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Today I’m here with my spoiler free review of The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh. This was actually my first foray into Renée’s writing; I’d heard lots of great things about her previous books and this one, so I knew I’d be in for a treat. I sadly wasn’t able to get a copy at YALC but was very kindly granted a request on NetGalley to read an advanced copy – thanks Hodder! I then managed to snag a physical copy of the arc via a trade (albeit after I’d already finished the ebook) so alls well that ends well as they say.
After being stuck in a reading slump throughout August, this book was just the thing I needed. From the moment I picked it up I was hooked, falling in love with the setting and New Orleans just as Celine was. Keep on reading for my review, but I would suggest getting comfy ’cause it’s kind of loooong…
Fleeing from Paris and an act that could see her arrested, 17 year old Celine finds herself in New Orleans. With plans to start fresh in a new country, Celine grows closer to the enigmatic Bastien and the Court of Lions who are treated as though not entirely human, magic maybe… When a threat is made to Celine’s life she becomes caught up in a murderous plot, but not afraid to help/get stuck in, she may just find herself in the middle of it all.
My Thoughts on the Characters
Told in third person, The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh is split into three perspectives. Whilst we are primarily told the story through Celine’s eyes, we see briefly from Bastien’s an also an unknown ‘monster’, with English, French and brief Spanish used throughout.
The Beautiful featured an extremely diverse cast, with characters of varying sexualities and ethnicities. Celine is half French and half Asian (though it isn’t specified exactly), Bastien is of French and Spanish descent and we also see individuals from England, Spain, India, Scotland and more. Odette, another member of the Court of Lions and a good friend of Bastien’s is a lesbian who as well as enjoying finery and beautiful gowns likes to wear suits, bucking the trends and reminding me greatly of Gentleman Jack!
Celine was a great and compelling protagonist. She was endearing and admirable which were a great combination to read about. Despite being attracted to Bastien, and New Orleans, she isn’t quick to just swoon and comply. Her individuality and strength in the face of many adversities meant that I never got bored of reading about her. I could practically hear her shouting “F*CK THE PATRIARCHY!”
Bastien was just *chefs kiss*. Despite coming across like a bit of an ‘alpha male’, I did get the impression that he is quite the feminist. He considers the fact that men could have sexual relationships with no consequences but women were shunned and looked down upon. I did feel that Bastien was supposed to be lethal but we didn’t really see much of that. The descriptions felt very reminiscent of Kaz Brekker minus the danger and threat, but I’m thinking that this may come into play in the next book!
My Thoughts on the Relationships
The slow burn romance in The Beautiful was just. so. good. It was kind of enemies to friends to lovers (but not quite!) and it kept me hooked throughout. There was just the perfect amount of angst which you know I love. At the beginning, during one of their first encounters, Bastien says coolly “I don’t give a f*ck” and like, that phrase has never sounded better??? There were lots of my favourite tropes included too! One where Bastien protecting Celine’s body with his own to hide him from view (not a spoiler) and I just live for that shit.
I really loved the relationship between Pippa and Celine too. Despite Pippa being more of a traditionalist, she knows what’s right and wrong and battles with her ideologies for her friends. They truly just want the best for another another and it was so good to read about real female friendships.
My Thoughts on the Plot
I think it’s clear to see that I had a lot of thoughts about the characters. While The Beautiful is definitely not slow paced or without action, I did consider this fairly character driven.
Renée’s writing and story building throughout the story really was second to none. I felt as though I was walking around New Orleans with Celine, experiencing the magical sights and feelings. The love Renée has for this place is clear to see and the descriptions and vibe they created were definitely one of the reasons that I was so engrossed in this story.
With the diversity of the characters comes many important discussions and thoughts included, such as Arjun pointing out the privilege that Celine has because of her ethnicity and the highlighting of sexism in 1800s New Orleans.
There was an undercurrent of mystery and unease throughout the story. We weren’t really sure what was causing all of the deaths and murders – I definitely felt as though many of the characters were unreliable and any one of them could have been responsible for some way. The Court of Lions, with their extraordinary powers, definitely contributed to this feeling. I would definitely like to visit their place one time as it sounds magical!
A lot happened in the last three quarters of the story or so, but I do think we needed the slightly slower pace in the beginning as we really got to know the characters and their stories which is important for the first book in a series. With the introduction of some new characters (and creatures)!, a hint at a potential love triangle and a shock ending, I truly cannot wait to pick up the sequel. Not just your typical vampire story, The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh was a seductive and hypnotic read that had my heart and mind captured from beginning to end. 4/5 stars.
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