The Belles 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.
The Belles Book Review
Enticing. Fascinating. Gorgeous. Thought-provoking. This is The Belles. This fantastic solo debut novel from Dhonielle Clayton is a cutting look at society’s expectation of beauty. It digs into how the desire to look perfect can destroy. Not just ourselves, but those around us. Highlighting these themes of ego and vanity is the beautiful world, Orleans. Clayton’s fantasy realm is a perfect back-drop to a society obsessed with perfection. Clayton’s meticulous description of Orleans draws you deeply into this story. Luxurious and richly written, Orleans captures the imagination.
“A breeze pushes it’s way through the tiny breathing holes in the glass carriage, carrying with it the scent of the sky. Salty rain, spiced clouds, and a hint of sweetness from the stars. It all feels like a dream that’s held on and lingered past dawn. I never want it to end.”
In The Belles, the desire for beauty replaces reason. People change the shape of their bodies, their faces, the color of the skin and hair. They suffer from the pain of these changes to be the most beautiful. It’s an obsession. As Camellia quickly learns, nothing is to be left unchanged.
“I want to tell her that Daniela’s little hooked nose gives her character – natural individuality, uncreated by Belles…. I want to tell her Daniela’s distinctive features make her appear sweet and curious.”
Camellia is confident and, surprisingly, a bit of rule breaker. Consequently, it’s no wonder that the most daring of the royal family seeks her out for this specific reason. At first flattered, Camellia quickly finds she’s in way over her head. She maneuvers her way through one challenge after another. That is, until forced to use her gift for beauty to do harm. As a result, Camellia questions her purpose. Suddenly, she is no longer certain what it means to be a Belle. Is she only to create and recreate beauty in its physical manifestation? Is there more to her gift? Can she use her magic to not only create beauty but to also heal and give peace? Can Camellia do more….be more? It’s these doubts that send Camellia down a path of self-discovery.
A Courtier, A Soldier, and a Belle
Romantic entanglements are taboo for Belles. Apparently, passion destroys their blood, rendering their magic ineffective. Still, that does not stop Camellia from finding two incredibly beautiful, yet different, men intriguing. First, there is Auguste, the son of a minister. Charming and witty, he captures Camellia’s attention with his daring. Not to mention his flagrant disregard for rules. Consequently, Camellia sees him as a kindred spirit of sorts.
Then, there is Remy, a Guard with the Minister of War’s First Guard. Assigned as Camellia’s personal guard, Remy takes his job seriously. He follows the rules. Handsome, yet stoic, Remy is steady. He is different from Auguste in every way. In spite of his stern countenance, Camellia finds him interesting. Like a puzzle to be solved. Of course, any relationship is forbidden, but that does not stop Camellia.
What a stunning visual The Belles would make! I would love to see this as a movie. Clayton’s vivid descriptions would translate well to the big screen. While the book takes place in a fictional world, I can’t help but think Orleans is a dystopian, fantasy version of New Orleans or Paris. I’m salivating over the idea of seeing the costumes brought to life. Not to mention the beauty looks created by Camellia. While Camellia is turning 16 in The Belles, I could totally see Hunger Games star Amandla Stenberg as Camellia. Joseph Lee Anderson (you’ve seen him in Blue Bloods or Timeless) would make a perfect Remy. I’m also partial to Robbie Amell (The DUFF) as Auguste. Or, perhaps Alexander Ludwig from Vikings.
Final Thoughts on The Belles
Clayton lays out Camellia’s journey methodically and with purpose. Thus, each event is a marker on Camellia’s path. Every secret and shocking revelation drives home the point that beauty has a price. From the Belles that came before her to the royal family, allies emerge from surprising places. Throw in two handsome men, neither of whom may have her best interests at heart, and you have another layer of complexity.
The Belles will have you questioning your perspective on perfection and physical beauty. It is a breathtaking commentary on what society considers beautiful and ideal in women and men. Not to mention what people will do to be “perfect.” With an ending that leaves room for a sequel, The Belles is an enticing tale on the price of beauty!
Have you read The Belles? What did you think? Sound off in the comments below!
Content Warning – A clean read.
“You had me at hello.”
“Happiness in marriage is entirely a
matter of chance.”