Y’ALL, THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD!
I heard the author, Dhonielle Clayton, interviewed on a Slate podcast one day (I can’t remember which one) and from the conversation thought her new book, The Belles, sounded interesting. I needed a new book, and I love supporting newer authors, so I figured I would check it out. I am so very, very glad I did.
Clayton has written a Young Adult book that deals with consumption culture, the Cult of Beauty, the exploitation of power, the power and strength found in female friendship, and slavery without ever using any of those words. She also does a pretty good job of exposing Western beauty ideals and the nonsense behind them. Plus is is a great story with wonderful, well drawn characters. I love this book. I know I will reread it at least once. Also, the cover is just stunning. I mean, look at that image up there!
The story takes place in the Kingdom of Orleans, where everyone is born grey; grey skin, dingy, straw like hair, and red eyes. Everyone except the Belles. The Belles are women born with color- all different skin tones, hair colors, eye colors and face shapes. They are revered in Orleans because not only are they beautiful themselves, they have the power to change others and give them color as well as altering their body shape and even their personalities. The Belles can do all of this… for a price.
The lead character is Camellia, a young Belle who has just completed her training. She is about to take her place in Orleans society, but she doesn’t want just any place, she wants to be the Favorite Belle, the Belle that is chosen by the Queen to live at court. As she and her sister Belles come to realize, though, being revered isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be and when a power you hold within yourself can be viewed as a commodity, your own personal self worth can be a tricky thing to hold on to.
I don’t want to give anything else away on this one, I went in pretty blind and I am so glad I did. Clayton has created such a vibrant, well filled in, amazing world for this book to take place in and she has populated it with such great characters and such realistic situations. She has a strong grasp of dialogue and interpersonal relationships, which is a huge ting for me and made me love it even more. She has also managed to give the book a solid ending that may leave the door cracked open for another book set in Orleans, but in no way at all requires it, which is my favorite thing an author can do, especially in Fantasy.