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440 pages, Hardcover
First published February 6, 2018
"Don't you want to be beautiful?"
"You are to act as if you're an artist floating through this world. Your sole purpose is to beautify, and transform the Gris. You are a Belle."
What you should know, and what you might need to decide if this book falls in your “interesting shelf” is this: this is a YA fantasy in which people are born with a gray skin, rotten hair, just ugly. So we have Les Belles who have magic that can change the person’s appearance and beautify them. Whatever you need, colored hair, slimmer waist, fuller breast, they even can change people’s emotions as in make them more patient, charmer, etc. Les Belles, who were born with color, train all their life to perform in front of the country and try to impress the queen to get chosen the “favorite”. Our MC, Camellia, is a Belle who wants more than anything to be the favorite. So she has to compete against her sisters. I don’t like to tell the outcome of such competitions even if they happen at the start. You might think the MC will, of course, end up the best but it’s not always the case (let’s face it) and it’s fun to experience the tension and root for our hero/heroine.
Anyway, we also have a very wicked princess and her sister who has been coma for years, add some secrets, a charming boy to the mix, and an awesome so cute adorable guard. The summary reveals way more (like the outcome of the competition, something that might appear of little importance at the start, etc).
The whole setting is very interesting. In this society, where people (of course, with money) can change their looks whenever they want, beauty becomes something essential. Something obsessional. People are ready to experience so much pain just to look pretty. If you could change your looks all the time, would you do it just to look more good looking? I liked the topic Dhonielle Clayton handled and the way she did it. The world she created was unique and she did a good job in showing us what these beauty addictions might lead, how they can affect someone’s personality, for the worse.
Camellia was an interesting character and I liked reading from her pov. The few moments she had with her sisters were very enjoyable. What I liked the most about them is that they were all likable and no meanie one (which is very common). Sure, they all wanted to be the favorite but it didn’t affect their feelings toward each other
I disliked August from the start, he just didn’t appeal to me. Instead, I loved Remy (the guard) and ship with Camellia. It is true that he didn’t show much interest in our heroine, but hey, when that did ever stop us from pairing characters.
The end of the book was partially predictable, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating (in a good way, like I WANT THE SEQUEL NOW). It doesn’t end with a cliffhanger exactly but rather a closure to the first arc.
The story was fun and a pageturner. It kept me interested from the start till the end. Yes, it was slow at first and things didn’t get very intense until the last third of the book but I found the first part necessary. To be honest, it felt a bit boring at a time and I could do with fewer descriptions (yes this book about beauty I know but still), still, that didn’t last for long.
The things I didn’t like weren’t that many but they are still there. Les Belles magic abilities weren’t explained enough. Too many mysteries around them and their origin. Camellia didn’t bother to find out more about them even though she wondered why their numbers are decreasing. When it was apparent that her teacher was hiding things from them, little she did to investigate. I would’ve fathered that these beauty appointments to be summed up and instead, she explores a few question marks about her past.
It’s not clear technology’s level in this world, we had screens and that might make you wonder if there’s some technology. Yet, little was explained about that. Too many parts of the world were unexplored. I wish it had more of backbone. It didn’t feel constructed well besides the present and only events that relate to the plot. Yes, it becomes useless information when they become too much but they are so few. Furthermore, I felt the literal translation to French a bit uncreative. Sophie’s monkey, for example, is called “singe” the French translation of monkey.
Briefly, this book is highly entertaining if you’re looking for a good YA fantasy. Nothing memorable but it’ll leave you wanting more. The author created an interesting world inspired from reality nowadays, where beauty is an unhealthy obsession. Looking forward to reading the sequel!