is highly exaggerated, but a lot of the dialogue felt just like this.) I really didn’t understand or connect to any of the characters because of the odd dialogue and how quickly things escalated. It just felt fake.

The plot wasn’t much better—things happened because they were supposed to, not because it was inevitable. I think part of what caused this was that the book seemed so agenda-driven. The story should come first, not the theme. It was very heavy-handed.

The one redeeming quality about this book was the world-building. It was gorgeous, and lush, and everything a magical setting should be. I loved learning about how it worked, and the society as a whole. The teacup animals were definitely my favorite part. I’m really hoping that the sequel(s) will give us a bigger picture of the what’s going on in their world.

Overall, I’m just relieved to be done with this one so I can move on to something more interesting. 2 stars out of 5.

To Kill a Kingdom on AmazonRecommended for Ages 16 and up

Cultural Elements
Wide variety of skin tones and body shapes in this book, and nearly all are portrayed as being beautiful (overweight villain characters the main exception). The main character is described as having brown skin. Includes the normalization of homosexual and transgender characters as follows: a handful of mentions of homosexual relationships, a headline mentioning a transgender character, one courtier is in love with her lady’s maid, the queen has a mistress, and another character is hinted at being transgender. 

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None that I can recall.

Romance/Sexual Content
One attempted rape. Characters kiss (with and without tongue), semi-described, including homosexual characters. Characters are unclothed for beauty work. Breast sizes and shapes are discussed.

Spiritual Content
The goddess of beauty is frequently mentioned and referred to. The Belles’ power is attributed to her. There is also a god of the sky mentioned.

Violent Content
Characters are poisoned, and symptoms are described in detail. One graphic death. Disturbing descriptions of cruelty. Injuries and attacks. The Belles use leeches to reset their talents.

Drug Content
Graphic poisonings. Bei powder is sprinkled on characters undergoing beauty work. They also drink a Belle-rose tea, which is described as an anesthetic.

The Belles on GoodreadsNote: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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