Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Age Range: 13+
Published: By Disney-Hyperion on February 6th, 2018
Content Warning: Fat shaming, bury your gays trope, girl-on-girl hate
Format I Read: Audiobook
Grade: Exceeds expectations
In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle’s powers can make them beautiful.
Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.
But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater – and far 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: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life and change the world forever.
I had heard initial good things about this book but the hype died down quickly, so I had low expectations. However, I had got the audiobook for a steal and decided to give it a try.
My main complaint with this book was Camellia, the main character. She was whiny, unobservant and plain stupid for most of the book. I felt like her good qualities were told instead of shown and I hated reading the story through her perspective. The only reason I continued on was because of the antagonist, Sophia. She was a well fleshed out character and one of the best villains I’ve come across in fantasy. The rest of the cast were not memorable or particularly noteworthy.
The plot was intriguing and kept me invested in the story. However, Camellia’s lack of intelligence made it suffer a bit as obvious conclusions were revealed as if they were clever plot twists. What stole the show for me was the world-building and the themes explored by the narrative. It had a very unique magic system that was explained without unnecessary info-dumps. The political system was also well-developed and the court intrigue was done nicely. The book was a commentary on beauty – the emphasis on outward appearance and conventional beauty standards were taken apart and examined with a nuanced eye. Despite the good parts, be warned that it employs the ‘bury your gays’ trope which some OwnVoices reviewers pointed out. Overall, I liked it but certain aspects of the book didn’t work for me.
If a well-crafted antagonist and clever world-building is your cup of tea, do consider picking it up. For the music, throw on some Beyoncé or whoever gets your girl power on. For the food, some bakery items or desserts would work best. I had macarons in mind as soon as I saw that cover.
Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? Which fantasy book has the most unique world-building? Let’s discuss in the comments section below.