Whoa. After decades of reading Urban Fantasy and Vampire fiction I never thought I’d find a book that plucked the same strings of my fandom as Rice’s Interview with a Vampire or my young adult hormones like seeing Vampire Diaries on TV for the first time.
But The Beautiful kind of does it. And its not so much an original portrayal of vampires or lots of unrequited longing, although those elements are there, its a quality harder to describe: a dreamy, mesmerizing jazzy feeling from the historical New Orleans atmosphere and sense of impending doom for the main character Celine.
Celine is one of a group of girls arriving on a boat from Europe in the company of other girls all bound for jobs in a convent, all running from mysterious pasts. In New Orleans they are assigned jobs, but Celine quickly encounters one of the city’s most mysterious inhabitants: The Sebastien St. Germain, and the city’s most celebrated policeman, Michael Grimaldi.
And a love triangle ensues. And most of the love is filtered into Celine waxing on about their eyes.
There’s alot of waxing.
Which is why, despite my gleeful and rapid reading of this book, I can’t actually give it a 5 star review. Ahdieh does a fantastic job of evoking past vampire fiction, tropes, and cliches without making them tired. However, despite us getting Bastien’s POV, he felt a little bland to me and slightly undifferentiated from Michael the Policeman (both of whom are intent on protecting Celine.)
It was nice not to have a too stupid to live heroine who nonetheless does take some agency into her own hands, but she does seem to have an odd spot of massive guilt over something in her past. And I was never sure why Celine and Bastien mutually “agree” they should just be friends in the beginning…why was he inappropriate for her? I never understood that.
We also get the bad guy POV, and truthfully that waxed on a bit long for my taste. I don’t think I really needed that POV at all except that it info dumped stuff about the secret supernaturals. The reveal of the big baddie did surprise me and I wished we knew more about that person’s motivations.
All, in all, we’re left with alot of questions and both plot and romantic threads hanging. I’ll definitely go on with this series because of the vampire feelz, but because of my adolescent admiration overpowering a more mature sensibility of the book’s faults.