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book review

Imagine a decadent fantasy world that is equal parts Sephora, Palace of Versailles and a futuristic plastic surgeon's office all packaged inside a champagne-flavoured macaron. This is the world of Dhonielle Clayton's The Belles, where beauty and charm form the foundation of society.

Sixteen-year-old Camellia Beauregard is a Belle, one of the few citizens of Orléans blessed with the arcana, a set of magical abilities that can almost instantly transform a person's appearance and demeanour. Clayton resets the pervasive beauty default of porcelain skin, with the Belles' customers opting for a variety of skin colours, freckles and beauty marks.

But this is a dystopia, and underneath the heady descriptions of beauty products, dresses and buffets, darker questions swirl around power and class. The delicious excess of the prose will be a sweet indulgence for some, while others will see it as an ugly cover for something more sinister. Either way, it's divine.

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