In the archipelago of Orleans, individuals are born without beauty; they have gray skin and hair. Their eyes are red. But the citizens of Orleans worship beauty and they pay vast sums to be beautiful. All beauty comes from the magic of the Belles. The Belles are born beautiful. More importantly, they can create beauty. Camellia is a belle. And now on her sixteen birthday, she is competing with her sisters for the position of being Court belle.
But soon Camellia discovers that the glory and position she coveted for so many years has many perils. Beauty is a commodity. The wealthiest citizens undergo pain and near death to maintain their attractiveness. For some individuals, comeliness is a form of power, and they want to be the most beautiful in the land. Some individuals desire to abuse the power of the Belles to hurt others.
Then there are secrets. Why does Camellia hear crying at night? Who can she trust? Has her entire training been a lie? Soon Camellia discovers her sister Belles are also having difficulties with their new positions.
The Court is not a safe place for anyone. There is intrigue. There are power struggles. Eventually, Camellia must choose between her sense of honor and her duty. But her decision might be costly to everyone Camellia holds dear.
It was hard to put this novel down. The author created a fascinating world. The story begins with a competition. Despite the results, all the belles face perils in their new positions. There are deceptions on many levels. In the midst of this fantasy-mystery novel, there is an exploration of the dangers of beauty as a commodity. This novel both entertained and challenged the reader to consider an important issue regarding our culture and beauty.