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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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One minute here is richer than a thousand moments there

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Olivia Tierney
Reviewed by Olivia Tierney
Summary: An irresistible debut novel, The Belles excels in character development, plot manoeuvres, and to-die-for world-building. Clayton's novel blows you away straight from the very first line and I can guarantee you will savour each and every chapter like I did! Quite possibly the best book of 2018 and definitely a new fantasy favourite.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: February 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473223967

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In the resplendent world of Orléans, beauty runs through the blood of a select few: the Belles. Only they have the power to transform the appearance of a population cursed with grey skin and red eyes, who covet beauty above all else. Camellia Beauregard is a new generation, Belle, ready to fulfil her duty and help the people to love themselves. Like her sisters, she's in the running to be the favourite – the most accomplished Belle in the land, personally chosen by the royal family to live in the palace and tend to members of court, with the power to make a difference. It's what she's been wanting and training for her whole life… but so too have her sisters. And only the best will be selected.

But as the new generation Belles arrive at court, they begin to realise that perhaps being the favourite is not everything they've dreamed about. Inside the palace, hidden beneath its grand beauty are dark and dangerous secrets that will bring into question the extent of a Belle's duty and Camellia, in particular, will discover more about herself and her powers than she ever imagined. As the dangers of Court intensify, Camellia and her sisters will begin to doubt everything they've been told and question who they can trust. And before long, Camellia will carry the weight of Orléans future and its people on her shoulders and she must decide whether to risk her own life in order to change her world forever.

I cannot overstate how much I loved reading this book; it is so effortlessly beautiful and captivating throughout. There's intrigue and beauty around every corner as well as growing dark undercurrents that will make you shiver. As soon as I'd finished, I couldn't help but dive back in and read it again from start to finish (it really was that good of a book!).

First things first, the premise of Clayton's novel stood out to me as soon as I read the synopsis, such a different, intriguing concept fascinated me. And the novel, especially the world-building, did not disappoint; it was intricately detailed with a rich history and great depth. I loved it – the history and information about the Belles magic and traditions were masterfully introduced gradually as the novel progressed. This really helps the reader become immersed in the plot and connect with the characters without being overwhelmed. Too many times, I find fantasy worlds need more history and description but not The Belles. The balance between world-building, character development and plot twirls was perfect.

Another really great element of the book was the protagonist, Camellia; she's a perfectionist, she's driven, she's incredibly likeable but she's not without her faults. Her narration was refreshing and as she comes to realise the hidden sinister world at court, she has to make complicated decisions with devastating consequences. She grew with every chapter and it was interesting to see just how much she'd changed and matured by the end of the story. The side characters were also fantastic, there was so much variety in personalities and the constant memories of her sisters and their quirks gave the novel heart and soul.

Furthermore, the plot was well structured and just at the right pace – there was enough time to connect and get to know the characters without ever feeling like the story dragged and lost momentum. There was surprise after surprise, mysteries after mysteries that were gradually unravelled, with political intrigue woven intelligently into the plot. I honestly didn't know where the story was going next and was entirely swept up (and emotionally involved) in the drama that unfolded.

Lastly, perhaps the greatest part of The Belles was the writing. It was extraordinary. Beautiful descriptions, humorous and quick dialogue and great structuring filled each and every page and I really didn't want the book to end. From start to finish, I was mesmerised by their world and this can only be accredited to Clayton's superb writing.

Many thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review!

A fascinating world twisted with the desire to be beautiful, The Belles is a triumph with characters readers can't help but adore, a fast-moving plot with twists and turns to keep readers on their toes, and beautiful writing that will leave readers desperate for more. Very highly recommended – THE book to read this year, it ticks every box. And as it ends on a cliff-hanger which connected some loose ends brilliantly, there's definitely more excitement in store…

You might also enjoy Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian.

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Buy The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton at


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