This is the first book by Renée Ahdieh that I have read. I have her other books, but I haven’t had the chance to read them yet. I was drawn to this one because of that absolutely stunning cover, and the fact that I wanted to read something a little different and darker – and the whole subject of vampires and late 1800’s New Orleans really intrigued me. I noticed that a lot of other people, including reviewers that I really trust when it comes to what books I tend to read, rated this one a little lower than I expected. I still bought it and read it anyway.
“New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead.”
Seventeen year old Celine, a girl who is skilled with making beautiful gowns and studied under some of the most impressive in Paris, where she lived, has found herself setting sail to America – New Orleans to be exact – after horrible events unfold in her home. She refuses to be arrested – or worse, executed – so she runs away to make a new life for herself, where she can leave her past behind her.
Only as usual, the past has a way of not staying there.
When Celine and her friend, Pippa, meet Odette, a striking young woman who is searching for a gown for a party, Celine agrees to make her one. When Celine goes into the city to find Odette, she gets more than she bargained for.
“Proper young women certainly wouldn’t feel so enlivened by the very idea of danger. Nor would they already be seeking out the next chance to feel their hearts pound in their ears and their faces flush as though they were close to a candle flame.”
Celine meets Bastien, a young man with a very different worldview and a lot of mystery behind him – and she instantly develops feelings for him, despite her character denying it. Bastien is dangerous, and Celine is tired of being the good girl, and wants something a little dangerous in her life.
Unfortunately, the murder of another girl who lives at the convent with Celine and Pippa starts off a mystery – especially when a symbol is present next to the murdered girl.
“They were like two trains set on a collision course. Better for all those involved if they did not relish each other’s company.
At least that way they could avoid colliding at all.”
As Celine continues to meet Odette to work on her dress, and as she and Bastien fight feelings for each other and finally admit that they are fond of each other’s company, more murders pop up – each time they happen it occurs around Celine. So Bastien and Celine try to fight their feelings and stay away from each other, but it doesn’t help when Celine realizes that she needs his help to trap and stop a killer – and she can’t do it alone.
“The first time Celine had visited Jacques’, she’d come to the conclusion that the members of La Cour des Lions were not ordinary humans. Of course that knowledge raised the question: if they weren’t exactly human, then what were they?”
Celine finds herself taken up in a whirlwind of immorality, evil, murder, and falling in love with someone forbidden – all while trying to figure out who killed these innocent victims, why, and how.
Part of me is glad that I picked this one up.
Another part of me feels as though I honestly could have skipped it. This book had a lot of issues for me, particularly with the pacing and the way it just took forever to get anywhere. This is the kind of book that I felt could have wrapped up about one hundred pages less than what’s here…there was just so much detail (maybe a bit too much in this case), and as far as vampires go, there wasn’t really anything vampire-related for like the first 3/4 of the book. That was a huge bummer.
The characters were also so difficult to really develop any kind of feelings for. Character development in this book was almost nonexistent, and aside from Celine’s friend, Pippa, I honestly didn’t have any feelings toward any of them one way or the other. The characters just felt kind of flat and really basic, with not so much flair behind them to make them memorable.
The setting and world building of this book was beautiful, however, and I found myself drawn to the beautiful New Orleans of the 1870s. Renée Ahdieh did such a great job of painting this picture and bringing the past to life. I almost felt like I was there. I’ve never actually been to New Orleans (and obviously I wasn’t around in 1872 either), but I felt like through this book, I hopped into a time machine and went back to this time and place and had the chance to experience it. I enjoyed that.
The murder mystery aspect of The Beautiful was interesting – I did find myself wondering what the symbols next to all the victims was about, and I especially didn’t guess who the killer was – totally didn’t see that one coming.
If you like Renée Ahdieh’s other books, then don’t skip this one. If it’s an action-filled book with plenty of vampires, this isn’t really for you. I am eager to see what Renée Ahdieh does with the sequel to this one, though – I’ll definitely pick it up because I’m really eager to see how that ending played out into the next book.