I gave this book 3.5 stars. Until the end, I would have given it a mediocre 3, but more on why in a minute.
A brief summary from Goodreads:
“Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.
But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.”
This first book is very much the world building book. Camille, a belle, is raised an innocent, sheltered life. She’s a sweet girl that wants to help people learn to love themselves. When she gets old enough to start working though, she gets a rude awakening into reality. There are some not so great things going on in the real world related to the belles.
At first, I was intrigued, but the mysteries stayed mostly vague, and no plot really happened (the end is the exception). There was a lot of description of pretty people and pretty dresses, and after a while it got dull.
I was really getting bored, until it got to the end and the story started happening. At the end, there starts to be a plot. At the end, there starts to be some action. The end is what led me to actually have interest in reading the second one.
I know that a lot of other people liked this book more than I did (and even in interested in the sequel), so I would recommend this book. I think it also makes a difference knowing this is meant for world building, not plot. I will be reading the second one.