by Dhonielle Clayton
Published by: Disney-Hyperion
Form: Audiobook and Purchased Hardback
Big Themes: Beauty, Power, Sisterhood
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
This book is luscious. I was immediately drawn into the world of Orléans because the author’s use of sensory detail is unbelievable. Color, taste, touch, and smell fill the pages of the book. The writing is full of similes that are as lush as the world they describe.
In terms of genre, I categorize this book as fantasy dystopian. Initially, you’ll be pulled in by the enchanting beauty being described, but as the plot progresses the beauty warps into a twisted and sickening thing.
Camellia is a likable heroine. She treasures her family/sisters while also having strong personal ambitions. She has a strong sense of morality, and yet, when she falters, you understand why.
Two of my favorite aspects of this world were the post-balloons and teacup animals. I loved the idea of balloons carrying messages. To arrive home and see balloons bobbing with notes is something I want in the real world! And the teacup-size pets are just too cute! I want one!
There are two rather disturbing parts of the book: an assault and a torture scene. The torture scene was definitely hard to get through.
Ultimately, this book has so many deeper levels to consider. From it’s analysis of beauty–it’s power and how it can be weaponized. To a deeper subtext examining servant and master. “No one is a prisoner. Even you have the power to make your own choices.”
Overall: If you enjoyed Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series or the 2006 film Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst, you will love this! This was one of my favorite reads so far this year. I would gladly re-read this book before the sequel comes out. Five stars!