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.
Published February 8th 2018 by Orion Publishing Group Ltd
Four and a half stars: A world of beauty that hides the ugliness under the layers. Lavish world building, fascinating characters and dark secrets. A page turner!
In Orléans, beauty and opulence go hand in hand. Beauty is indeed skin deep as all the people are born gray and ugly. The only way they can look beautiful is to be transformed by the Belles. The Belles are a group of girls born with the magic of arcana in their blood, allowing them to work miracles. A Belle can completely transform a person’s appearance with her magic, but unfortunately, the changes aren’t permanent. Within a month or so, the changes fade, and the person returns to gray, unless they seek out another treatment. Beauty is revered above all, and the Belles are coveted. The Queen seeks out a Belle from every generation to be the favorite. Once Camellia receives the coveted crown, she begins to learn the dark secrets underneath the beauty. Camellia is forced to make a tough choice, will she risk her own life to save someone who can possibly rescue the kingdom?
What I Liked:
- Whoa! This was one heck of a read. I am not sure how I missed this, but so glad I took a chance after reading some reviews. This is riveting. I loved the lavish world building, the outstanding writing, the concepts, the magic, the villains and the dark secrets beneath the facade. A page turner for sure! Don’t miss this one.
- The world building was outstanding. I was immediately drawn into this lush, opulent world where beauty equates to wealth. The author does a tremendous job with her world building. I loved the details, and the way she captured the senses with her rich descriptions. Excellent!
- The whole concept of the Belles was fascinating. The Belles are born with arcana, magic in their blood, that allows them to transform people. The gift comes at a price, and a Belle has to always be careful not to overextend the arcana. As the story progresses, there are some dark secrets revealed about the Belles regarding their origins, their fates and their futures. Loved it.
- The villain is outstanding. She sneaks up on you. Cruel, cunning and vicious to the core. Talk about manipulative. She gets what she wants at all costs. As her evil seeped out through every chapter, I shuddered, until it was to the point where I was nervous whenever she was on scene. A villain you love to hate!
- The plot thickens and the mystery grows with each and every page. There is so much more to this than beauty hiding the ugly. I loved uncovering the treachery, and the twists were outstanding. Lots of surprises in this one. It was hard to put down.
- I loved that there was not a romance in this one. So refreshing!
- The ending was a bit of a cliffhanger, but it wasn’t terrible. I was so caught up in the story, and then I was relieved when it ended in a good spot. I can’t wait for more.
- I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Rosie Jones. This was my first audiobook with Ms. Jones, and it won’t be my last. She was phenomenal. I loved her voices. Her characterization was spot on!
And The Not So Much:
- I was bothered by the fact that no one did anything to stop the villain. Why?
- Edel was one of my favorite characters because she never followed the rules. I wish that she had a larger part, hopefully next time out.
- A few things were completely obvious to me, such as what was wrong with Princess Charlotte, and I am certain about the Queen’s illness even though it wasn’t revealed. Why didn’t any of the characters clue in? What was up with the King?
- I was bothered that it wasn’t explained how the common folk acquired beauty tokens. Were they part of wages or were they something bought? I also didn’t understand how those who couldn’t afford treatments lived?
The Belles was a fantastic read. I loved the exceptional world building. The creative story. The writing, the characters, the magic and the ugliness beneath the beauty. Plus this one features an unforgettable villain. If you want a book that will suck you in, look no further. This was a book I couldn’t put down. I can’t wait for book two!
I borrowed a copy of this book from the library. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for this review.