The Belles (The Belles #1) By Dhonielle Clayton

Title: The Belles (The Belles #1)

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Format: Audiobook

Narrated By: Rosie Jones

Published: February 8th, 2018

Publisher: Orion Publishing Group Ltd

Story: ★★★★★

Narration: ★★★★★

The Belles is the first book in The Belles series by Author Dhonielle Clayton this review is for the audiobook. Narrated by Rosie Jones. I listened to the audiobook in Aug after having read the book back in June. This review will be broken up in two parts The narration and the actual story itself.

The Narration.

I’ve always said audiobooks weren’t for me. I thought I needed to physically read the book to paint an image in my head of the story. While taking a road trip to from Virginia back to NY, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to try out an audiobook. I’m glad I did Rosie Jones is a magnificent audiobook narrator, her talent has completely blown me away. Initially, I was skeptical about the audiobook, the first thing I thought when the Narrators voice came on was…she doesn’t sound black. I mean Camellia’s character is African American. The voice blasting through my speakers as I sped Down I95 sounded like a British white woman (at the time I didn’t know who Rosie Jones was). And I thought I’m not sure about this. Why? Well, it wasn’t because of any racist or prejudice notions but simply because I had already read the book and the voice I was hearing didn’t coincide with what my imagination had created. Simply put it isn’t what Camellia sounded like to me.

I decided to listen further and reserve judgment for a few more chapters. Rosie Jones completely floored me every time a new character took the stage. I began to realize how foolish my initial thoughts were, the narrator is more talented than I could ever have imagined. I was amazed by her ability to remain consistent from character to character. From Madame Dubarry to Princess Sophia, Augustus, The Beauty Minister, there are too many characters to name; but I Immediately recognized each character by voice. Immediately knowing which character was speaking and I was honestly in awe wondering how she does it.

Despite my initial trepidation, Rosie Jones will be forever ingrained in my mind as Camellia’s voice.  Her expertise in capturing Camellia’s tone and personality was immaculate, because of her talent I’m guaranteed to be listening to more audiobooks in the future.

The Story.

The Belles is a unique book with an original premise. Belles are the cherished saviors of Orléans ordained by the Goddess of beauty to save the citizens or Orlèans from being driven mad by their own ugliness. The Belle’s is told through a combination of the first person POV of our main character Camellia Beauregard and Character dialogue. The story begins on the 16th birthday of the current batch of the Belles. They are to be debuted, in a showcase of their talents to all of Orléans. Each Belle, hoping to be chosen as the “Favorite” Belle, the right hand to the Queen.

Almost all the Belles want to be the favorite more than anything. None more so than Camellia. All her hopes and dreams depend upon it. But being the favorite is not all that it seems. Being a Belle isn’t all that it seems. Camellia’s ignorance and Naivety get her deeper and deeper into trouble.

Sophia is a cruel girl, with severe body dysmorphia. As a princess of Orléans Sophia has much power, using it solely to achieve her goal of being the most beautiful. She is obsessed and will do anything to achieve it.

The Queen wants nothing more than for her beloved princess Charlotte to awaken and she’s willing to use any resource at her disposal to make it happen no matter the consequences. The fate of Orléans is at stake. Charlotte is both the rightful heir and the Queen Orléans needs.

The Belles is a book about many things I can only hope that I catch them all and interpret them accurately but I’m going to try my hand. On the surface, the Belles is about Camellia using her gifts as a Belle to save Orléans. But if you read between the lines into the deeper meaning behind the words, the things alluded to by the writer will test the boundaries of some people’s comfort levels.

The people or Orléans is composed of two races, the Belles and the Gris. The Gris, born grey skinned plain pallets with blood red eyes are doomed to be driven to madness by their ugliness, if not for the intervention of a Belle.

The Belles are the “minority” race only a few exist; they are the only citizens of Orléans ones born with skin tone and color, the only ones born beautiful. Belles are kept ignorant about what they are, how they are created, and what their powers can do. It is ingrained in the Belles that this or that is their duty. Duties in which they were created for by the Goddess of beauty herself.

I found there to be a parallel between the Favored Belles and “house negroes” and the Secondary Belles and “Field Negroes.” The Secondary Belles are outright slaves they know they are slaves they are chained and forced to work until they are used up. The Favored Belles live in gilded cages ignorant of their servitude. Their captors, like the slave masters, use their god the Goddess of Beauty to justify their slavery. Jealousy and rivalry among the Belles is encouraged to create a rift,  misdirecting their attention from what’s important. The Belles don’t truly know anything of their true origins. Chains of ignorance keep them locked in servitude for generations. I wonder if this sounds familiar to anyone.

The Belles is also about how people can be slaves to superficial attributes. I’ve watched many videos on youtube where women TRANSFORM themselves into unrecognizable beauties. Transformations so complete I would never believe they were the same person in a side by side comparison. Our society is so focused on outer beauty forgetting that sometimes it just covers up the ugliness and the madness festering inside.

The world of Orléans is unique. Its only right that a book about the extravagance of beauty takes place in an alternate New Orleans. I love how Dhonielle Clayton merged ancient, futuristic, and fantastical science and technology, how the carriages contrast with things like gossip post balloons. I especially loved the teacup animals. I hated that it ended so soon.

The Everlasting Rose (The Belles, #2) is scheduled for release March 5th, 2019 and is available for pre-order on Amazon. And I highly anticipate its release.

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