this is probably closer to a 1.5 star rating to be honest, but i’m angry at the blown potential here, so i get to round down.
Let the record show that i was very, very excited for THE BEAUTIFUL. It promised me vampires. It promised me a lush New Orleans setting. It promised me a murder mystery with romance on the side.
Did I get any of that? Yes, more or less, but with grossly disproportionate amounts to the point where it feels like this book was marketed very, very deceivingly. Or just plain wrongly.
- Where are the vampires? Where are they??? Not here, apparently. I mean, yes, there’s a sprinkle of vampire in here, but at the risk of spoilers I’ll keep it simple and say: there are barely any vampires here. There are lots more assorted paranormal shenanigans and weird magic. Me = upset.
- If you were to ask me WHY New Orleans? i would not have an answer for you, and i’m thinking neither would Ahdieh. Look, i scream all day about wanting more immersive settings in books, settings that feel like a character of their own, but there’s a difference between IMMERSIVE and OVERKILL. This isn’t my first Renee Ahdieh book (though I’ve only read THE WRATH AND THE DAWN before this) but I can say now that I guess this is just how this author’s style works? All the details, no matter how insignificant, are exaggerated, blown up to twice what their actual size should be. Every minuscule observation is given foreshadowing-level heft, which makes for a headache-inducing reading experience as you try to puzzle out what ACTUALLY matters here and what Ahdieh just really, REALLY wants you to know just for funsies. Or to show off her research.
- Céline. Oh, Céline, our MC. It’s not that I disliked her character, it’s more that she didn’t have an established-enough character TO dislike. We’re told she seeks danger because she loves the thrill of it, because she’s intrigued by the paranormal, etc etc etc, but again, we don’t know WHY. Her personality and characterization isn’t compatible with this supposed motivation; either that or something isn’t fleshed out enough here for us to buy that. Why does Céline get involved with X? Because she thinks it’s fun. Why does doing Y even matter to Celine? Because it’s fun. Even if it’s stupid. Nay, BECAUSE it’s stupid. End of story.
- The rest of the cast was okay. They served their purpose, even if we have to suspend our beliefs a little too much sometimes, like believing that the city’s chief detective is a handsome teenager (?). But my main issue is with none other than Bastien, the LI, who is so shrouded in mystery for his supposed appeal that he doesn’t come across as developed enough. Having secrets is fine, it’s usually intriguing, but with Ahdieh’s signature overkill, this guy has so. many. secrets that we don’t even know who he even IS or why he even matters in the overall story until, like, the last couple of pages. That’s a problem.
- Also the ending unravelled a whole lotta plot points and was … self-ruinous, for shock appeal, I assume. It left me a bit reeling, and not in a good way, trying to figure out why on earth this was thought of as a good ending at all.
Overall? If you came here expecting vampires, go elsewhere. Seriously. And if you came here for the murder mystery, there are surely other, better places to look.