CW’s: Attempted Rape, Murder, Violence, Gore, Discussion of Racism
Representation 🌷 MC of Asian descent, LGBTQ & Minor Characters of Color
Expected Publication: October 8th 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.
Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and Netgalley for providing me with a digital Arc in exchange for an honest review! All quotes featured are from the Arc and therefore subject to changes.
No one is sadder than me that I didn’t like The Beautiful. I adored Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn Duology and had high hopes for her brining back vampires into YA! However, the book didn’t end up impressing me and it took me long to finish because it was easy to put down and harder to motivate myself to pick it up again. I’m all conflicted about it because I’m happy that Ahdieh got to write a vampire story with an Asian lead character and I wish that she can be the catalyst to bring back more vampire stories. Still, I didn’t enjoy the book no matter how much I wanted to. I’ve prepared to lists with what I liked and what fell flat for me!
Things I actually liked
- The friendship between Celine, Pippa, and Odette! ➽ I love when a book has strong female friendships, especially when the main character is a bit different in her beliefs and attitude, yet still has solid connections to women that aren’t like her. I definitely think that Pippa and Odette were the scene-stealers and probably the characters that intrigued me most.
- I liked that the author struck a balance between Celine having a more modern mindset ➽ while still being influenced by the notions of the society she lived in. The book discussed the everyday sexism and showed how it affected the different women in the story.
- The setting of New Orleans ➽ You could tell that the focus of the story was establishing the right atmosphere and create a vivid setting for the reader to immerse in. I’m not French, but I have basic knowledge of the language, so the french phrases that appeared at certain points in the story were nice and added to make the setting realistic!
- Vampires, once they showed up ➽ I’m still excited that vampires are slowly coming back because I actually liked them a lot when they were popular and would love to see more paranormal YA books again!
- In theory, the relationship between Celine and Sébastien could’ve been interesting ➽ The relationship employs one of my favorite tropes (enemies to lovers) and there is some decent banter that I enjoyed in parts, making their interactions one of the more exciting parts of the story.
- Sébastien’s PET SNAKE ➽ I love animals appearing in fiction, especially snakes (is that my inner Slytherin?) as it made for some funny moments 🐍
- I appreciated that the main character is of Asian descent and that the author discussed what that meant for her in a historical setting ➽ There were also several minor characters of color as well as LGBTQ characters, discussions of racism and
Things I didn’t like
- There was too much description ➽ To a certain extent I like vivid descriptions of the setting because it helps envision the mood and atmosphere of the situation. However, I feel like the author went overboard this time with adding too many details that didn’t feel relevant to me. In general, I’m not a fan of descriptions that drag on, so I quickly felt my eyes glaze over a bit and it was an effort to slog through paragraphs of detailed descriptions. I sadly felt like the author put more emphasis on describing a complex setting than evolving character or plot, a mistake in my perspective because plot and characters are always more important for me!
- The start was slow and the setup lacked character and plot development ➽ In the first 100 pages not much happened and the setup wasn’t used to establish why I should care about the characters either. The only thing that was consistent was the setting, but again that’s not enough. The lack of plot made me wonder why the author didn’t portray more exciting scenes than just the everyday life of the convent and settling in for about 5+ weeks. We didn’t get to the most interesting part of the story (meeting Sébastien and delving deeper into his world) until much too late in my opinion. By then I was already getting frustrated.
- The worldbuilding was incredibly weak ➽ The vampires didn’t show up till page 250+ and there was barely any worldbuilding prior that made sense to me. The story felt like a historical romance to me (don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with that, but the entire tagline of the book was VAMPIRES and if you promise a comeback of vampires and fantasy elements you need to deliver. The focus was much more on the romance and historical aspects, making the difference between advertising and story huge. I feel like many readers could be disappointed this way (myself included), as it seemed to me like the author didn’t know the heart of her story.
- In general, the story was slow-paced and not much happened ➽ Even after 50% of the book was over, there wasn’t a fast-paced plot to be seen. The pacing was too slow and whenever an interesting more action-packed plot point happened, it quickly faded out into a slower pace again. Towards the last few pages that got better, but the majority of the story was dominated by a slow plot and almost nothing intriguing me to keep reading.
- I didn’t get what the main character saw in the second love interest ➽ I won’t tell you who it is, but I felt like it was thrown in mainly to ensure some relationship angst between Sébastien and Celine. The second love interest acted patronizing towards Celine, thinking he ‘knew what was best for her’ (see: not trusting her to make her own decisions and not respecting her independence), yet she still couldn’t let go of him. I guess he was set up as a foil for Sébastien, but his subtly controlling character wasn’t something I could root for.
- The characters had lots of unrealized potentials and I didn’t connect to them ➽ Like I said in the beginning, I loved Pippa and Odette the most because their characters were intriguing and showed development. However, I found it hard to connect to Celine, because there was so much telling involved to allude to her background story and ‘secret’. I’m not sure what to think of her character arc, as it utilized a sensitive issues (that might be triggering for some people) and constantly told us negative internalized thoughts about what I would call self-defense. I think the author wanted to show how Celine blamed herself because of the circumstances of the society she lived in and slowly realizing dark and light can exist in the same person. However, I still think her thought process and beliefs can be problematic to read depending on how you view them. I’m torn about that. Apart from that Celine had potential as a more snarky and bold lady, however, her stubborn pursuit of danger and lack of self-preservation when she meets Sébastien made me cringe. Sébastien himself was interesting and mysterious but I wish we had met him sooner because, in the end, I felt like he wasn’t fleshed out enough to become a compelling character. The slow beginning and lack of character focus made the characters fall flat to me.
- I also need to mention that about 50ish % through the story Bastien ended up having random POV’s ➽ Why?? Until now we had Celine’s POV and that of the antagonist, so I was all settled. Sébastien’s POV’s were confusing and so random that it aggravated me. I don’t like sudden changes in the narrative without reason and if you have a story it should have a purpose and not make me write random three times in a paragraph.
“I’ve heard many people say tragedy shapes us,” Bastien continued. “But I am not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, nor am I the worst thing I’ve ever done. Nothing in life is that simple.”
Are you going to read The Beautiful? What is your favorite book featuring Vampires? ❤