[ARC Review] The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

img_5035Title: The Beautiful
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Beautiful Book 1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (U.K.)
Release Date: 8th October 2019

“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.”

Oh man, this is such a hard review to write. I have such mixed feelings after reading this book. There was so much good, but so much… not so good. My overall feelings were that it was atmospheric and fun and I’m totally on board for the sequel, HOWEVER, I can let those feeling erase all the problems I had. I think it’s probably best we go through this one bit by bit and look at all the good, all the bad, and then maybe you’ll see where I’m sitting.

The Characters

Celine: Celine was a really interesting character to read. She’s witty, strong minded and unapologetic. She sticks to her guns and refuses to accept her place as a mixed race woman in the 19th Century. She’s half french, half Korean and has been taught to hide her Korean side all her life, lest she face racism and prejudice, but mourns the loss of half her identity. This is a really interesting dynamic that I hope is explored further in the sequel – also, this is Own Voices representation which we always love. I’d love to sit Celine Rousseau and Audrey Rose Wadsworth down for a cup of tea.

Bastien: Angst. That’s all that needs to be said. Bastien is your typical daddy-issues YA love interest. He wasn’t particularly unique to me and I didn’t really warm to him, but I imagine a lot of people who aren’t so sick of the same YA boy over and over might love him. Oh, and also he’s of Spanish heritage – even more diversity.

Odette: Odette is where it’s at! If this had have been an Odette and Celine only book I would have been infinitely happier. Her fashion was excellent, her attitude was excellent. Everything about her character in the 19th Century is a bold move and I loved her so much – I can’t wait for more of her in the sequel. She’s also sapphic.

Pippa: Pippa is the sweetest. She’s a point of normalcy in the book that I think is necessary to remind us that everything that is happening is rooted in normal society. She presents a totally different character to Pippa – she wants to be what society tells her to be, she wants a nice husband and a family – but she’s still so strong in her own right. She still stands up for herself and her beliefs, and is fiercely loyal. The dynamic between her and Celine was lovely, and I definitely we’re gearing up to get big action from her in the sequel.

The Good

↠ The atmosphere was one of the best things about this book. We’re set in the late 1800s, so Victorian era, but in New Orleans. It’s dark and dingy, gothic and vibrant, but also full of possibility. The choice of setting couldn’t have been more perfect for this story.

↠ The whole book was so racially aware, which I loved. I think we have such a tendency to romanticise this time of industrial revolution and fashion, forgetting that life was incredibly tough for non-white people. Viewing this time period through the eyes of a mixed race MC gave such perspective on this, and as such there was so much that you wouldn’t expect a privileged white MC, or even a white author to consider.

↠ I am trash for vampires. I need more vampire action.

↠ Whilst I had problems with the plot and the pacing throughout, the last 100ish pages were exquisite. The last 100 pages were everything I wanted this book to be and I loved the way the story went, and the way the dynamics between the characters went. If the whole book had have felt the same as the ending, this would have been an easy 5 star read.

The Bad

↠ After all of that, I bet you’re wondering why on earth this is not a 5 star read! Well, my main issue was the plot and pacing in the first 3/4 of the book. It was so slow! SO SLOW! The pacing was just totally off – I didn’t feel any excitement or anticipation until I got to those last 100ish pages and I found myself, quite honestly, a bit bored. That first 3/4 just felt like a average 3 star read – fine, but nothing special.

↠ I didn’t really go for the romance, it just wasn’t my favourite. It was a bit bland and tropey. It was fine, it just didn’t ignite any burning passions.

↠ Michael Grimaldi was a waste of time and energy. I believe he was supposed to be an alternative love interest, but he was just so bland and meh. I didn’t buy him as a love rival and I felt it pretty unnecessary – I feel again like he will play a big part in the sequel and his character was just all set up in this book.

↠ I felt like the vampires were actually completely oversold to me. There was barely any vampire action, they don’t even appear until the end. I was expecting more violent, bloodsucking action than I got, but with that ending and allusions to other mythical beings I am expecting BIG things from the sequel.

Overall, I felt like this book was 90% set up. It took ages to get to where it needed to be, and once it did it was great, but we just didn’t see enough of that in this book. However, I am expecting great things from the sequel and I truly feel like it’s going to be a great time. I may not have got my angsty vampire book of dreams this time round, but there is still hope! Ahdieh better pull things out of the bag when it comes to ‘The Damned’ (which honestly has the MOST gorgeous cover, I die).

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