Title: The Beautiful
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre: Fiction/ Fantasy/ YA/ Vampire Romance
Favourite Quote: ‘She could not be certain what hand of Fate continued placing Sebastien Saint Germain in her path. Perhaps it was a test. God’s penance for her most grievous sin, that a boy shrouded in darkness would force her to see the light. But a greater fear lurked deep in Celine. Past the rush of blood, into the marrow of her bones. No matter where she went, danger followed. And it horrified her. Just as it thrilled her.’
*I received a sneak peek copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.*
Celine didn’t hesitate to jump on the boat for a fresh start in New Orleans. A chance to escape her past and move on, even if it’s in a convent for women in a Catholic church. The seven other girls around her are in a similar situation as her; a means of escape, new start or simply no where else to turn, so it’s no surprise that everyone has their own secrets they keep close. Celine may just have the biggest secret of all, one that can never expose her for what she truly is or where she comes from no matter how much her new best friend Pippa wants her too. Whilst she is under no illusion that she is lucky to be where she is, safe and unknown to all around her, Celine still can’t help but wish for an adventure, to be someone important and to continue with her gown designs that once became sought after by Parisian elites in Paris. When her skills for embroidery and needlepoint draws attention to mademoiselle Odette Valmont who wishes to commission a dress from her, Celine can’t stop herself from saying yes but quickly finds herself surrounded by danger, murder, lies, and the handsome ‘le Fantome’ Ghost, Sebastien Saint Germain, full of mystery in the middle of it all in the Den of the Lions.
‘In that moment – listening to this strange girl quote Shakespeare and tantalise her with possibility – Celine realised she wanted to go. Badly. Her hesitation now was a last effort to hold form to her convictions. To obey. To be a model of humility. Earn a measure of God’s forgiveness.
“If money does not entice you” – the girl leaned closer, and Celine caught a whiff of neroli oil and rosewater – “I can promise you an adventure… a trek through a den of lions.”
That. That was it.
It was as though the girl had found a window into the darkest corner of Celine’s heart.
“It would be my pleasure to design a dress for you, mademoiselle,” Celine said.’
Initially I got a short sneak peek expert of The Beautiful from NetGalley, giving me access to the first chapter of the story. I thought it would be silly to only give a review based on that small conclusion so I purchased the book in order to fully relay my judgement. So here we are.
This book created a fantastic foundation for the story, it is slow paced in areas but the vibrancy of New Orleans in 1872 more than makes up for it with its rich colours and festivals at night surrounding it all. You very much get the sense of what happens in New Orleans stays in New Orleans. There is a lot of mystery around the characters as to who could be the potential murderer as well as secrecy surrounding the city, a perfect setting for a dark underworld of the undead and mystic beings, even though they are rarely mentioned in detail, you get a vague sense of whats going on around you.
Whilst the main story with our protagonists Celine and occasionally Bastien is told in the third person, I really enjoyed how the perspective jumps to the dark unknown killer and how he speaks directly to the reader. It made his thoughts all the more unique and personal, you actually come to like and understand him when seeing the world through his own eyes. He’s determined to get revenge on the people that betrayed him with a fascinating charisma that will keep you wanting more of his dark murderous thoughts as you progress through the story.
‘Demons should not be granted the indulgence of men. So sayeth man, at least.
But I’ll share a secret. In my years, I have discovered it is possible to be both disconcerting and delightful all at once. Wine can be delicious though it muddles the mind. A mother may love and hate her children in the span of the same afternoon. And a predator could abhor itself even as it relishes its evening meal.
I understand my behaviour might be constructed as odd. Unseemly. But I am a thing of oddity. A creature born apart from the world.
Don’t fret on my account. I have never been one of those immortals who enjoy toying with their food, nor do I particularly like stalking my prey. I am not looking for their weaknesses; rather, I am understanding their humanity.’
The characters were altogether compelling, from the mysterious Bastien and his group of mixed cultured followers, to Odette and her desire to wear mens clothing and her means to challenge society and convention makes me love her all the more. The fact that the story was based in the 1800s goes to show how uniquely different the group of divine mystical beings were in Jacques.
I wasn’t even annoyed by the handsome detective Michael that was clearly brought into the story as love triangle that will have no effect because clearly we will be routing for the other guy – but its moments with him and his family and how he becomes so protective over Celine that a tiny part of you will wonder.. what if?
Honestly I wasn’t sure what to think of Celine, she was a good protagonist with a dark past, one although she ran away from, does not regret her actions and still chases the danger that always seems to surround her. I wasn’t sure whether she was strong in her resolve to discover the truth whether or not it put her in the crossfire, or weak because she reacted so badly when it all went wrong – which it always did. She was always going on about how she has an inner darkness that wants to come out and play – but honestly it just felt blah. Yeah that’s right, blah. So she can’t help but feel attractive to the mysteriously dangerous Bastien, I hated their confession of attraction towards each other, both claiming they wanted to kiss the other and then both walking away like it was a conversation about the weather. Seriously? It lacked the passion I was hoping for between the two of them.
Bastien was a really interesting character as the only human around mystical undead beings and vampires, yet remained in charge and was feared as powerful with his title. He’s not afraid to stand on his own and whilst he does rely on others, he relies on them as strength in numbers as a family rather than paid manpower. We only managed to see parts of his world through his eyes, mostly his unexpected desire towards Celine which was an unwanted distraction since they could never work, but the more he spent time around her, the more he wanted her which I thoroughly enjoyed since she continued to surprise him by pushing him away. Something he was clearly not used too. I wanted to see more of Bastien’s world through his eyes, but I get the feeling we will in the next book based on the ending.
‘”She has teeth,” he said quietly. “But does she also have claws?”
“There is only one way to find out.” She meant it as a threat.
He took it as a challenge.’
I enjoyed improving my French as the story went on, as the characters often spoke to each other in a mix of English and French. Most of the time there was a translation but occasionally you had to speculate or actually look up what they were saying which I actually quite liked. It added to the additional mystery that was still left to be uncovered although it would have been nice to have a bit more information surrounding the feud going on in the background from the Court of Lions, something about a Brotherhood, and a group called The Fallen, none of which really gets explained, even at the end.
I’m looking forward to reading the next book ‘The Damned’, as things are starting to get interesting!
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.