My obsession with Renee Ahdieh’s work started with her duology, The Wrath & the Dawn, which somehow remains not only my favorite of her books, but also of the 1001 Nights Retellings I’ve read. If you haven’t read that series yet, I highly recommend that you do. It is one of my favorites on my shelves, and a really easy duology to binge read. Since then she’s written the Flame & the Mist duology, and now The Beautiful. While each of these series focuses on a different culture entirely, and magical aspects, Ahdieh is really good at creating memorable and realistic heroines that stick with you.
The Beautiful was released just this last month, and like all her books after Wrath & the Dawn I preordered, knowing without a doubt I needed this book. So, what is the Beautiful about? On the surface it comes across as a vampire novel, but the focus is on Celine Rousseau as she arrives in New Orleans determined to escape the events she’s left behind in Paris. Taken in by nuns she isn’t as focused on creature comforts as she is trying to find a new life, maybe a husband. Upon arrival she finds that New Orleans isn’t quite everything she had pictured, and already runs into the individual that New Orleans society has mixed feelings on; Sebastien Saint Germain. While many fear him, there are many, especially women who know of his wealth and power, and want it. When one of the girls at the convent turns up dead in Sebastien’s own lair, Celine is thrown into the investigation as a suspect, her own secrets close to unraveling. While she tries to make sense of the events, she battles her own attraction to her own suspect, Sebastien, and all the questions that circle him, all the while a creature roams the streets killing more people, and getting closer to Celine.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This was one my most anticipated reads of 2019, mostly since I love Ahdieh’s books, but even more so since hearing her talk about the book and its vampires. Literally her excitement got me excited. From start to finish this was an easy book to read. There wasn’t any slow start up, or annoyance with characters, which really isn’t a surprise since Ahdieh is great at characters and addictive storytelling.
Celine is compelling from the beginning of the book, her past haunting her every step of the way, but not beating us to death with it. We are given just enough to wonder at what she is running from, while keeping the rest hidden and ready to snag our attention. When I read Ahdieh’s work it’s her characters and world building that always have me inhaling the story and begging for more. The Beautiful didn’t disappoint with its cast of characters like Sebastian, Celine, and Odette, and the vibrant setting of New Orleans brought to life by Ahdieh. From the food to the parties in the street we are introduced to a city world renowned but reimagined in the eyes of Celine as she tries to build her new life yet still followed by the old. I was honestly pleased, and surprised at how much I enjoyed this book, and am definitely ready for the sequel! I think the only thing I want to see more of in the next book is the vampire, since it feels like the creature in question was more of a background presence for most of the book until the danger became more imminent.