Review: The Beautiful
Title: The Beautiful
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Published: 8 October 2019
Format: Hardback, library book
Synopsis (from Goodreads): 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.
I love a good vampire story, and if you ever find yourself in New Orleans, Louisiana, you will be surrounded by great vampire stories that will leave you feeling a little afraid, excited, and wanting more.
It’s one of the many reasons I love that city so much. There is so much history, many myths, and you will feel a great deal of excitement and unease as you walk down the old streets.
If you ever find yourself reading The Beautiful you will find yourself in New Orleans, but a foggy version, where nothing is really all that clear or focused. You’ll find suspense, yes, but it won’t actually take you anywhere despite the fact that it is set in a post-Civil War New Orleans with super natural elements at every turn.
Despite Ahdieh’s beautiful writing (I really do think her writing style is stunning), the heart and energy of New Orleans is entirely missing. The ideas and effort were there, but the final product itself was lackluster. It almost felt as if I wasn’t given enough information or the information I needed to make sense of the New Orleans she was trying to build, which was heartbreaking because I wanted to love a book about one of my favorite cities….with VAMPIRES!
I feel like I need to say that I was not expecting Twilight when I read this book. I did not actually have any sort of vampire in mind because I did not want to put an unfair expectation on Ahdieh. Unfortunately, even the vampire element was vague and barely even established at the end of the book. Throughout the story, you just know that there is something supernatural going on and that Celine is going to figure it out. It builds great suspense, but eventually, it begins to just make the plot drag.
If you want to be face to face with vampires throughout the majority of the book, The Beautiful might not be for you.
As for the characters, once again it felt like I was reading a draft. Who they were, their motives, etc. all felt vague and blurry at best. Celine had the most development and clear motive, but that did not make up for what the other characters lacked.
I enjoyed Celine. She is driven, clever, and does not fit in to what you expect from a young woman in the 1870’s. However, she does not quite play the “I’m not like other girls” card. She befriends other girls and their interactions are wonderful and genuine. She is independent, yet contradicts herself by becoming immediately infatuated by Bastien. Her past is heavy and not easy to read. Overall, I found Celine to be quite a reckless force of nature. I will probably read the sequel just to see more of what she will do next.
Bastien was a “bad boy” who never did much other than lurk and make snide comments? I’m not exactly sure who he is meant to be as a character because so little information is given. At some point he catches the feels for Celine, but I don’t get it. It’s instal-love at it’s cringiest.
The villain just didn’t do it for me. I got to the end and just felt like…. “seriously?”.
I suppose that is my biggest issue with the book. Too much information is withheld from the readers, making it a chore to decipher what is going on. While the writing was beautiful and there was a unique, diverse cast…. there was just was not enough to make this a strong story. Overall, it was a relatively slow read for me that became painful by the 50% mark.
I hope that the sequel fleshes out the characters and the setting. New Orleans is not an easy city to write about. Make it historical and add vampires and it becomes an even bigger challenge. While I feel a little let down, I really admire Ahdieh for taking this challenge on.
That’s all for now!
Did you read The Beautiful? What did you think?
Who are your favorite fictional vampires? Or favorite vampire books or movies?
(I recommend Buffy the Vampire Slayer -movie and show-, The Lost Boys, and What We Do in the Shadows).
Let me know! 🙂