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Presented by State Library Victoria

Is There More Than What Meets The Eye in 'The Belles' by Dhonielle Clayton or is the Appeal Only Skin Deep?

Hello Inky Friends,

I recently finished reading ‘The Belles’ by Dhonielle Clayton as part of the Inky Shadow Judge program. This book had massive hype but did it really meet all its expectations? Here’s what I think.

‘The Belles,’ follows Camellia Beauregard, a Belle in the opulent world of OrlĂ©ans. There, the people are born grey and damned and only a Belle’s power can make them beautiful. Camellia wants to be the favourite Belle, the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.

Once Camellia and the other Belles arrive at court, it is revealed that being the favourites not everything she dreamed it would be. Behind the luxurious palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia learns that her powers may be greater and darker than she ever imagined.

When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: to protect herself and the legacy of the Belles, or risk her life and change the world forever.

I remember when this book was first released, hearing of the massive hype surrounding it. People were generally excited to read it and I always questioned whether it would live up to the expectations placed on it. I’m not exactly sure if it did but I think some of the hype may have been misplaced.

This novel was extremely thought provoking. It asked questions of our society and related to many in a way that is understandable. The main character had such a strong longing to be ‘chosen’ and I think that resonated with people. Everyone wants to be valued and appreciated and I think the book highlights that. The novel had a real villain, who was dreadful, but I can’t help but believe that the real villain was a society not too different from our own that values beauty above anything else. I also thought that it was a great example of the disparity between the rich and poor, the rich could afford to become beautiful whereas the poor could not.

The character of this novel were incredibly compelling and although some fell slightly flat for me, I couldn’t help but enjoy the nature of them. The descriptions of the novel were also brilliant but I wish that the action and plot was better described than the appearance of the clothes and makeup.

The society in which the book was set was pretty cool. The monarchy was matriarchal and 90% of characters in the book were female. That’s why I found it so puzzling when I found that there were no real positive relationships in the novel. Having no positive relationships harmed the character development of Camellia and set her back as ‘narrator’ of the plot. Which was a pretty odd choice considering this book includes so many strong, independent women.

Parts of the novel were slightly insensitive towards queer people and victims of assault. I think this themes needed to be handled better and more respectfully.

Overall, I think the plot was good but could have used more refining. I was slightly disappointed with the behaviour and development with some characters and how the story progressed. I think if written differently, the story could have been far better. Rate: 5/10

Have you guys read ‘The Belles?’ What did you think?


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