book review, young adult

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (ARC Review)

Title: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Type: Fiction
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date published: February 6, 2018

A physical copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

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.

– Click for Excerpt –

– My Review –

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This book turned out being quite different from what I had expected going into it. For some reason, I had been under the impression that this would be an alternate-history type book, taking place in New Orleans, haha. It’s my fault entirely for misunderstanding, but you can imagine how confused I was when I started reading and it turned out being a futuristic, dystopian setting in Orléans, France. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Orléans, and it’s, in fact, quite a unique and beautiful setting for a book. But I had to replace all of these preconceptions in my head before I could fully immerse myself into the story. That did not take too long, however, and once I re-arranged my expectations, and the visuals in my mind, I was pulled into the plot.

I liked the quality of the writing, as well as the detailed descriptions for the appearance of characters. The language used was very effective, and lush, in describing the characters in a society where beauty is valued almost above all else. I think that it was also neat that the setting in this book was basically the hair, clothing, and culture of Marie Antoinette’s France, but with tech. Kind of. The tech is kind of advanced, but also not. It’s difficult to explain, so I do recommend that you pick up the book if you’re curious and want to understand what I mean here. Haha, sorry!

This book contained some court intrigue (which I enjoy most of the time in books), some romance (although I did not really feel the romance between Camellia and her love interest), as well as some mystery! It was definitely the mystery (as well as the pretty language and descriptions) that kept me pushing forward, because the pacing of this book was a little slow for me. It did not help that I didn’t really click with the main character, and that I often became angry with her for not seeing things that appeared obvious to me. In order to stay calm, though, I continuously told myself that Camellia is very young, and that she was raised in an environment that was very protected, and cut off from the rest of the world.

I liked some of the other characters, and hope that I will encounter some of them in the next book. The Belles also contained a villain that might make my top 10 for loathe-worthy. I would actually clench my hands when reading about this villain, because they made me so angry. I really did appreciate many things about this book, including the sexual and racial diversity (and how people of all sexualities and races were integrated into the society, and never considered to be “other.”

So, as I mentioned at the beginning of the previous paragraph, I will be reading the sequel, because I am curious about where the story will lead, and because I hope to encounter more of the characters who I adored, as well as more the diversity, and lush language used in The Belles.

– About the Author –


Dhonielle Clayton is the co-author of the Tiny Pretty Things series. She grew up in the Washington, DC suburbs on the Maryland side and spent most of her time under her grandmother’s table with a stack of books. A former teacher and middle school librarian, Dhonielle is co-founder of CAKE Literary—a creative development company whipping up decidedly diverse books for a wide array of readers—and COO of the non-profit, We Need Diverse Books. She’s got a serious travel bug and loves spending time outside of the USA, but makes her home in New York City, where she can most likely be found hunting for the best slice of pizza.

– Purchase Links –

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12 thoughts on “The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (ARC Review)

  1. I’ve got mixed feelings about this book. It is kind of intriguing, and the cover is great. But I’m torn because of what I’ve read about the LGBT characters. Did you think they got fair treatment?

    1. Ohhh if you remember where you read about the LGBT characters, could you link me?

      And I liked that there was no like, default sexual orientation in this book. But I’m not sure whether I can say if they got fair treatment or not. Maybe if I read some other reviews, I might have more to say? Sorry! 🙁

    2. The lowdown on LGBTQ rep is spoilery, but most of the problem is the “Bury Your Gays” trope, which is basically the LGBTQ version of Women in Refrigerators. If you aren’t familiar with it, Elise @ thebookishactress did a great post on the trope and why it’s harmful.

      *Mostly* I don’t think the treatment of bi women in the book perpetuates bad stereotypes or anything in that vein, but it definitely could have been better.

      1. Yeahhhh that’s what I figured was the issue, but I didn’t want to spoil hahaha. I definitely did not like that either, and it was reflected in my rating. But again, I couldn’t mention it in my review because I try to keep those spoiler free.

    1. Aweee thank you so much! And yeah I was super surprised when it came in the mail haha. It’s just too bad that I didn’t love it like I expected to.

  2. Love the video of the behind the scenes cover shoot!! I love seeing how book covers are made 😀 This has been on my tbr but not on the top and now I can kinda see why – i’ve seen good reviews but not absolutely AMAZING reviews.

    1. Right?! I wish that more publishers filmed and published the cover shoots hehe. And ahhhh I haven’t looked at any other reviews for it, cause I was trying to avoid them before writing my own, but maybe now I should go take a look around 😉

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