By Dhonielle Clayton
Freeform Books, 2018. 434 pages. Young Adult.
The Belles are women born with a magical power to change the way people look, to make them physically beautiful, which is revered above all else in the world of Orleans. While any imaginable transformation is possible, Belles are brought up to follow strict rules, and laws are in place to prevent certain dramatic or unsafe trends or transformations. There are those who push these boundaries and desire to use the Belles’ power for their own personal gain at the expense of others. When one of those people is royalty, can a Belle continue to do her duty to beautify as commanded, when what is asked of her conflicts with own moral compass, the law, and may bring a great evil into power?
While there is no shortage of YA books that question societal beauty norms and the dangers that can come from a fixation on appearance, this one adds to that narrative in ways that didn’t feel played out or repetitive. There were plenty of twists and turns that helped the story feel fresh and characters with questionable motives who kept me, and the Belles, wondering who they could trust. This is the first book in a series and I am looking forward to revisiting the world of Orleans to find out what happens next when the second book is released later this year.