Title: The Beautiful
Series: The Beautiful #1
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: October 8th, 2019 (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
Synopsis: 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.
Celine Rousseau arrives in New Orleans, hoping to start a new life after fleeing her home in Paris. She is taken in by the nuns at the Ursuline Convent along with several other girls, but soon finds herself involved in the intoxicating city’s underworld, in particular, with the members of the mysterious society known as La Cour des Lions. Meanwhile, there is a killer stalking the streets of New Orleans, bodies are found drained of blood, and Celine ends up stumbling onto a number of these crime scenes – or has Celine somehow become the next target?
One of the things I liked best about this book was the setting of 1870s New Orleans, and yet…looking back, the time period hardly made any difference to the plot. There are several rather obvious mentions of discrimination and racism, but New Orleans itself does not seem to be all that affected by it, and La Cour des Lions in particular is startlingly modern in its thinking in this field, especially for this time period. It’s not really an issue per se, but the book didn’t take full advantage of the setting. Apart from imparting an old-time feel to the story, there wasn’t much point to making this a historical tale. What I found confusing though, is how the story appears to dance around the concept of the supernatural, and there is nothing obviously pointing to them, vampires or otherwise. Another thing is that it’s clear Celine is a bit of an adventure seeker, but considering what the past she’s running from, shouldn’t she be more cautious than this?
As with all of Renee Ahdieh’s novels, I really enjoyed the writing and narration style, but the real redeeming feature for this book was the last 50 pages or so, when the pacing finally picked up. The motivations and revelation of the killer might have been a little lacklustre, but the build up to it was done very well. Once the story finds its footing, this mystery is one that will draw you in. As a side note, many of the characters frequently slipped into French in dialogue, which I thought added to the authenticity of the setting and was a really nice touch.
I had my reservations about this book when I first heard about it, but that is pretty much standard for me when I come across anything vampire related (thank you, Twilight). The Beautiful hasn’t changed my opinions on the topic, and after that ending, if my predictions regarding where this story is heading in the sequel are remotely correct, I’m not impressed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this is going to be the story that revives vampires. Overall, I have to say, I’m more interested in the story than in any of the characters, and it’s probably going to stay that way, what with the memory loss-love triangle drama that has been set up with the ending of this book.
I will probably read the sequel as I never leave a series unfinished, but considering how amazing Renee Ahdieh’s previous books were, especially The Wrath and the Dawn, The Beautiful, in comparison, was rather disappointing and I will be going into book 2 with significantly lowered expectations. Nevertheless, this was a quick and easy read, and while it wasn’t really to my taste, I would still recommend it, if only for the beautiful writing.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: