The Belles: 03/17/18
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton is the start of a new fantasy YA series. In the Kingdom of Orleans beauty is everything. Beauty is life. Beauty is law.
Controlling, defining, and shaping the trends of beauty falls in the hands of the belles — young women trained from birth from bloodlines of belles, and blessed by the Goddess. Now Camellia Beauregard and her flower named sisters are about to find out just how demanding their fated profession is.
Orleans is a series of islands separated from the rest of the world by ocean. Where Orleans sits in time and place is never fully stated but from there are clues in the world building and the language to imagine it as a flooded and reborn New Orleans — perhaps a post apocalyptic one, or an alternate universe one.
It's in the world building that The Belles comes alive. Camellia's day to day routine first in the the salon and then in the palace allows time to fill in the details through repetition and variation. It's a different but consistent world.
But throughout the story of Camellia being proud of her work and striving to surpass herself and her sisters there's an underlying feeling of wrongness. It's not just the artifice of beauty. There is more. There's a mystery surrounding the crown princess's health. There are strange screams at night. There are inconsistencies in what the Belles remember and what other's tell them about their past. There is a systematic rewriting or obfuscating of history.
As this is the first book, it does end of a cliffhanger. I'm definitely hooked. I'm eager to see what happens next.