Title: The Beautiful
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA, horror, paranormal fantasy
Source: Purchase (Barnes and Noble)
Publication Date: October 8, 2919
Celine Rousseau has fled from her life as a dressmaker in Paris to a convent in New Orleans after a traumatic event. Hoping to start a new life, she struggles to find her place in the convent, as her skills as a dressmaker aren’t in high demand. Then, a woman named Odette, commissions her to sew a costume for a masquerade ball. Celine agrees and finds herself swept into a world she’s never dreamed of. Odette is a member of a mysterious underworld called La Cour des Lion, and Celine quickly becomes entangled with them, especially after catching the eye of the leader Sebastian Saint Germane. The two clash and attract each other, an attraction that quickly becomes suspicion when the body of a convent girl turns up on the doorway of Sebastian’s club.
Now, Celine finds herself both a suspect of the murder and the object of the murderer’s obsession. People connected to her start dying, and she’s determined to uncover the truth. The truth, however, comes with a devastating price.
I really liked this book a lot because I loved Celine so much. She’s strong and dark and a little twisted. She’s a misfit that’s not quite trying to fit in as much as find the place where she belongs. When she discovers La Cour des Lion and Bastien, she’s intrigued and enamored and feels very comfortable. She feels her own desire for power is met in Bastien’s, and she fits easily into the world.
I also really liked her friendship with Pippa, another girl from the convent. Celine is hiding a dreadful secret and it’s a heavy burden for her. She’s afraid to open up, but also desperately wants to. I like her tentative overtures of friendship towards Pippa, and how they are met with welcome and understanding.
The setting was amazing, too. The supernatural and New Orleans has been done, but that doesn’t meant it can’t be done again. And Ahdieh does it so well. New Orleans on the cusp of Lent, with the parties and parades and decadence that surrounds the upcoming week. It made me desperately want to be there and experience it in a way I didn’t even get in my reread of Interview with the Vampire. It was just so vivid and rich; I felt like I was there.
My only slight knock to the book is that I was completely confused at the ending. Now, this may not be the book’s fault. I was completely convinced the bad guy was one character, and then it wasn’t… but maybe it was? I didn’t quite get who the antagonist was and what their motives were. I don’t know if I didn’t read closely enough, I wasn’t willing to give up what I thought, or it just really didn’t make sense. I don’t know. But, I ended the book baffled, but pleased I’d read it and looking forward to the next in the series.
If you like atmospheric books with strong female characters, sexual tension, and vampire-like creatures, you’ll enjoy this book. And if you get the ending, let me know, because… I think I need to read it again. Not that it’d be a chore. 🙂