Look, y’all, I am SO SAD I wasn’t able to give this book more stars. I was crossing my fingers I’d at least give it 4 but it simply didn’t work for me. I want to continue to support this author, but it’s so hard when I haven’t been a huge fan of her works. I think I may have said it before but I don’t think Ahdieh is the author for me. I didn’t even bother to continue The Wrath and the Dawn; Flame in the Mist and Smoke in the Sun, while enjoyable, were books I didn’t fall completely in love with and ended up unhauling from my personal collection. Sadly… this book will be unhauled as well.
Content warning: Blood, racism, attempted rape
Title: The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release date: October 8, 2019
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, mystery, paranormal
Length: 448 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via 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.”
My main problem with the book really stemmed around the plot. Where…was…the…plot? There are a lot of things happening, but I can’t exactly grasp the main part of the book. The story is rich in details but lacking in–what I feel–is the most important aspect of a book. I felt like I was wading through quicksand to try to find the plot. I’m not even sure I liked Celine either (but bonus points because she’s biracial–half-Asian, pretty sure she’s Korean) and I felt like we were being told she’s such a courageous character but it seemed forced. Like yes! I can appreciate her boldness in striking her attacker, forcing her to leave Paris. But everything else was…meh. I liked Odette, one of the female characters Celine befriends.
I also struggled with the romance between Celine and Sébastien (Bastien). There isn’t enough interaction or scenes between them for them to develop romantic feelings for one another. Sure, okay, brush it aside was historical accuracy but… Really? I wasn’t feeling it or them, for that matter. Celine continues to mention how handsome Bastien is but because of their lack of interaction, I struggled to understand what else she liked about him. And then the “thing” between Celine and Michael? Totally lost and totally unnecessary.
And the whole vampire thing completely fell flat for me. I wasn’t even shocked at the ending or the discoveries made along the way about Bastien’s family. The “in-between” narrator whose POV we follow to give the book its sense of mystery… I couldn’t care less! I didn’t understand the “age-old feud” mentioned in the synopsis as well simply because Celine wasn’t privy to a lot of information about this. Maybe if we had chapters from Odette or Bastien’s POV, I’d have a better grasp but right now? Nope. However, we do get some hint that Celine will obviously play a big role in the future regarding all of this and it’s probably the only thing that would make me want to read the sequel.
I listened to this via audiobook. I thought the narrator was just okay. Most of her accents were fine, but when it came to doing Pippa’s accent, she made the British accent sound like someone from the deep South. Her narration of the mysterious character POV was pretty boring, too.
Again, I’m just so sad this didn’t work for me.
You can purchase this book from Amazon (at the time I wrote this review, the book was less than $9! Maybe it still is!), Barnes and Noble (at the time of this review, there were still signed copies in stock), BookDepository, or find it at your local indie with IndieBound.
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