New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.
In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.
When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.
At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.
Title : The Beautiful
Author : Renee Ahdieh
Series : The Beautiful #1
Format : ARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Hodderscape / G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 8, 2019
Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 3 star review
Such a highly anticipated title for me from an author I’ve enjoyed in the past. Although my rating isn’t a wow rating, it delivered on some aspects of enjoyment and not on others. I’ll definitely be continuing with the series however as there’s much still to discover (I’ll return to this point).
I immeditely fell into like with the tenor of the book, in pace, mystery and ambience. New Orleans in this book’s era had such a temperature of the magical that was enticing but it also sparked trepidation. The heroine Celine was running from her life in Paris, straight into the burning flames of a furnace. She courted danger in a way that didn’t seem befitting of a woman of that time but that was the kind of character she was. I was intrigued by her and the character of Bastien, as I was supposed to be.
What started out as mystery in terms of who or what kinds of beings prowled New Orleans, became a bit of a frustration as world building didn’t come but in a fog towards the end. I feel like I was possibly promised vampires but didn’t really get this. I got the measure of Celine and Michael, but Bastien, his uncle and many others were clouded and this became increasingly difficult as a reader.
The violent happenings in the story were the good part of the mystery. The unknown povs added to this. The descriptions of sights and smells, heat and darkness were vivid and alluring. There was very little romance in literal terms but the suggestion of it was threaded through the story.
I enjoyed the idea of this story but I wanted a bit more from the execution of it. I enjoy Renee Ahdieh’s narrative voice very much, she’s easy to read and her work pulls you into the story. However, I wanted more from the story in terms of the final reveal and last chapter. I will be back for more.
Thank you to Hodderscape for this early copy to review.
Hollis’ 3 star review
So this one is an interesting mix for me. Because on the one hand, I was pretty damn entertained while reading this. I read it mostly in one sitting, with only brief pauses, and had a pretty romping good time while I was in it.
It was during those breaks, though, and post-epilogue where I really paused and went, huh. So, we do have some problems.
First of all, let me say, I loved Ahdieh’s first series. And she brings that same magical weaving of atmosphere and setting, of flowy but not too purpley, prose, to THE BEAUTIFUL. Between the vibrancy of a carnival in the dark of the night, the decadence of the food, the colours of a masquerade, it’s a treat to read. I love the French woven through the story, along with a few other languages!, and how sometimes it isn’t even translated. That worked for me, though I imagine it won’t work for all, but. I liked it because it felt true and authentic to the scenery. I’m not entirely sure about the choice of the time period, other than wanting some old world charm, complaints about corsets, and an impetus to send a bunch of girls, mainly our main character, across the sea to the New World to escape their pasts, though. Because there was so much of this that felt very present-day, had very modern commentary, and overall just felt a bit uneven.
“If you think I used my wiles to catch your notice like a girl trying to fill her dance card at a ball, then–“
“Whatever I think has nothing to do with you. My behaviour is not your responsibility.”
Also in relation to the setting, beautiful (hah) as it may be, I have some world building/mythology confusion regarding The Fallen and The Brotherhood — though honestly I think we’re meant to want to know more, wanting to have it all explained, as that will drive us to pick up book two. Additionally because we obviously want a resolution to the events of said epilogue. Which is probably the biggest thing that made me go, huh.
I don’t quite remember seeing it but apparently with the announcement of this book, they came right out of the gate trying to throw shade on a certain other vampire series. Which, hey, whatever. We probably all throw some shade at it. That’s not my issue here. My issue here is that.. why are we throwing shade when some of this book is so damn similar to said other book? I’m not spoiling specifics. But I can’t be the only reader who is seeing it?
“I’ve heard many people say tragedy shapes us. But I am not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, nor am I the worst thing I’ve ever done. Nothing in life is that simple.”
Anyway. A lot of this, like I said, was really good. I was hooked in. I like Celine for the most part, I liked Bastien for the most part, and I definitely loved Odette, the glue that kind of holds them together when initially they are keeping to the hate part of their hate-attraction-situation. But honestly these two were best when they were snarking at each other or when.. ahem, well, there was that one time.. because otherwise? I don’t know. They’re both too much and not enough.
“I can stand there forever in irritated silence. It it no bother to me. You can perish wondering what I’m thinking, for I’ll never tell.”
I do think this book suffers a bit from lack of polish. There’s so much going on, so much unknown, and it’s definitely going for a bigger scope that I imagine will get explained now that we’re on the other side of things going into book two. Or maybe not, who is to say. But I have lots of questions, lots of things that in hindsight, I say again, make me go, hm. But again. I had a good time with it. Though I’m going to hope for more vampires in the sequel. Because, minor spoiler? They were hard to spot. Like I said.. there’s a lot going on and this is more than what you might think it to be.
THE BEAUTIFUL is a slowburn plot build that develops into a murder mystery revenge story with more secrets than vampires and more modern day commentary and inclusion than a historical fiction novel actually deserves. But I’ll definitely be picking up book two.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **