The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh (Review)

“Don’t fall in love with me,” Celine blurted without thought. “Nothing good will come of it.”

I gave this one a 4 star review, and I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll be the featured book in my next Fairyloot box, and after reading the eARC I’m looking forward to having a copy in my hands. Especially when the cover is this pretty.

Read me for the…

  • 19th Century New Orleans
  • Secret vampire society
  • An enigmatic love interest
  • A take-no-shit main character
  • A creepy murder mystery

The plot:

When seventeen year old Celine Rousseau flees to New Orleans, hiding from a secret that would ruin her life if she were ever to tell it, she finds refuge in New Orleans. It’s 1872, and New Orleans is ruled by the dead, not that Celine knows that just yet. She’s too busy being enamoured by the city’s busy beauty, music and food and parties that she never got to attend herself back in Paris. And far too busy being enamoured by La Cour Des Lions enigmatic and trouble-making leader Sébastien, despite her better judgement. When one of the girls from the convent she’s staying in shows up dead in the lion’s den, Celine struggles to balance her attraction and her suspicion of him. She’s not the first or the last victim, and as it becomes clear that New Orleans is being terrorised by a serial killer with his eyes set on Celine herself, she takes her life in her own hands to uncover the truth about the killer, the man who stole her heart, and the mysterious court that runs the city.

What did I love?

  • Celine: Celine is fierce, and takes-no-shit. She wants to do good, but also has to deal with her internalised belief that she’s a ‘murderess’ and the trauma of attempted rape in her very recent past. She feels a little stuck and is very aware of the way that women and POC are treated in 19th Century society. This can be a little jarringly modern, but it also leans into one of Celine’s most interesting characteristics. Celine passes as white with her French father, but her mother was an ‘unspecified race’ that her father didn’t even deem important enough to tell her about. This is a huge part of her life that is completely blocked off to her, and her father has raised her to believe that she can’t tell anyone about her heritage, so she’s learning to shake a lot of entrenched shame about the secrets she’s keeping.

    Celine’s relationship with Sébastien is complicated. She spends most of the book conflicted between her attraction to him and her fear that he’s involved in the unravelling murder mystery. He’s nothing like anyone she knows either, rough around the edges and no kind of gentleman, and their interactions are engaging and satisfying for a YA romance sub-plot.
  • Odette: Odette is the character that draws Celine into La Cour Des Lions, and I loved her. She’s queer and powerful, a woman in trousers in a world where women shouldn’t even be showing their ankles. She’s also definitely the coolest and the most interesting of the vampires, with a complex characterisation as she’s pulled between her friendships and her Maker. I liked her as a wild and feminist character, threatening to burn all the men and then two pages later swearing never to love anyone more beautiful than herself. I would admit that she sometimes seemed a little too modern. Celine did that too sometimes, but this is a YA novel and I’m willing to overlook that because the experience of reading this was fun and engaging and I was still left wanting more.
  • The vampire ‘powers’: The vampires in The Beautiful lean away from the traditional vampire tropes a little, which I like. I’ve read so many vampire novels that it’s nice to see something a little different. I like the idea that different vampires have different powers that can pull from their personality. I do wish that more of the characters in the book had their powers explained, and that links to my only criticism of this book below. Hopefully, the next book will go into this in more depth, because I want to know what everyone’s powers are.

What didn’t I love?

I’m a sucker (ha!) for vampire novels, and I’ll be the first person to admit that I was Twilight obsessed as a teenager (and okay I still love the books and the terrible movies). So when I saw this marketed as 19th Century New Orleans with vampires, I was pumped, but it’s not quite as vampire heavy as I expected. The main characters aren’t vampires, and while a lot of the Court are vampiric, the plot itself isn’t vampire-forward. I probably would have pegged this more as ‘Historical romance meets gothic fantasy meets murder mystery’. Not as snappy, but more accurate. I’m hoping that the sequel gives us a little more vampire action.

Where can I buy?

Waterstones / Amazon / Book Depository (Amazon owned)

As always, if you can please support your local independent booksellers!

6 thoughts on “The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh (Review)

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