Equal parts sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, Renée Ahdieh weaves a magical new fantasy tale in her book, The Beautiful. Following a mysterious society and one girl’s wish to start anew, supernatural forces come into play that make our protagonist question everything.
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.
Although the first few chapters are a bit slow, the mysteries of the Court of Lions and supernatural elements haunting New Orleans are revealed bit by bit, hooking the reader into the story. By midway through the novel, I was itching to know what would happen next!
The setting of 1800s New Orleans makes this YA novel even more alluring. I don't know if this novel would have worked if it were for the time period. It adds an extra level of intrigue and it’s a lot of fun to read about these characters trying to rebel against the confines of society and finger out what kind of serial killer is plaguing their city.
Speaking of characters, all of them are so much fun to learn about. Celine, the protagonist, is determined and witty and longs for a sense of agency in her life. Her friends, Pippa and Odette, are loyal in their own ways and help Celine throughout the story. And Bastien’s dark and enigmatic personality is just so enticing that you can’t help but want to dig deeper into what makes him tick. Even Michael, an antagonistic character who seems to be a meek gentleman, shifts from annoying to a likable. The characters help make this story what it is and keep the reader entranced with the plot from start to finish.
And HOLY GOODNESS THAT PLOT TWIST?!?!! I would’ve NEVER guess who the killer was and the things that are revealed at the end of the book make the longing for the sequel even greater. While everything starts to make sense towards the end of the novel, you’re still left wanting more.
Overall, if you’re looking for a new fantasy series to sink your teeth into, then Ahdieh’s The Beautiful is the perfect book to satiate your craving. I cannot wait for the sequel to come out in July to see what these amazing characters get up to next!
*Special thank you to Penguin Teen for a copy of the book to read!
Hi! My name is Elisa and my bookshelf is quite literally overflowing! Join me in my journey of reading as many books as humanly possible!