Second review of the day. As a note, I did read a book between this one and Ninth House (Winter Glass) but since that book completed a series, I just decided to post this one and that competed series review next week. This is also the featured book for October’s FairyLoot Box (I real this before I got the box) FAIR WARNING.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh
Synopsis From The Book
In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans is a safe haven after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent in the middle of the carnival season, Celine is quickly enraptured by the vibrant city, from its music to its fancy soirées and even its danger. She becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s enigmatic leader, Sébastien Saint Germain.
When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in Sébastien’s own lair–the second dead girl to turn up in recent weeks–Celine battles her attraction to Sébastien and suspicions about his guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.
After a third murder, New Orleans becomes gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose–one who has now set Celine in his sights. As the murderer stalks her, Celine finally takes matters into her own hands, only to find herself caught in the midst of an age-old feud between the darkest creatures of the night, where the price of forbidden love is her life.
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
I wanted this only because of the booktuber reviews and the beautiful cover. I’m not really all that interested in vampires, never really have been. Although, serial killers and vampires seems interesting. Do I really know what I am getting into with this book? Nope. But I’m willing to dive in anyway.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
Okay, so that did not go how I thought it would at all. In some ways I feel betrayed. Ah, how I lament and wish. hahaha, I did enjoy reading this book for the most part but as we see below, you will see why I did or did not like this book. I rated it rather high, I feel, for in some regards it should sit around a 3, but I really, really liked the writing style. This was my first Renée Ahdieh novel and I hope the others are just as mystical.
Celine meets Pippa on a boat on her way to New Orleans. She is trying to have a new life after Paris, where she had fled from. She is to join a convent to find a good husband. It is here that she becomes friends with Pippa better, or not really friends, and with Anabel a Scottish girl. A girl dies in the harbor with her throat ripped out. The three work together to sell items for the convent and one day a woman named Odette sees Celine’s handkerchiefs. She wants Celine to make her a dress and Celine agrees.
After getting the not so approval of their convent leader, Celine and Pippa go to find Odette at a placed called Jacques’. On the way there, they see the beating of a man by two men named Sebastien “Bastien” and Arjun. Celine stands up to them but is attracted to Bastien, and then the girls go to find Odette. They go to the Court of Lions, were they find many a person who has skills in things that most do not, as well as Odette. Odette lets Celine take her measurements, and Bastien arrives with his pet snake. He owns the place, Celine discovers. Conversations ensue and Celine finds herself more attracted to the man. On the way to finish the measurements for Odette, the girls find Anabel dead with her throat ripped out.
Investigations occur and Celine and Pippa get their way out of it but it is clear that Anabel followed them. She was sent to follow them by their convent leader who thought that Celine was scandalous. Celine continues to work on the dress and associate with Odette but one night is followed and almost attacked. Bastien saves her, and they begin to tip toe around each other.
One night Celine is attacked again, in the convent, and another man dies. She is kicked out and Bastien takes her in. They approach the ball that Odette commissioned the dress for, when Bastien’s uncle comes back and tells Celine never to see him again. She finishes the dress for Odette, and the night of the party makes a deal to never see Bastien again if she can get a shop. Before she can talk to Bastien she is kidnapped but a person she thought dead. Bastien dies to save her and his uncle is faced with the impossible task of choosing to save him (by making him a vampire) or to let him die.
The masked serial killer is revealed to be Bastien’s long “dead” sister who has a vengeance against their family, and Celine wakes up with no knowledge of what happened.
What I Liked:
Writing Style; I really loved the lavish feel of all of it. The warmth, the chill, the texture and the environment. There is so much code switching and language shifting. There is a fluidity to it all that captured me and enraptured me. I loved every moment of reading the passages just to see how the sentences flowed. This was my favorite part.
POV Shifts; I actually really liked how the villain perspective was in first, to keep the anonymity. I also liked how we got Celine for the most part and Bastien and his uncle only when necessary, as third person. I appreciated these shifts and fell fully for each one of their styles of story telling.
Marceline “Celine”; I did like her. Parts of her being a monster within struck me as repentance and justification for herself, for the murder she committed. She wasn’t really a monster, but she did know how to flirt. I liked reading the story from her perspective and I loved her love for clothing a fabrics.
Sebastien “Bastien”; The moment I knew he had a snake I said yes. I love him and how beautiful dangerous he is. If he was this beautiful and inhumane as a human, I can only imagine what he will be like as a vampire. The second book can not come fast enough.
The Court of Lions; All of the vampires in the court of lions are beautiful and with some sort of diversity within them. I wish we got more of many of them, but for what we got of them I loved their personalities. I hope they are expanded on more in book 2.
Philippa “Pippa”; For a side character she was spunky, despite the age in which this takes place. Truly, out of everyone in the book, she seems to act the most in place in their time period. Scandalized by it all, and all that around her, because what is going on around them is scandalous for that age.
General Plot; It didn’t go how I thought, but it wasn’t bad. I wish I had more in terms of the actual vampire lore, but I can deal with it. I liked how the story went.
Code Switching; We switch between English, French, and a mixture. And for Celine it makes sense for her to use French so much. She is from France. I also don’t know french much more than being able to read it within english context and be able to kinda understand, so I’m probably giving this a lot of credit. But I liked it.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
Final Villain – Emilie; I did not see this coming and that bothers me. I expected her to be dead, for the story to have more weight to it than a sister that we learn almost nothing about. Although, we don’t learn much about aspects of the vampire world. Perhaps we will in book 2. All I know, is that I had not thought it would be her, and I don’t remember seeing clues pointing to it either.
Bastien and Celine’s relationship; I feel like I would have liked a little more in regards to their development. Actually a lot in regards to it. I like how they charmed their way into each other’s presences, but their first meeting was very hostile. I know this is written for teenagers, and it was intoxicating, but I would have liked a bit more development.
Diversity; I love that this book has a vast racial cast of mixed races and origins. I love how the sexualities are a mix. I love how this book allows our main character to be half asian, and yet it bothered me. This book takes place in the nineteenth century. We can adore these racial measures as much as we want, but it is not going to be peaches and roses for those characters. I think it works that the vampires are racial minorities, but I feel that there should have been more about this in that regard. There is a scene of vindication, but we don’t tend to see the general level of absolute prejudice that existed at that time. This book takes place a little less than a decade after the civil war. I do not think that such acceptance of diversity would have been tolerated as much as it was. Nor the status of women. All the men seemed to be gentlemen who valued women as equals, and based on the times that wouldn’t have been fully true. I suppose, I’m just frustrated that we didn’t get a conversation about these things, and just blank acceptance, although it would not have been the case at the time.
Time Taken To Read
“Be faithful for the faithless are alone in death, blind and terrified.” – pg 1
“A sacred thrill of glory / Runs through my heart.” – pg 47
“But if a monster takes a life, what kind of creature refuses to save one?” – pg 52
“My behavior is not your responsibility.” – pg 112
“They were dangerous. Beyond ordinary. Something dark writhed around whatever they touched.” – pg 192
“We must taste the bitter before we can appreciate the sweet.” – pg 192
“Rage is a moment. Regret is forever.” – pg 264