The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles


“Don’t be fools. You can’t have both. Who wants love when one can be powerful?”

I expected The Cruel Prince—high stakes court politics, twists, nastiness, and complex, morally grey characters with hidden motivations. And I got The Selection—flimsy characters, a lackluster plot more focused on silly drama than court politics, but YA candy all the same.

The Belles takes place in the fictional world of Orléans where people are born grey, beauty is everything, and only the Belles have the power to make the people of Orléans beautiful. The main character, Camellia, dreams of being better than her Belle sisters, she wants to be the Belle—the Favorite, chosen by the queen to live at the palace and tend to the royal family and the court.

“No one is a prisoner. Even you have the power to make your own choices.”

The world of this book is definitely the strongest component, and why I was so disappointed by the story. I had expected nastiness, a cruel world where beauty measures worth, the members of the court are wicked vipers, hiding their motives behind painted smiles, and an ambitious main character who would stop at nothing to be the best and not only survive her world, but dominate it. Instead, the main characters were predictable and flat with one dimensional motivations and character arcs, and the side characters were forgettable—with the exception of Edel and Amber who were tropes of the rebel and the perfectionist, I could not distinguish between Camellia’s sisters, and don’t even ask me to try to remember the names or personalities of Sophia’s ladies.

“Lies are as dangerous as a sword. They can cut to the bone.” 

I wish I had more to say about this book, the writing was gorgeous, albeit a bit too flowery for my taste at times, and I love the world, but I felt no attachment to the characters—having no stake or vested interest in their fates—and was not surprised by the plot “twists.”

Overall, I’ll probably end up picking up the next book in the series because Dhonielle Clayton is a skilled writer, I love the world, and I want to support a YA fantasy written by a POC author featuring a POC main character, but I can’t say I’ll be anticipating its release or really care what happens.

“Dreams remind us of who we are and how we feel about the things around us.”

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