by Dhonielle Clayton
* * * Stars (Pretty good)
The Belles are a group of women who have special powers to enhance the appearance of normal people (who typically have grey skin and red eyes). Depending on how powerful a Belle is, she can use her arcana to color skin, hair and eyes, do body shaping, even alter bone structure. Some can even change personality. A new group of Belles make their debut in a public exhibition to decide their respective positions with the most coveted position being the queen’s favorite. Camellia Beauregard knows that she has what it takes to be the best, but when she demonstrates that she can’t follow orders, her sister Amber is chosen as the favorite instead. Camellia is crushed, but later gets her chance as favorite when Amber is disgraced. When she learns the true nature of the people she must serve (particularly Princess Sophia), and uncovers some unsavory fact about the treatment and history of her people, Camellia must make some difficult decisions that will affect her own future.
The concept of magical beauty work was fascinating and raised so many questions – how did these grey-skinned, red-eyed people came to be and what exactly are the arcana and WHY are the Belles are so special? Most of these don’t get answered in this book. Instead, readers are assaulted with scenes of Princess Sophia’s senseless cruelty and the inability of anyone to stop her. The hopelessness and futility of the Belles’ situation was frustrating and aggravating. The cliffhanger ending doesn’t help either – because you’ll likely have to endure more of the same before receiving any satisfaction. This book is highly engaging, but infuriating.
Reviewed by YA Librarian