Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, 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 Orléans 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 Orléans 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.
I buddy-read The Belles with Ceillie and Wendy. I received an ARC from Netgalley. I’d been apprehensive about this book, because it’s about beauty as a commodity. I was intrigued to see how the author would discuss it.
It’s #ownvoices for black representation.
The legend surrounding the Belles was fascinating, especially considering the reveal at the end. I wonder how much of the legend has truth in it.
The character development was awesome. I loved that you could feel all of Camellia’s flaws and hopes and skills. I liked the twist at the beginning where she does not get what she thinks is hers, as this subverted the usual trope of the ‘chosen one’. Her experiences help her discover what the Belles actual place in the society is, and how the Gris think they can get from them whatever they want, without any thought to the Belles’ own wishes.
I felt that the worldbuilding lacked a bit. There weren’t enough descriptions. Camellia kept describing certain things as Belle-things, but she didn’t describe what that thing would look like. For example, I couldn’t picture what a Belle bun looked like because it was never described even though it was mentioned in the text several times.
This book does have kill your gays trope in it. Two of the major characters who are queer are killed (one off-page, and one on-page). Also, the main villain is said to be queer by the tabloids, which I know cannot be trusted. I just want to mention it. The only two other confirmed queer people who appear in person in the scenes, are the significant others of the dead queer people.
I enjoyed this story, and Camellia’s journey of discovering who the Belles actually are. I would have liked some more worldbuilding in it.
Trigger warnings: misgendering of a trans character, fatantagonistic comments, deaths of queer characters, leeches, plastic surgery, body shaming, blatant classism, unpleasant comments about mental health, attempted sexual assault, and gaslighting.
Would you be interested in reading The Belles? If you have read it, did you enjoy it?