This post contains a book sent by the publisher for review.
Hello everyone and welcome to my spoiler free review of The Damned by Renée Ahdieh! The first book in this series, The Beautiful, really took me by surprise last year. I knew I would enjoy it, what I didn’t know is that I would love it. So, the second book made it on my most anticipated releases of 2020 list, naturally.
Today I’m participating in Hodder’s blog tour for this book so huge thanks to them for the advanced finish copy! Let’s read about vampires in New Orleans shall we?
While this is a spoiler free review of The Damned, please be aware that there may be spoilers for The Beautiful!
Following the events of The Beautiful, Sebastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly.
But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien. Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn.
Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.
Thoughts on the Plot
Whereas The Beautiful was told from three perspectives, Celine, Bastien and an unnamed monster, The Damned is told through multiple. We read from Bastien and Celine’s perspectives the most but also Bastien’s werewolf sister Émilie, fellow Court of Lions members Arjun, Odette, Jae and Michael, a friend from Bastien’s childhood and member of the Grimaldi werewolf family. Interestingly however, Bastien’s POV is told in first person while the rest are third person. I would also suggest that while The Beautiful was more Celine’s story, this was definitely Bastien’s.
From the very beginning we are thrust right into the action and the world feels bigger with higher stakes. The Damned opens with Bastien awakening as a vampire for the first time after the traumatic ending of The Beautiful in which Celine reluctantly gives up her memories of Bastien in order for him to be saved by his vampire uncle.
However what I found really interesting, and different to other vampire novels, is that neither Bastien nor his Court of Lions family want him to become a vampire. Despite being the most powerful vampire family, it did not end well for Bastien’s mother or father and so there is a huge sense of reluctance amongst them.
“Because of everything that happened, I’ve learned to love myself more. And is that not the best gift any trial in life can give you? The power to love yourself today better than you did the day before.”
Where The Beautiful kind of tip toed around it, The Damned explicitly states the characters which are vampires, werewolves and more and what this entails. We also got to see some actual vampire transitions which I thought were really cool! There was also the introduction of mythical creatures and magical beings and those with elemental magic.
“I want to love and hope and die with all the limitations that make such a life worth living.”
As with The Beautiful, there is again a lot of diversity in The Damned. We have characters of Korean, Creole, Portuguese, British-Indian, French, Spanish and American ethnicities. With regards to sexuality, Odette is a lesbian and it is suggested that Emelie is pansexual or bisexual by saying “when she gave love, it was without restraint, to men and women alike”.
I really appreciated the discussions that Renee also included in The Damned. Celine and her friends manage a clothing store and we hear about how unheard of it is for women in the 1800s to hold credit and have achieved this, but this doesn’t stop them from being successful. There are also important discussions of racism, slavery, colonialism and prejudice.
“…countless tales about this shining land of America, they often cloaked the darkest parts of its history. In the case of New Orleans, they masked hundreds of years as a port city in the slave trade. The untold deaths of those who had lived and breathed along this strategic crescent of land long before the conquistadors had sailed through its harbour to stake their flags in the ground and declare it their own.”
Although we know the main conflicts of the story going in, the mystery vibes we felt in The Beautiful definitely bleed through here. We have untitled chapters from someone observing Celine and the Court of Lions and it was interesting trying to guess who this could be.
The Damned was packed full of lush and lyrical writing; the world building had me desperate to visit New Orleans and maaaaaybe bump into an arrogant yet charming vampire? Oh also, when he swears? Still swoon worthy. There were also some really amazing and powerful quotes that as you can see in this post, I just had to take note of and share.
“Gas lamps danced in the shadows below. Her vampiric senses flooded with the scent of a New Orleans spring evening. Sweet blossoms, sharp iron, sultry wind. The beating of hearts. The whicker of horses, the striking of hooves against pavers. Dark beauty all around her. Ripe for the taking.”
Thoughts on the Characters
While the plot was definitely fast paced, I also think that the characters played an integral part in this story. Even the side characters were fleshed out and felt so individual; they really added something to the story instead of just being there to fill a space as it were. Arjun is so cocky and cheeky; his banter filled scenes with Bastien really tickled me and learning about his background was really interesting. Actually, we learn a lot about the character’s histories and delve a lot deeper in this sequel which only added to their three-dimensional feel.
The romance was so beautiful and well written. I loved the angst between Celine and Bastien, particularly as everyone was working hard to keep them apart in the beginning. Obviously I can’t say anything serious because of spoilers, but the romantic scenes towards the end of were *chefs kiss*.
“A true hero would find a way back to her. Would seek a path of redemption for his lost soul. A chance to stand once more in the light.”
Throughout the beginning of this book, Celine is struggling to live a normal life. While she can’t remember what happened, she knows that something isn’t right and people are hiding the truth from her. As a woman with “modern views” for that time, she isn’t happy with feeling as though she has to rely on a man for help. Just like in The Beautiful, she is headstrong and tough. I got the feeling that there was something else about her, and it was really interesting to see how things came into fruition in this story.
“A wife is always second to her husband, and I don’t see the merit in settling for second place.”
Bastien… what can I say about Bastien? While he still retains the arrogance from the first book, we definitely see to another side of him in The Damned. As a recently turned vampire from one of the most powerful families, he is extremely strong and dangerous. But this doesn’t stop him from being afraid of what this new power means. He plays a game, pretending that he is happy with his new life, that he isn’t affected. Though when he had to pretend to not care about Celine… yep that hurt. Also I definitely have a character type.
I really enjoyed seeing a more vulnerable side to him, a side that wants to love and protect, even when the other person may have done wrong. He isn’t cut throat like his uncle, he is willing to forgive and work to make things better and I’m intrigued to see how this will come into play in the next book.
“… Bastien, who lounged along the far wall on a chaise covered in navy silk, champagne dripping from his short black hair, a goblet of warmed blood and absinthe dangling from his fingertips”.
The Damned was a lush and spell binding tale of power, betrayal and forbidden love, in a world shared between the dazzling New Orleans and a much older one land of magic.
Renée had me hooked from the very beginning. Not only were the expansion of the world and the stakes intriguing, I was also heavily invested in the character development which really fuelled the story.
I really need more romantic vampire stories now, and I can’t wait for the next instalment. So much more has been set up and I honestly feel like these books are going from strength to strength.
My spoiler free review of The Damned is the last post in the blog tour, so make to check out the previous posts from the graphic below! Huge thanks again to Hodder for sending me an early finished copy and honestly, if you like romance, supernatural creatures, angst, 1800s New Orleans and mystery, you need to read this book.
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