In the Kingdom of Orleans, it will be the coveted fate of one Belle to serve as a vessel for Beauty to the Royal Family and the citizens. After all, Belles are the daughters of the Goddess of Beauty created by necessity to counteract the grey fate of the island’s inhabitants. Camellia and her sisters will compete in the yearly Beaute Carnaval to display their arcana, transforming a local gris child into a stunning beauty. Not a rule follower, Camellia wins the position of Belle of Chrysanthemum Teahouse and it will be her style that will govern the aesthetics of the people. Camellia knows that her arcana may be her value but is unaware of its true power and others intentions for its use.
“You are the kingdoms most important treasure.”
The first eight chapters set the stage for the fantasyland. The world building is creative, brilliant and colorful as gemstones. Set in an archipelago, you are transported to an opulent island experience. Details of this world include a history, legends, and events, and even a currency and an air postal service. The daily details of the divine Belles are elaborate. The etiquette, the transformations, and the expectations are governed by the strict rules. Belles are not even to speak to boys and fear is imparted to keep the ladies from marrying. They are not to look at media or talk to others to reduce the influences of the outside world. This is all to protect their arcana.
“It is tradition, and we are nothing without our beloved customs.”
The characters development of the supporting cast is equally as well rounded as the main characters. The Belle sisters are emotional and connected with a past and present. As we progress through the story we see Camellia journey through a powerful emotional development. The local inhabitant of the Islands of Orleans is colorless condemned by the God of Sky to boast gray skin tones, straw-like hair, and red fiery eyes. Those eyes convey the pulse of the town. And August’s Fabry, the son of the Minister of the Sea is a love interest and brings some fire into the story. But it will be Remy that steals everyone’s heart.
“My heart flutters like one of the nearby lantern candles.”
As Lady Camellia becomes a Belle for the Royal Family, the storyline begins. She undergoes a conundrum. Camellia must choose between sacrifice and self-preservation. And she is unsure who to trust. The story has many twists of deceit keeping the reader engaged. I found myself rallying behind the beautiful Belles as they struggle to ensure their place in the world.
The Belles is a story that becomes more intriguing as you read it. The writing is like poetry which conveys a rich narrative full of texture. You can smell the air, taste the amuse bouche while being wrapped in garlands and luxurious textiles. We are treated to a royal experience. But there may be a meaning behind all of the transformations. Color is treated as desirable as beauty is cast in all the shades expect Grey.
My only complaint is that the poetic nature of the writing can be at times loquacious. In addition, other readers have shed light on controversies of the story, but I found this story to be neutral. Overall I would recommend that you indulge yourself in this read.
Thank you, NetGalley, Freeform books, and Dhionelle Clayton for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.