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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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“Dreams remind us of who we are and how we feel about things around us.”

This book took me by surprise. I haven’t picked up a fantasy book in a while since I simply haven’t found any that have interested me, but I was excited to pick this book up. The concept of this book was something I haven’t read about, as many fantasy books don’t focus on things like beauty, but instead explore darker topics. Many people anticipated this book’s release, and it definitely doesn’t disappoint.

This is set in a fantasy version of New Orleans, where beauty is something taken seriously. A group of women, known as the Belles, have the power to make the ordinary citizens beautiful. The people born here are gray, and the Belles use their powers to beautify them. The main character, Camellia Beauregard is a Belle, and is competing against her “sisters” to become the queen’s favorite. However, as the story progresses, she finds darker, and hidden secrets within the palace. This forces her to choose between helping the royal or saving her friends.

One of the issues I had with this book was the world building. Though the concept of Belles and their powers are introduced well, our understanding of their powers as a whole isn’t fully complete. At some parts of the story, I was confused why certain things with their powers could be done. Towards the middle of the story, our knowledge of the Belle’s powers are torn. We realize so much more can be done. It was at this part where things started to confuse me a little and I didn’t fully understand what was happening.

Another main issue I had with this book was the potential romance. I didn’t feel that it was developed well, and it was too “instalovey” for me. The emotions that the two characters in the romance share didn’t feel very genuine. I just felt they weren’t right for each other.

The small plot twist with Camellia and Auguste didn’t really take me by surprise. I felt it was too “tropey” and that it wasn’t an original romance plot twist. Many books have this trope, where the love interest ends up being on the villain’s side or being the villain themselves. This trope is present in many YA books, mainly fantasy, dystopian, etc. I had problems with this trope in this book too, and unfortunately, it did make a slight impact on my opinion and rating for this books.

Besides those negative aspects, I really enjoyed this book. The concept of the Belles and having beauty as a power was something I would never think to write or even think about. The way Clayton created the Belles and their powers was very original, and I praise her for doing so. I enjoyed reading about the characters of the Belles, and it definitely shaped the story.

The representation in this book was pretty good too. Though it isn’t exactly the first thing I look for in books, I appreciate when authors put the effort into doing so. In this book, the main character was of darker skin, and I did enjoy how other characters in this world still treated her as equal.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to fantasy lovers. It is gripping, entertaining, but also has great structure. This is definitely one of the 2018 releases you shouldn’t miss. If you haven’t considered picking this book up, I would advise you to think again.

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