Revisiting The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

6:30 AM

Last month, Disney Books was kind enough to surprise me on NetGalley by granting my year-long wish for The Belles. Unfortunately, I had already read it mid 2018 at this point. THEN AGAIN, well, fortunately I am in the mood for a reread before diving into The Everlasting Rose.

About The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton: 

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.
 



Then:

My original review was pretty favorable towards The Belles. It had so much good to it--including (but not limited to) Dhonielle Clayton's breathlessly beautiful prose, unique magical system and the general message about beauty standards that lay behind The Belles.

I think the only complaint I had was about the death of one of the stories LGBTQ characters. Which in all honesty is what it is. The Belles delves deeply into unrealistic beauty standards and Clayton did so gracefully and in such a different way, it was impossible to put down.

There were a lot of other things I loved about The Belles during round one. The relationships between each of The Belles/the sisters. It was such an unique, fantastical and complex set of bonds. Something that we cannot truly fathom, given their powers and upbringing. I've never seen anything like it in YA fiction and that was truly beautiful.

While the story centered around Camille, we did get these glances towards the other sisters and how the relationships changed throughout the course of book one. I found it to be just as fascinating--and at times, tragic--as the rest of the worldbuilding/plotlines. I could probably write an entire essay on these sisters and this system and whatnot, but I will save that for another time.

Another thing I remember there being was this sting of passion throughout the story. Passion that was written by Clayton, experienced by the readers. There was something that cut pretty deeply in each of the plotlines and relationships, I remember thinking about The Belles for days afterward. Days and days and days.

Everything about it was richly and fantastical, heartbreaking and thought-provoking, diverse and vividly so. Mostly, there was this livelihood to it that cannot be replicated elsewhere. In the world of The Belles, beauty is power--and in our world, this books beauty is its own power, too.

My final verdict was that it was breathtaking, unique and completely compelling. Fans of The Selection and The Thousandth Floor would love the glitz and glamor, the soul and mystery, all that fantasy, and devour it like I did.

Now: 

Unsurprisingly, one year onward, my feelings towards The Belles have not changed. Dhonielle Clayton's story still feels warm and lively and utterly captivating. The issues I had with it last year are still the same, too, but the rest of the story is just as gorgeous as I remember. And this time around, I felt even more engulfed in the story.

There's something so atmospheric about Dhonielle Clayton's writing. It's striking. It's definitely my brand. Every inch of this story is tangled within something beautiful and truly special. There were some details I forgot with time but the way it all unfolds is vivid and intense and so, so colourful.

Revisiting the story itself, and then hurrying forward with The Everlasting Rose, was such a good idea. I definitely still love this story and its message, plus the unique world it's set within, its laws of magic and beauty, and I think I've grown to appreciate it even more since that first read. I've fallen in love all over again and really, really enjoyed it.

My rating remains the same! Which is, actually, the first for a revisit!

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