Title: The Beautiful
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Series: The Beautiful #1
Genre: Historical fantasy/paranormal
Audience: Young Adult
Length: 425 pages
Publisher: GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Source: personal library
Recommended for Fans of: A Great and Terrible Beauty, Stalking Jack the Ripper
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.
This was my first Renée Ahdieh book and I absolutely loved it! New Orleans is my favorite city I’ve ever visited so I was sold on the setting before I even started the book, with vampires as an added bonus. I adored the lush, descriptive writing that created a dark and sumptuous atmosphere which perfectly brought to life the legends of historic New Orleans.
Celine is a great heroine. She is a strong-willed and fearless young woman with a complicated past who loves Shakespeare, cares deeply for her friends, and can’t seem to stay out of trouble. I fully supported her forbidden romance with the mysterious and swoon-worthy Bastien.
This is not the paranormal romance most readers expect from a vampire book. This is more of a historical fiction murder mystery with otherworldly undercurrents. I thought this emphasis effectively built suspense as Celine investigated the murderer stalking her in the shadows, realizing that it was inhuman but not fully understanding what it was. I think it is important for readers to have that expectation going in to enjoy the story for what it actually is.
I fully enjoyed the mystery, the historical setting, the characters, and the breathtaking writing that made me fall in love with New Orleans all over again. I was shocked by the killer’s identify and the cliffhanger ending that sets up a larger paranormal presence for book 2. I preordered The Damned before I even finished reading The Beautiful, and I can’t wait to read more of Ahdieh’s writing!