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 is a safe haven after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent in the middle of the carnival season, Celine is quickly enraptured by the vibrant city, from its music to its fancy soirées and even its danger. She becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s enigmatic leader, Sébastien Saint Germain.
When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in Sébastien’s own lair–the second dead girl to turn up in recent weeks–Celine battles her attraction to Sébastien and suspicions about his guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.
After a third murder, New Orleans becomes gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose–one who has now set Celine in his sights. As the murderer stalks her, Celine finally takes matters into her own hands, only to find herself caught in the midst of an age-old feud between the darkest creatures of the night, where the price of forbidden love is her life.
At once a sultry romance and a decadent, thrilling mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet.
I was so excited to pick up a copy of The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh at Book Expo. I had read the synopsis and I was super intrigued. I was so excited to read it because of the setting! A supernatural story set in 19th century New Orleans!? With a murder mystery aspect?! Sign me up!! I even got to meet Renée at Book Expo and have her sign my arc! I’m sad to say this, but The Beautiful was a complete and total let down.
Quick note . . . I haven’t written such a negative review in a long time. I always feel bad doing it, but I started this blog to honestly review books. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes I have to be negative. Normally, whenever I review a book I didn’t like I try to find at least one positive thing to include in my review. I don’t think that’s the case for this book.
Basically it just sucks to write a bad review because I want to support authors and their work, but I just can’t help it sometimes. I do not tag authors in bad review posts if that’s any consolation.
Anyways, on to the review. . .
One of the things that intrigued me most from the synopsis was the setting of New Orleans. It seemed like it was going to be the perfect atmospheric setting for a vampire story! Unfortunately it totally fell flat. Ahdieh could have done so much more with the setting and make it a true presence or even a character. It was just a throw away background. The book could have taken place in any random city.
Going along with the setting . . . the entire world building was lacking. It felt like we were given a couple random pieces of information but nothing was really expanded upon. This is especially true when it comes to the Court, the Fallen, and the Brotherhood. I was especially excited to learn about La Cour des Lions after reading the synopsis. We are only shown quick glimpses of these groups and I still have almost no idea what/who they are. The only history and world building we get is through the villain’s narrated chapters, but even that is just brief and confusing.
As for the actual story . . . it was an easy read, but pretty dang boring. Not much happens and I wasn’t attached to any of the characters. There was so substance to any of them. All the characters were bland and had nothing special or new. Everything in the story also progressed way too quickly. Why is everything instantly in love with Celine? The only two qualities I can identify about Celine are that she is the most beautiful ever and she stands up for herself (which is great), but other than that I do not know anything about her. Literally everyone that meets her is immediately obsessed with her. I just don’t get it.
One thing that really bugged me about Celine’s character was her inner dialogue. She is constantly thinking about how she wants power and how dark she is. She just kept repeating it over and over and over again. It just became irritating. We get it! You’re different than all the other girls. I also absolutely hated that Celine kept shaming herself for fighting off her attacker. It just seemed off base – I’m not saying she should be happy about killing someone, but she doesn’t need to feel shame for protecting herself. I know a lot of young readers with pick up this book so I don’t want them to be influenced by the message of shame.
Another issue I had was the romance. There’s no reason that Celine (and I guess spoiler?) Bastien fall in love. They meet once and hate each other, but then like 2 days later they are obsessed with one another. It was insta-love to the extreme. And again, I don’t know anything about these two characters! It’s the same with Celine’s other potential love interest. She literally hates both men and then suddenly is totally and completely charmed by them.
One thing I did mildly enjoy was the mystery of who the killer was. The killer’s POV chapters were definitely my favorites to read. Although, these chapters were not at all scary . . . just overly dramatic. These chapters were the most interesting part of the entire book.
The big reveal at the end honestly just confused me. And not in a good way. I don’t really even care to find out what happens next.
The Beautiful is one of the most hyped up book releases for this fall. For a book hyped up for bringing vampires back there is very little actual vampire content. I wasn’t reading this book because of the vampires, but I know many people are so excited to dive into vampire stories again. These people are going to be thoroughly disappointed in the lack of vampires.
Thank you to Penguin Teen and Renée Ahdieh for providing an arc copy of The Beautiful at Book Expo!