THE EVERLASTING ROSE, the sequel to Dhonielle Clayton’s THE BELLES, releases today. In honor, I will review THE BELLES, the first in the duology. This post CONTAINS SPOILERS.
If you would like to read the spoiler-free post click here. To begin, here is the summary and a quick review before the extended review:
Summary: Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, 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 Orleans 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 Orleans 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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Why I was interested: I was really intrigued by the combination of fashion and magic as it is a combo I’ve wishing to see since the GOSSIP GIRL/THE CLIQUE/POSEUR/Poppy titles came out in the mid-2000s. It also made me think of Disney’s The Princess and The Frog because we always need more magical New Orleans-inspired stories.
Judge a book by it’s cover: We have our lovely Camellia on the cover with her beautiful dress and floral hair piece. It’s a great combination of representation and fantasy magic.
What to expect: A fascinating magic system that also might freak you out (but in a brilliant way). Hints of science fiction. Amazing fashion and makeup but also a thorough discussion on how fashion media can impact how people think they should look.
Why you should pick this book up: If you are fascinated by a New Orleans-inspired world, mythology, morally grey magic, and fashion. If you enjoyed Gita Trelease’s ENCHANTÉE, you will enjoy THE BELLES too.
ATTENTION: IF YOU HAVE YET TO READ THE BELLES do not continue reading. The following contains spoilers for the book.
Dhonielle Clayton’s THE BELLES is a cleverly written story that incorporates fashion and mythology with magic and hints of science fiction. Clayton notes that this story was inspired by her own haunting relationship with her body as she grew up and how women’s bodies are viewed in media. THE BELLES is a great discussion about how far characters will go to reach their goal of being beautiful.
Camellia is a Belle which means that she can use her magic with tools to change people’s hair color, length, face shape, body shape, thinness, color — any features that makes a person unique. It drains her and makes her tired and those that are worked on are pained by the experience. Nor does the magic last. Those who can afford it, come in often to smooth wrinkles, change their eye colors, and tighten their waists.
Those who are not able to afford the magic as often are “not as beautiful” and all — with the exception of The Belles themselves — can fall into turning gray as if they lack color and liveliness.
However, as Camellia works as being The Favorite, not everything in the palaces is pretty and soon it is discovered that Princess Sophis is obsessed with the Belle’s creation of beauty and has been trying to take The Favorite’s blood for her own gains.
Camellia also discovers that if a Belle is used of all her magic or works too hard she too can fall apart like a melted candle, that is her facial features can rearrange and turn gray. She won’t be able to help herself with her magic. There are also many more Belles than her few sisters. Their magic is taken advantage of to combat the growing demand of beauty.
Clayton’s morally gray magic and beauty in the world of Orleans is a fantastic ride with great twists. However, understanding the idea of beauty on a much deeper level really makes this story rise. Constantly the reader and Camellia is questioned how far would people really go to become the epitome of beauty and by asking these questions we do not necessarily receive and straightforward answer. I look forward the reading THE EVERLASTING ROSE to see where Camellia’s journey ends and what happens to the idea of beauty in book two.
What did you think of Dhonielle Clayton’s THE BELLES? I’d love to hear your comments below!
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