The Belles and The Everlasting Rose are the first two books in Clayton’s The Belles series. I had read The Belles last year during my hiatus but never reviewed it. There is an untitled third book in the works according to Goodreads too. As it is, these two were originally written as a duology but I’d love to read more stories set in this incredible world. The story itself is great but the world building is the best part of this series.
In a world where people are born gray, the ability of the Belles to make everyone colorful and beautiful makes them highly coveted people to have around. Camellia Beauregard is our protagonist and she is smart and a little rebellious. She wants to be the favorite of the Queen but it seems only by being the best.
The story itself opens with the selection of the Queen’s favorite and this is going to remain a spoiler-free review, so I’ll just say that there are several compelling choices and a lot more going on in the kingdom than people simply desiring beauty. Beauty is power and so the ability to create it should be even more power, right?
Not exactly when you add in the power that royalty wields along with the ability to manipulate those around you. The Belles grow up sheltered in a group home where they aren’t even told how they come into the world, let alone the real politics of the world they to live in and influence. When power and politics begin to collide, Camellia has to use her wits and rebellious nature to find her own path and to protect her sisters from the menacing world she’s discovering.
Together, the duology paints a beautiful world with all kinds of marvels underpinned with an epic power struggle. None of the characters are who they seem at first, which only makes the story more fun as Camellia figures out who she can trust and for how long that trust can last. There’s so much intrigue and backstabbing from so many sides it’s hard to keep up sometimes, which only makes the series more fun. I love being wrong about where a story is going.
I was never a fan of fantasy, but it’s books like these that are turning me. It’s so much more than books about dragons and elves. I love worlds that are so drastically different and yet the story still does what good literature is supposed to do. Underneath how different the world of Orleans is and the overt emphasis on beauty, there are truths about the world we live in too, dark truths about the things we do to our bodies and the ways we use them to express who we are and who we think we should be. This world is quite different but keep the same harmful beauty standard which says a lot about how we see beauty and bodies and the way they intertwine with worth.
These two books stand well as a duology together, but I look forward to the third book. Clayton is a brilliant world builder and an amazing story teller. I look forward to a lot more books from her.