Review: The Belles | Dhonielle Clayton


THE BELLES | Dhonielle Clayton


Series: The Belles (Book 1)

Hardcover: 448 pages

Publisher: Freeform

Publication Date: February 6, 2018


Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision. 

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.”

Revamped Review-2

“Be the best without trying to be better than the others.”

The Belles and I didn’t get along too well. I was really hoping to like this one, but I just couldn’t find much joy in reading this book. It took me nearly three weeks to push through and finish it. Of course, it wasn’t all bad. There were some things that worked for me and were done very well; however, I’d have to say the majority of The Belles could have used a bit more work.

The book wasn’t at all badly written. Clayton is a very skilled writer and she knows how to use vivid description to paint a colorful world lush with luxurious textures, pleasing fragrances and tastes, and silvery sounds. The book is abundant with detail, but this is also somewhat of a weakness. The book is almost overwhelming with how much detail goes into the surrounding environment.

“You can never be clean enough, pretty enough, or smart enough.”

The world-building doesn’t feel completely accomplished as the majority of it is composed of decadent sights and wardrobes, character appearances, lavish foods and events, all of which start to feel like fluff rather than actual necessary detail. The lore behind New Orléans and its inhabitants as well as the concept of the Arcana (the magic system) and the Belles get lost underneath all the sensory information. Clayton’s imaginative concepts of the Arcana magic, the Belles, and persons who are born colorless, as well as the underlying subplot of subterfuge going on throughout the land don’t reach their full potential and aren’t fully explained as a result.

In regards to the characters, I have to say that I had a very hard time connecting to any of them, even the main character. Camellia isn’t a terrible MC but she’s not fantastic. She has a few great qualities, some of which include her rebellious nature and passion about her beauty work as well as her celebration of individualistic qualities in a person. She notices the tiny “flaws” in others and chooses to find the beauty in it and fights to find ways to enhance these small differences to avoid changing a person completely. Also, her sisterly bond with her fellow Belles is admirable.

Unfortunately, her strengths are often buried by her frequent ignorance (stupidity, really) and her one track mind to be the best and to be the favorite despite wild circumstances and being surrounded by unsavory characters. Her ambitions get really old really fast to the point where her character development reaches a limit. She becomes dull and very hard to care for by the end.

“’Don’t be fools. You can’t have both. Who wants love when one can be powerful?’”

I certainly didn’t like any of the other characters. They were either too familiar as archetypes or were just very badly developed and flat. The villain was overly villainous and without abstract motive, and their cruel actions were repetitive and far too frequent. I got tired of seeing them appear so often because their behavior became predictable and none too surprising after a while.

The love interest didn’t work for me at all. He was supposed to be this endearingly charming and odd fellow who was also somewhat of an ass, but he was just an ass to me. And his banter with Camellia felt wooden and rehearsed. Whenever they talked, I cringed, and it was painful watching Camellia fall in love with him.

Lastly, the book is really slow and boring. There are some interesting things happening here and there but not often enough to maintain my attention all the way through. The plot develops at a snail’s pace and by the end, there isn’t much that has happened since the beginning.

“’No one is a prisoner. Even you have the power to make your own choices.’”

The Belles had so much potential but most of it wasn’t fully exploited. I did enjoy the juxtaposition of the beautiful and the grotesque, the vivid details, the concepts behind the story, and the themes concerning beauty and societal standards, but everything else fell short for me. The magic system left too much room for questions, the world-building was limited, the characters weren’t all that likable, the pacing was painfully slow, the villain was too mustache-curling evil for no discernible reason, and strangely enough, there was too much showing and not enough telling.

My Rating: 

3 stars (new)

10 thoughts on “Review: The Belles | Dhonielle Clayton

  1. I agree with basically everything you said! I think the only thing that I liked that you didn’t was the descriptions. Are you going to read the sequel? Great review! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The detail was very well written and wonderfully vivid, just a bit overused for me. I could use a bit less sensory information and more character and plot development in the second one should I choose to read it. Right now I’m not sure I will, but when it releases next year, I might give it a go! I’m not completely turned off by it just yet 😀 Will you be reading the sequel??
      Thank you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review for this book Azia, though it’s a shame The Belles wasn’t a read you enjoyed more. I think the fact that it took you three weeks to read this and you still managed to finish it is an accomplishment for sure though. 🙂
    I think it’s interesting what you said about the world building, how a lot of the background and the information needed was lost amongst the sensory description because sometimes there can be such a thing as too much detail.
    So far all I’ve seen are positive reviews, and I have The Belles on my TBR list still, but it’s interesting to see a more mixed review. Do you plan to continue with the series? If so hopefully the next book will be better, you did say there was a lot of potential here.
    Again great review! 🙂 ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Beth! 😀 Lol, I was committed to finishing this book just so I could review it.

      Yeah, there was quite a bit of imagery/sensory information that was both a form of showing and telling, but too much of it got in the way of actual plot development and effective world-building. I could see what she was getting at but some really important aspects felt like they were missing to make the world she was painting feel complete.
      I’m not sure if I’ll be reading the next book. Although, I might end up reading it one day, but I won’t be dying to read it immediately once it’s released. If I do read it, though, I really hope to click with the story more.
      I’m really curious to see your thoughts on this one! I hope you enjoy it much more than I did ❤
      Thanks again 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right, and yeah I enjoy the imagery/sensory part of world building but I need information as well. I dunno I guess I need to read this myself and see what I think about it. 🙂
        I guess maybe keep it on your TBR list but not near the top or anything right?
        Thanks Azia, and that’s all right. 😀 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a really interesting look on The Belles! I read it myself and I quite enjoy it, but thinking back I can see that Camellia’s character does fall a bit flat at times. I do agree about the love interest though! I really didn’t like him! Great review! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There were some really interesting things going on in the book, but not all the time for me. Camellia’s characters could have definitely used a bit more development imo, but at least she had some really great qualities to kind of save her from being a total fail. And wasn’t Augustus the worst?? Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, all the signs pointed to it being very promising, but it just wasn’t executed well imo. Hopefully the second book is better, but I’m still on the fence about continuing on with the series

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.