by Clayton, Dhonielle

"In a world where Beauty is a commodity only a few control, one Belle will learn the dark secrets behind her powers, and rise up to change the world"-

Dhonielle Clayton is the coauthor of the Tiny Pretty Things series. She grew up in the Washington, DC, suburbs on the Maryland side and spent most of her time under her grandmother's table with a stack of books. A former teacher and middle school librarian, Dhonielle is cofounder of CAKE Literary, a creative development company whipping up decidedly diverse books for a wide array of readers, and COO of the non-profit, We Need Diverse Books. She's got a serious travel bug and loves spending time outside of the USA but makes her home in New York City, where she can most likely be found hunting for the best slice of pizza. You can also find her online at or follow her @brownbookworm.

*Starred Review* Clayton's latest imagines a world in which the drive for perfection is also the greatest ruin. In Camellia's archipelago world of Orléans, a Promethean legend has it that the God of the Sky fell in love with the Goddess of Beauty but soon grew jealous of the attention she gave to their children, the first humans. In punishment, he cursed them with ugliness: "Skin the color of a sunless sky, eyes the shade of blood, hair the texture of rotten straw, and a deep sadness that quickly turned to madness." In retaliation, the legend goes, Beauty made the Belles. Now, beauty is the ultimate commodity. Camellia is one such Belle, a beautiful girl who is blessed, like her sisters, to transform the gray and ugly bodies of the citizens of Orléans into something beautiful-for a time. Camellia and her five sisters have just turned 16 and are about to take their places in society, where they will, for an exorbitant fee, work their magic upon the citizens of Orléans when the people's beauty starts to fade. For one Belle, that place will be in the imperial palace alongside the royal family. Like all her sisters, Camellia wants desperately to be chosen as the favorite, and though her talents are strong, her reluctance to follow directions may keep her from the ultimate prize. Despite the magic in Camellia's blood, beauty in Orléans is also pain. The expensive treatments Camellia performs can be torturous for the customer, but they drain Camellia of her own energy, which can only be replenished by having her blood treated with leeches. But above all other things, beauty here is deception. It's not long before Camellia realizes that the life she has been trained for and the world she has been prepared to enter are nothing more than mirages. The royal family is facing terrible challenges: a crown princess who has been in a mysterious sleep for years and a second daughter whose ascension to the throne could be disastrous. Camellia and her sisters have been kept in the dark most of their lives about their powers and strengths, and when Camellia is asked to use her Belle magic in ways it's not intended, she finds herself caught up in a political plot and faced with impossible choices. In many ways continuing a conversation that began in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, Clayton examines the price of beauty in a society that reveres it. Unlike in Westerfeld's series, race isn't edited out of Clayton's universe, and she's altogether wily about describing beauty, especially when it comes to skin tone-skin is "the color of toasted walnuts," "the rich color of honey bread," "a sugared beignet fresh from the oil." It's a clever indictment of the way women of color in particular are often portrayed in literature today, in a way that fetishizes and commodifies them. And Camellia, despite her status and her abilities, is often subjected to both. Clayton impressively offers up a series starter that, despite its broad commercial appeal, doesn't shy away from facing uncomfortable truths in our own society. The dual natures of ugliness and shame, the commodification of beauty and of women, the drive for perfection at any cost, the widening of one girl's moral landscape-all of it comes into play here. But even as it does, the action never slows, and the rich, rotting world never wavers. Readers may be almost grateful for that cliff-hanger ending-it means there's more to come. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

In Tiny Pretty Things co-author Clayton's solo debut, beauty comes at a price.On their joint 16th birthday, Camellia and her five sisters are sent out to restore beauty to Orléans, where everybody is born gray and ugly. They've been training for this their whole lives. As Belles, the sisters can use their magic to transform the citizens of Orléans from their original states. For the right price, Belles can grant any desired look. When Camellia secures the coveted spot of Her Majesty's favorite, it seems as if her dreams have come true. As the most powerful, sought-out Belle, she is in charge of the royal family's looks. However, the princess is insatiable in her quest for beauty and will do anything to get it—even if it means endangering the Belles and the kingdom—and Camellia may be the only one who can stop her. Not only that, but Camellia finds herself slowly uncovering the secrets of the Belles' origin, and it's not as pretty as she was taught. With wonderfully descriptive language, Clayton builds a grand and lavish world, carefully chipping away at the veneer to reveal its dark, sinister interior. In a world where anyone can change their skin color as often as they can change their hair color, race is fluid. Camellia is brown, and her sisters are various shades of brown and pale. With a refreshingly original concept, this substantial fantasy, the first in a duology, is an undeniable page-turner. (Fantasy. 14-adult) Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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