I’ve been trying for days to gather and make sense of my thoughts on Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles. Well, thoughts other than, “WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW.” 😄❤️ After reading some “meh” books this month, this one completely blew them out of the water and conjured something mesmerizing and seductive. I’m still not sure, where to start, but if you’re not sure what this book is about, click here for a short synopsis!
I’m in absolute awe of the world Clayton has created. From the very first page, I knew this book was going to be brilliant and filled to the brim with lush, vibrant imagery and settings. The first paragraph alone mentions “raspberry and lemon macarons and tiny pastel blimps and pink champagne and card games. Maybe even a teacup elephant.” YES, THERE ARE TEACUP ANIMALS IN THIS WORLD. 😍🐘 One look at the bright pink map — which is stunning, of course — and you can see just how vast and richly-detailed Orléans is, and how much Clayton has at her disposal to explore in future books.
But the decadence and fantastical elements — the luxury, the magic, the palace and parties — are merely one layer of a story that examines how we commodify beauty and how that changes our perceptions of others, as well as ourselves. As I read this book, I kept thinking of Roshani Chokshi‘s blurb on the back cover — “… glittering, glamorous, and gruesome. The Belles is a dazzling exploration of body power and identity.” It’s an incredible fantasy with a solid core of truth, and I definitely think this is one of those books that should be read by teenagers and adults alike. It prompts you to look at our world more critically and see just how similar we often are to the citizens of Orléans.
Camellia is the heart of this book, and you feel for her as she experiences things that she has dreamed of, hoped for, and feared. She undergoes a transformation that is both important and painful, and this, in a way, is her growing up and coming to understand that the world she thought she knew is both beautiful and cruel. It’s something that we are all forced to realize, along with the notion that life is far, far different for those who are privileged and wealthy enough to live as they desire.
Without giving anything away, the antagonist is truly horrifying. There were honestly moments where I had to put the book down for brief moments, if only to shake off a shudder. I think the most fearsome thing about them is how human they are, and how their capacity for cruelty and callousness is not unfamiliar to the reader.
Even though it’s only February, I have a feeling that this will end up being one of my top reads of the year. Having heard all of the hype and praise, I was excited to read it, but it exceeded every single one of my expectations. ❤️
About the Author: Dhonielle Clayton
More Books by This Author:
Tiny Pretty Things (co-written with Sona Charaipotra)
Shiny Broken Pieces (co-written with Sona Charaipotra)
Short Stories by This Author:
“When the Moonlight Isn’t Enough” (included in the anthology The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes & Other Dauntless Girls)
“The Way We Love Here” (included in the anthology Meet Cute)