Monday, September 30, 2019

ARC Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

Title: The Beautiful
Author: Renée Ahdieh 
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Pages: 448
Add to 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.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

Let me start by saying that I am SO here for vampires making a comeback in YA! I missed the first vampire craze, not knowing YA was a thing and all. The Beautiful was on the top of my ALA list and I was so excited to have the chance to read a copy! (Meeting Renee Adhieh was also incredible.)

Celine has newly arrived in New Orleans, fleeing Paris after committing a necessary crime. She is fortunate enough to be taken in by a convent, but must follow their rules which she quickly finds stifling. It isn't long before Celine finds herself tied up with La Cour des Lions and intrigued by its leader, Sébastien Saint Germain. She also keeps ending up much too close to women being murdered.

Celine was a fine heroine, strong and with a dark secret that made her much more interesting as it was slowly revealed. Sébastien was my favorite character, of course. He was mysterious and a bit frightening and I really enjoyed every minute he was on the page. Unfortunately though, this book had both instalove and a love triangle, neither of which I particularly liked. The romance was still fine, I just wanted more from it.

The more I think about this book, the more I'm not sure how I feel about it. For a book I expected to be about vampires there wasn't very much vampire action. This was much more a murder mystery than it was a vampire novel, I'm sorry to say. That isn't to say that it wasn't a good story, because it was. It just wasn't anything like what I was expecting to read. The vampires were more hinted at here and there than being a main focus, which was a shame.

My favorite thing about The Beautiful was by far the atmosphere. It felt like being back in an Anne Rice novel. You know, just with less vampires. I appreciated the way New Orleans was written and the dark, creepy nature of the streets at night with a killer on the loose.

I went into The Beautiful expecting a dark, romantic vampire novel and was surprisingly disappointed. I don't know if my expectations were more due to marketing or hype, but they were not met. I still enjoyed this book and will probably pick up the second one to see what happens next, but I don't think this is going to be the story that brings vampires back into the mainstream.