I’ve got to hand it to THE BELLES: there is nothing I like more than pretty pink flowery books with darkness and stabbing and political intrigue going on inside, amid descriptions of lavish desserts and colorful makeup.
I like juxtaposition, okay? It’s weird and interesting and has a nice aesthetic.
To say I was excited for this one would be an understatement. I’ve been wanting to read this one for so long that I nearly screamed when it showed up on my doorstep. I hope that illustrates just how excited I was, and how hopeful I started reading.
Now, did it meet my expectations? I honestly don’t know how to answer that. Because what I expected to receive going into this was completely different than i actually did. Is that a bad thing? Nope. I’m not sure is good, though, either.
Let it be known that I am swinging wildly between a 3 Star and 4 star rating right now. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but I’ll give it a shot.
I think I’m going to split this review into the goods and bads, for organizational purposes. Yeah, we’ll do that. Lists for the win.
L I K E S
•THE BELLES has a magnetic, addictive quality to it, the sense of nearby danger lurking at every turn, an evil plot unfolding in the background, and because of this, I found it is frankly impossible to put down.
Now. Many take the above statement as a compliment, but it isn’t always. A book doesn’t need to be addictive to be enjoyable. Cliffhanger-ending chapters are, for example, more annoying than anything. And while THE BELLES did not have chapters ending in cliffhangers, per se, it did have the sense that Dhonielle Clayton was holding something from the reader – and if you’d only continue, you’d find out.
•The political intrigue was delightfully tense and mysterious and gripping. I love stories set at court. I love the whole look-behind-your-back-and-trust-no-one atmosphere. I love it. And this book had plenty. It reminded me a bit of my beloved THE WINNER’S CRIME by Marie Rutkoski (who blurbed this book! And this was tooootally not the reason I was excited to read this one. Tooootally not.)
•The world-building is thoroughly constructed and integrated, and the author surely isn’t shy with the descriptions. The streets. The palace. The newspapers, the celebrities, the customs. OH. And I love it when books describe food. I LOVE IT. Describe aaaaall the desserts, please. I’m totally here for this.
•Camilla is a fabulous lead. She’s a Belle, she’s professionally trained, she’s highly ambitious, and she’s competitive as hell. AND I LOVE HER FOR IT. I particularly loved her relationship with her sisters, and the exploration of the idea that no matter how much you love your friends, you’re lot going to be happy to watch them get something you wanted. Good sportsmanship is a legend. Fight for what you want. And guys? There are those who like to pretend otherwise, but you can’t compete cordially with friends, same as you can’t do business with friends. Winner take all, every man for himself, and all that. And Camilla got that. So did Amber. And this was highly realistic, and relatable, and conveyed so effortlessly. I’m impressed.
D I S L I K E S
•The writing, at times, sank dangerously close to purple prose territory at times. Look, I get it (Kind of). The author likes to describe. She does. I see that. I even LIKE that … when it’s controlled. What I don’t like is an out-of-control, full-fledged description-fest. I did not sign up for that. I’m pretty sure many didn’t either. And I kid you not: whenever Camille entered a new room, the descriptions get cranked up again to get another all-time high, and I’m forced to sit through detailed descriptions of the wallpaper and the floorboards/carpets/grass/whatever and the courtiers. It’s tiring. My eyes glazed over several times, and I found myself, frankly, bored.
•The plot is too slow. Beauty appointment. Descriptions. More beauty appointments. More descriptions. Rinse and repeat. All the action that does take place is crammed into the first few chapters and the last few chapters. The rest is a bunch of descriptive flowery meh.
•I predicted a huge twist. I don’t know if it was that obvious or if I just read too much fantasy with political intrigue, but yeah. The surprise wasn’t surprising. At least, not to me. #SorryNotSorry
But all in all? A fun, dark, gripping read. Flowers and daggers and politics intrigue make a good story, folks. And o am totally here for that.
Thank you, Freeform, for the early finished copy!