I cried to get my hands on this ARC. I seriously sent the most lamentable email to the Penguin publicist and begged for a copy. It was dramatic af because I literally had no hope of actually getting one. BUT the people at Penguin are too amazing for words (@SamDevotta) and they sent me a copy!
It is to my shame that the review is coming so late after it’s publication. I seriously am a terrible blogger. So without further delay…
The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh
Pub Date: Oct 8 2019
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.
*Thanks to Penguin Teen CA for the ARC*
So what I really loved about this book is that we start off with a first person POV and we don’t know who it is. I love it. I love the mystery it brings up, I love that we get to guess who it could be, I love that it adds so much more danger to the story. What I didn’t love so much is that these very sporadic little snippets were the only real vampire moments I got.
Celine was a great character. On the run from her past, on a hunt for a better life, risking it all for a bit of adventure and struggling very badly with some inner demons. Her anger, wit and stubbornness were as wonderful to read about as they were frustrating!
Bastien was….he was a little too mysterious, but I liked him well enough. I liked that we got a little bit from his POV here and there just to see how things were running in his life. I loved that he was such a suave charmer but also a “Bitch, please” kind of man. Good looking? Absolutely. I just hope to see him fleshed out a little bit more in the next book.
Odette? A star. Pippa? A sweetheart. The court? It was also a little too ambiguous and mysterious. I didn’t get quite attached. Michael? Maybe I have a soft spot for him and perhaps shouldn’t.
The New Orleans was très fantastique! (That is grammatically horrible…but you get the point) I thought Adhieh did a wonderful job in creating this lush atmosphere where we get those flashes of the luxurious aristocracy, with the sterility of the convent and the shady alleyways of the city. I loved that we got insight into the strict high society life and also mixed in the magic of the secret court life. The magic was a little more tame than I was first expecting, but still very intriguing.
This book had lots of languages and as a language student this was a HELLS YES. The unfortunate thing is that I read an ARC version, so the French and Spanish phrases were plagued with grammatical errors, BUT I am pretty sure that would have been all cleaned up in the finished copy! Regardless of the fact, I thought that the use of languages was lots of fun and I love how the characters were snarky in any tongue!
Things that disappointed me:
The lack of vampires. I mean they were there but their actual action was so minimal. I felt like I was just reading a regular historical fiction book and totally forgot about the supernatural flair. It wasn’t completely absent, but I wanted MORE. I always want more!
The romance… Look. I like this ship. It is a well established ship. It is going to happen, I don’t really have any doubts about it. So why bring in a second possible love interest only to disappoint a very cute nonna! Just sayin!
The big twists…………………………………………….weren’t that impacting. I just didn’t get that WOW! A lot of it has to do with the fact that we do not get in depth with the court and all it’s secrets. I’m not saying we needed a detailed history, but I felt like we needed a lot more to get why the final actions of the characters led to this disaster. Also she used a trope…that I just don’t like. I feel like it is such a cop-out. Yikes.
Overall, the book entertained me but the hype got to me. It was most certainly a lush, historical fantasy with an amazing cast of characters. A headstrong protagonist who does what she needs to do and is un-apologetically herself will charm your hearts. However, I felt it lucked some luster and that it could have benefited from more detail.
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Recommend: I say yes! I still think this book has a lot to offer even if it lacks some blood…
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Did you like it? What are some of your favourite vampire books?