By Dhonielle Clayton
In this world, most people are born unattractive – they have grey skin, red eyes, and straw-like hair. There are a few who are not so, and who look like what we think of as regular people. These people are called Belles, and they have the power, somehow, of making other people “beautiful.” They can change someone’s skin color, eye color, hair color and texture and length, and even change bone structure and muscle. But these changes are like temporary plastic surgery, and they wear off in about a month, depending. In this society, you need to be “beautiful” to be seen, but it is not without cost. Beauty is a business, and it’s not cheap. I think it’s also regulated by the government a bit?
Camelia is a Belle, and is raised with her five sisters in isolation, learning their craft. The book begins with them, on their 16th birthday, traveling to the palace at the capital. They are competing to become The Favorite, or the Belle to the royal family. But not everything is as it seems, and the girls were not taught everything they would need to survive.
There are parts that are very predictable. It’s like when you’re yelling at the screen of a movie to not make the poor choices that the young dumb characters are about to make. “It was this person!” “Use the thing!” “Don’t do that!”
There is a lot of description, which is nice at times, but in others you just want the story to get a move on.
The universe this is set in is very interesting. It’s very steampunk plus magic. They have post balloons that carry their mail, and the newspapers have headlines that flash and change. There are color-changing inks, and teacup elephants. But newsies have to sketch portraits, as there is no photography.
At first, the story seems fairly straightforward. But then things get kind of uncanny valley, to the point where I’m not sure I want to invest the time into listening to the second book. The pacing is very uneven – slow in the beginning, and rushed toward the end, which happens a lot, but it’s noticeable here. There are a lot of interesting things that the author throws in, but then doesn’t touch again.
3 stars for this one
By Jennifer Donnelly
This made me sad. I wanted to like it. I loved Stepsister. But this one fell flat for me. Maybe because the character of Snow White is a bit of a dumbass, I don’t know.
It was also a little jarring going from The Belles to this, because they are both read by the same audiobook reader (Rosie Jones) and I wasn’t expecting that.
In the beginning, Princess Sophia is kind and a little naive, but can fake it to a certain extent. Her stepmother is a cruel tyrant, but is trying to be a strong queen who protects her country from invaders. Her story is actually kind of sad, and she’s had to deal with a lot of raw deals in life, but she’s still made some horrific calls. She tries to teach her stepdaughter that kindness is dangerous and that being perceived as weak is deadly for a queen. Sophia tries, but her kind heart doesn’t let the lessons stick. I kind of feel like that’s all Sophia really has as a character trait – kindness. That, and gullibility and stupidness.
(I mean, I can see how these kinds of characters are gullible. They’ve been raised with the intention of being baby factories, and that’s about it. But a lot of authors take it too far. I would assume that these girls would theoretically know at least something of their world, enough to make conversation, or have the skills to manage a staff or household, let alone a kingdom. A princess would need the skills of a hostess and diplomat. But a lot of people decide that because girls weren’t educated to the same standards of men and didn’t have the same responsibilities that they had nothing between their ears but fluff. It’s insulting, really.)
The world building was a little odd for me. A lot of things seem fairly normal, but then there’s a giant spider and a giant ladybug acting as cook and housemaid for the 7 brothers, and there really isn’t any explanation given for them. They serve a purpose, but it’s still odd. There are other creatures, but they seem more acceptable, somehow. They are what they are, not giant versions of other things. And there’s magic, but it’s not very well explained. Also, the overarching storytelling mechanic is confusing as well. The story is being told by a character, but they’re dead (?) and I’m not sure where or when this story is actually being told.
Also, Sophia is dumb in matters relating to the opposite sex. Like, really dumb. There are some dumb decisions she makes in the name of kindness, which is acceptable, but most are just plain bad dumb. For a good portion of the book, her “grand plan” is to run to a man to fix her problems. *clap* BITCH *clap* DO *clap* NOT!
I don’t know, maybe it was just me, but I feel like this was in general just a weaker book than her previous one.
I’m going with 1 star for this one, because I was disappointed in what it could have been.