Book Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh (ARC)

The Beautiful

Author: Renée Ahdieh

Publication Date: 08 October 2019

Genre – YA Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical Fiction

Pages: 448

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

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.

I have been craving the long awaited (and much needed) return of vampire stories to YA fantasy. We went through a time period when they were all the rage and then they just disappeared whilst ripping out my heart upon their untimely departure. So you can imagine that when The Beautiful came across my radar, my vampire loving heart kicked into full gear. Not to mention, this book took place in the 1800s amongst the backdrop of the illustrious New Orleans (Interview with a Vampire anyone?).

It’s 1872 and seventeen year old Celine Rousseau has just arrived to the mysterious city of New Orleans alongside six other girls. They’ve all been taken in at a local convent where they will stay until a suitable match is found for them. Celine clearly has secrets from her past in Paris that haunt her, so she embraces this new life in New Orleans with open arms. Celine soon finds herself entangled with the dark underworld of The Court of Lions, which is led by the brooding and mysterious Sébastien Saint Germain. Bodies drained of blood start emerging, and it’s clear that some sort of demonic serial killer is on the loose. Celine must find a way to track down the hunter without losing herself to the intoxicating dark side that New Orleans is known for.

I’ll start with the things that I enjoyed about this story: the writing, the incredible descriptions, the mystery surrounding Bastien, the mystery of The Court of Lions, and the demonic related deaths. I think Ahdieh does a fantastic job of immersing all of your senses into each scene that she so lusciously describes as well as creating an atmosphere that’s palpable as you turn the pages. I also really enjoyed the cat and mouse game between Celine and Bastien. It was clear that each one of them was drawn to the either, but neither one was willing to give in without a fight.

What I really wanted from this story was vampires from start to finish. I wanted New Orleans to be crawling with the creatures of the night. I wanted the story to be filled with their supernatural prowess and influence. I wanted this story to scream that vampires are back. However, the majority of the story doesn’t do that. Honestly, vampires aren’t even mentioned until the last 30 pages of the book, which was so frustrating for someone who is a diehard fan.

Again, The Beautiful is a great story, and I don’t want anyone to think otherwise. However, don’t go into this story thinking that it’s a reemergence of all things vampire that we’ve been desperately craving because it’s not.

Thank you to Penguin Teen and Bookish First for the ARC. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

10 comments

  1. Great review, good to know that vampires aren’t strongly relevant until late in the book, that’s shocking. The world building sounds well done though. It seems many were a bit disappointed with this title, I am still hoping for an epic all-around resurgence of vampires in some upcoming book someday. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think because this one lays the foundation for book two, it’s not solely focused on vampires, which I definitely wasn’t expecting. I’m right there with you. I want the resurgence of vampires in books in general. It’s a shame that I can’t even think of any recent examples.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My copy of this should be arriving today! I wasn’t going to get it until it showed up as an option on Book of the Month, so I figured why not. I bet the second book will have those vampire vibes since they show up towards the end of the first book!

    Liked by 1 person

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