Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

The Belles – Dhonielle Clayton

“At the beginning of the world, the God of the Sky fell in love with the Goddess of Beauty.”

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Blurb: “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.”

Trigger warnings: Sexual assault, “bury the gays” trope.

I was on the fence for quite a while about this book until I saw FantasticBooksAndWhereToFindThem’s review  which finally swayed me to give it a go. So with a shiny new audible credit, I decided to opt for the audiobook and straight away, this was the best decision. The narrator – Rosie Jones – is utterly incredible. Her range of accents is phenomenal and she captures the character of Camellia perfectly: all her innocence, passion and naivety. It’s almost impossible not to feel completely sucked up into the world of Orléans with our remarkable protagonist.

In this world, the beauty industry mirrors our own with its set of trends, magazines and beauty rooms where residents can get makeovers but for a price. However, in Orléans, Belles have the ability to make people beautiful but it’s never permanent. The process is brutal and more detailed than I even expected. I often found myself stopping what I was doing and sitting back to just listen to Camellia talk about what she was doing.

The writing is gorgeous. Everything is described through the use of food imagery which was a very clever technique as it made the world feel rich and enticing.

Princess Sofia is a standout character for me on the grounds that she is simply terrifying. Whenever she appeared in the scene I physically tensed as if that would change the course of events in some way.

However, this book was incredibly slow. There’s no real action until the last quarter and by that point I was just feeling bored. The Belles reads very much as a set up book and I feel that the sequel is when that characters are really going to hit the ground running.

As I referenced at the start, there is a scene of sexual assault that is quite heavy and the perpetrator is not reprimanded for it. Also a gay character is killed off for absolutely no reason other than shock value. Please exercise self-care before reading.

Also Clayton wrote a twitter thread about the need for more POC reviewers in general, especially ones talking about her book. Here’s a link to Rich In Colour’s review  that picked up on specific themes I didn’t and if you know any others, please let me know so I can link them as well!

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Posted in Audiobook Of The Month

Audiobook Of The Month | The Belles

It’s hard to believe that we’re in March with all the snowfall England seems to be getting lately, but it’s time to delve into a new audiobook. This month was a bit of a struggle as nothing really seemed to be grabbing me. I’d heard a lot about The Belles but was on the fence because it sounded like something I would love though mixed reviews had pushed it further down my TBR… until I saw FantasticBooksAndWhereToFindThem’s review which finally swayed me to give it a go.

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Set in Orlèans, the Belles are girls who have the power to make others beautiful. Just like in our world, beauty is a massive industry with magazines, photo cards of the belles and exclusive places residents can go to for treatments from their favourite belle. But the position of honour is the Queen’s Favourite which is the job of Camelia’s dreams.

The audiobook is narrated by Rosie Jones who is utterly outstanding. She has this innocence and wonder to her voice that just fills Camelia’s narrative with life. Listening to the story, the reader can really feel how much the protagonist loves this world and how excited she is at her new career prospects.

The writing is beautiful, woven together with a lot food imagery which works wonders for making the world appear sickly sweet. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not but it’s rather clever.

At the time of writing this post, I am 39% in and still the story hasn’t really gotten going so I feel this may be one of those books where everything else outweighs the plot.

Have you read The Belles? If so, what did you think of it?

And, as always, if you have any audiobook recommendations, please let me know!