The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Would you just look at this gorgeous cover?! A beautiful and fierce girl of color looking flawless and ready to take care of business. More of this, please, publishers!
Camellia is a Belle in the world of Orleans. Except for the Belles, the people in this world are Gris - “skin pallid, gray, and shriveled, eyes cherry-red, hair like straw - as if all the color was leached out of them, leaving behind the shade of freshly picked bones and ash” (14). If they have enough money (spintria), they can pay for one of the Belles to temporarily change their appearance. See, the bloodline of the Belles has been blessed by the Goddess of Beauty, giving them the gift of being able to color skin, change hair (color, length, texture), alter bones, remove fat, etc. Belles are basically amazingly gorgeous, magical, much-sought-after, plastic surgeons. Every year, the Queen of Orleans chooses a favorite of the current class of Belles. The Favorite receives an opulent home in the palace, becomes known as the most talented of the Belles, and is tasked with servicing the Royal Family. It is Camellia’s deepest desire to become the Favorite like her mother before her. She loves and adores her sisters, her fellow Belles, but she will do anything to become the Favorite. Once she and her sisters arrive at Court for the competition, they learn that being the Favorite isn’t all glamour, sweets, and praise. The Royal Family is a handful. A new Queen will soon be named. The crown should go to the eldest princess, but she’s been in some kind of strange coma for the past few months. That means next in line for the throne is the youngest princess, Sophia. Sophia is not right. She’s . . . unhinged. She takes pleasure in others’ pain - especially if she’s the cause of the pain. The Belle named Favorite will have to tend to Sophia’s every whim. The fate of the crown also appears to be in the hands of the Favorite.
Author, Dhonielle Clayton, does a nice job exposing our society’s obsession with beauty and perfection and shows just how more out of hand that obsession can go. Her writing is beautiful and so, so descriptive. I could taste the cakes and chocolate covered strawberries. I could smell the honeysuckle and rose scented lotions. I could see the wrought iron balconies overflowing with every variety of brilliant colors. I absolutely LOVE all of the gorgeous descriptions of this world’s physical appearance and its contrast with the ugliness of the inhabitants’ actions. Good stuff. So much originality. I could not put this one down. I’ll definitely be reading the series. I may even give it a reread in the form of listening when the audiobook is released.