The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction
Publishing Info: October 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton
Star Rating: 4/5
Back Cover Summary:
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 Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’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.
Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book.
I’m a tad late with this review. I did start reading it before it was released, but didn’t end up having much time to read on my holiday to Amsterdam. But better late than never!
The premise for this book instantly got my attention. Vampires. Murder mystery. In New Orleans. In the 1800s. Count me in. I’m quite hard to please when it comes to vampire novels. I think because I have been disappointed by so many. The historical New Orleans setting was certainly a great attraction, as it made a change from all the modern day vampire novels. In fact, it didn’t feel necessarily like a vampire novel, which is a good thing, as it felt like its own rather than trying too hard to fit a mould.
There is a mysterious, sumptuous atmosphere in much of the book, which Reneé Ahdieh does an excellent job at capturing. Alluring is a good word to describe this book. I also can’t help but love a good murder mystery! However I did feel by the end still quite in the dark about all the mysterious people, and whether they are all vampires or something else. That air of mystery is very effective for most of the book, but it would have been more satisfying to get more answers and a clearer picture of this shadowy paranormal world by the end.
There are some brilliant details which really make the scenes pop. On some occasions there is too much and the description drags, especially a couple of times when describing food. Unless Celine is secretly a food connoisseur, I’m not sure how you can tell from looking at a meal what ingredients are in it. The descriptions of the food are luscious, but at times excessive and unrealistic when shown through the eyes of a main character who is not a food expert.
While the majority of The Beautiful is written in third person from Celine’s perspective, there are a few sections written in first person. It just felt a bit jarring switching between third and first. The first person was perhaps intended to seem more sinister, as well as obscuring the identity of the narrator, but I found the switch broke the flow. I liked the idea of seeing the story through the murderer’s eyes, and it was quite creepy, however it could have been handled a bit better.
Celine is a bold, interesting and flawed character. I was undoubtedly drawn towards her and into her story. She’s at times reckless and gets a thrill from danger, but is also afraid of her own nature. I liked the conflict she felt about wanting to conform to society but also carve her own path and have her own identity. Odette is another character who stood out. I liked her vivaciousness and spirit.
Bastien is a typical, dark, brooding love interest. But for once I actually felt he and the protagonist were well suited. Often this kind of character is flung at the female protagonist but they don’t actually have a connection. In The Beautiful, Celine and Bastien were well matched. The relationship is essentially a forbidden romance; however the characters don’t spend the whole book moping around about how they can’t be with each other. That’s what usually puts me off forbidden relationships. There wasn’t any of that in this book thankfully. The characters certainly had a connection and I loved all their scenes together. And the end sequence is so charged, emotive and heart wrenching.
Really I shouldn’t have liked this book. But for some reason I did. I think there will be a lot of mixed reviews for this one. Despite it having some flaws, I felt immersed in Reneé Ahdieh’s world and completely gripped by the mysteriousness and sensuality of The Beautiful.