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Review: The Beautiful

The Beautiful - Renee Ahdieh

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I really, really, really wanted to love this. I was so excited to see vampires starting to make a comeback in YA fiction. I was thrilled when my review request was approved, then it was hinted at it would be in one of my YA subscription boxes – so I got a pretty signed hardback with sprayed edges. I did wait until the hype had died down a bit before delving in.

 

There were parts of it I really enjoyed, parts of it that were eye-rollingly stupid and parts that were just boring. The end was wholly unsatisfying (though thankfully I have pre ordered the sequel and had my review requested granted). Though there was enough of a what the??? To want to know more.

 

The 1800s New Orleans setting is vividly described. The main character, Celine is running from a terrible incident in her past in Paris and sets sail for the US with a convent, whose aim seems to be helping young women find suitable husbands. There were times I loved Celine’s character – she was strong willed, sassy and smart. Despite her worries about her past catching up with her she seemed very confident and together. She also came across as highly opinionated.

 

One thing I did like was the female friendships – Celine bonds with one of the other convent girls, Pippa, who becomes a real friend. As a former dressmaker – Celine’s stitching work for the convent catches the eyes of the beautiful and mysterious Odette who hires her to make a gown for a masquerade. Odette appears flippant and over the top, but she embraces Celine and seems keen for Celine to join her rather than head back to the convent.

 

Odette is part of a group of dangerously beautiful and alluring people, none of which seem quite normal. There’s something distinctly different about them, curious and bordering on frightening. Naturally Celine is intrigued by them. I found the male love interest, Sebastian, to be rather bland and uninteresting. A very typical stereotype – rich, well spoken, devious, and charming with a sense of darkness and foreboding. Nothing I haven’t seen in vampire novels before. He and Celine rub each other the wrong way yet unsurprisingly are annoyingly attracted to each other.

 

Doesn’t help when the bodies start turning up with strange symbols, and the police officer heading the investigation clearly has some sort of history with Sebastian and Odette and their group. Doesn’t help either that Celine seems to keep getting in his way. And she’s got things to say as well. Some of the mystery aspect was quite interesting and the plot did get more and more interesting as the novel progressed.

 

One thing that drove me up the wall though was the chapters from the killer’s point of view. To me they sounded just ridiculous. I think they were trying to sound like a sophisticated creature who has been around for centuries plotting his revenge against some perceived wrongness. It sounded woe is me over the top and stupid. Though to be fair, I didn’t actually guess who the culprit was.

 

This was a mixed bag of a novel, with good things and bad things. However, enough of a grip in the story telling that I need more from this world.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.