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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. Dhonielle Clayton creates a rich, detailed, decadent world of excess and privilege, where beauty is not only skin-deep, but a complete mirage. Weaving deeper questions about the commodification of women's bodies, gender equality, racial identity, and vanity with high-stakes action and incredible imagery, The Belles is the must-read epic of the season.
Wonderfully lush story
Lush writing, exquisite detail, a fantastical setting and gripping story make The Belles a standout YA fantasy. Camille's character has a strong attention to detail in accordance with her beauty work as a Belle, and her descriptions of Orleans will make you want to rush off to a bakery and a fashion boutique, possibly at the same time (powdered skin like an overly frosted piece of caramel cake, buttercup yellow day dress, etc.). The physical pain and monetary cost of the Belles' beauty work are symbolic of the extreme methods people today use to try and conform to unrealistic beauty standards. I appreciated how Camille sees her work as helping people love themselves, rather than as a money-making opportunity like others in her industry. Despite being at the heart of the Orleans beauty industry, she believes that people's natural and inner beauty are more important than being supermodel gorgeous. The setting of Orleans is whimsical, playful, and full of delightful details like teacup animals, all of which combine to make The Belles compulsively readable.
Who Are The Belles?
In simplistic terms, they're beauty makers/stylists for people born with gray skin and red eyes. There's nothing more a Belle loves to do than add beauty to the world. They primp, polish, pamper and shine their blank canvases from head to toe. These makeovers don't last forever -- so this beauty makeover should be used to every advantage. Once you've tasted the fruits of beauty and all that embodies ... can you then live without it? Visually stunning descriptions and imagery.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book provided by Disney/Netgalley.