The Beautiful

The Beautiful

by Renée Ahdieh

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Overview

Instant New York Times and Indie Bestseller!

New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.


In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans is a safe haven after she's forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent in the middle of the carnival season, Celine is quickly enraptured by the vibrant city, from its music to its fancy soirées and even its danger. She becomes embroiled in the city's glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group's enigmatic leader, Sébastien Saint Germain.

When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in Sébastien's own lair--the second dead girl to turn up in recent weeks--Celine battles her attraction to Sébastien and suspicions about his guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

After a third murder, New Orleans becomes gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose--one who has now set Celine in his sights. As the murderer stalks her, Celine finally takes matters into her own hands, only to find herself caught in the midst of an age-old feud between the darkest creatures of the night, where the price of forbidden love is her life.

At once a sultry romance and a decadent, thrilling mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524738181
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 10/08/2019
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 13,473
Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
File size: 4 MB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Renée Ahdieh is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog. She is the author of Flame in the Mist and Smoke in the Sun as well as the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and its sequel, The Rose and the Dagger.

Read an Excerpt

1st février, 1872
aboard the CGT Aramis

Not What It Seemed

The Aramis was supposed to arrive at first light, like it did in Celine’s dreams.
 
She would wake beneath a sunlit sky, the brine of the ocean winding through her nose, the city looming bright on the horizon.
 
Filled with promise. And absolution.
 
Instead the brass bell on the bow of the Aramis tolled in the twilight hour, the time of day her friend Pippa called “the gloaming.” It was—in Celine’s mind—a very British thing to say.
 
She’d begun collecting these phrases not long after she’d met Pippa four weeks ago, when the Aramis had docked for two days in Liverpool. Her favorite so far was “not bloody likely.” Celine didn’t know why they mattered to her at the time. Perhaps it was because she thought Very British Things would serve her better in America than the Very French Things she was apt to say.
 
The moment Celine heard the bell clang, she made her way portside, Pippa’s light footsteps trailing in her wake. Inky tendrils of darkness fanned out across the sky, a ghostly mist shrouding the Crescent City. The air thickened as the two girls listened to the Aramis sluice through the waters of the Mississippi, drawing closer to New Orleans. Farther from the lives they’d left behind.
 
Pippa sniffed and rubbed her nose. In that instant, she looked younger than her sixteen years. “For all the stories, it’s not as pretty as I thought it would be.”
 
“It’s exactly what I thought it would be,” Celine said in a reassuring tone.
 
“Don’t lie.” Pippa glanced at her sidelong. “It won’t make me feel better.”
 
A smile curled up Celine’s face. “Maybe I’m lying for me as much as I’m lying for you.”
 
“In any case, lying is a sin.”
 
“So is being obnoxious.”
 
“That’s not in the Bible.”
 
“But it should be.”
 
Pippa coughed, trying to mask her amusement. “You’re terrible. The sisters at the Ursuline convent won’t know what to do with you.”
 
“They’ll do the same thing they do with every unmarried girl who disembarks in New Orleans, carrying with her all her worldly possessions: they’ll find me a husband.” Celine refrained from frowning. This had been her choice. The best of the worst.
 
“If you strike them as ungodly, they’ll match you with the ugliest fool in Christendom. Definitely someone with a bulbous nose and a paunch.”
 
“Better an ugly man than a boring one. And a paunch means he eats well, so . . .” Celine canted her head to one side.
 
“Really, Celine.” Pippa laughed, her Yorkshire accent weaving through the words like fine Chantilly lace. “You’re the most incorrigible French girl I’ve ever met.”
 
Celine smiled at her friend. “I’d wager you haven’t met many French girls.”
 
“At least not ones who speak English as well as you do. As if you were born to it.”
 
“My father thought it was important for me to learn.” Celine lifted one shoulder, as though this were the whole of it, instead of barely half. At the mention of her father—a staid Frenchman who’d studied linguistics at Oxford—a shadow threatened to descend. A sadness with a weight Celine could not yet bear. She fixed a wry grin on her face.
 
Pippa crossed her arms as though she were hugging herself. Worry gathered beneath the fringe of blond on her forehead as the two girls continued studying the city in the distance. Every young woman on board had heard the whispered accounts. At sea, the myths they’d shared over cups of gritty, bitter coffee had taken on lives of their own. They’d blended with the stories of the Old World to form richer, darker tales. New Orleans was haunted. Cursed by pirates. Prowled by scalawags. A last refuge for those who believed in magic and mysticism. Why, there was even talk of women possessing as much power and influence as that of any man.
 
Celine had laughed at this. As she’d dared to hope. Perhaps New Orleans was not what it seemed, at first glance. Fittingly, neither was she.
 
And if anything could be said about the young travelers aboard the Aramis, it was that the possibility of magic like this—a world like this—had become a vital thing. Especially for those who wished to shed the specter of their pasts. To become something better and brighter.
 
And especially for those who wanted to escape.
 
Pippa and Celine watched as they drew closer to the unknown. To their futures.
 
“I’m frightened,” Pippa said softly.
 
Celine did not respond. Night had seeped through the water, like a dark stain across organza. A scraggly sailor balanced along a wooden beam with all the grace of an aerialist while lighting a lamp on the ship’s prow. As if in response, tongues of fire leapt to life across the water, rendering the city in even more ghoulishly green tones.
 
The bell of the Aramis pealed once more, telling those along the port how far the ship had left to travel. Other passengers made their way from below deck, coming to stand alongside Celine and Pippa, muttering in Portuguese and Spanish, English and French, German and Dutch. Young women who’d taken leaps of faith and left their homelands for new opportunities. Their words melted into a soft cacophony of sound that would—under normal circumstances—soothe Celine.
 
Not anymore.
 
Ever since that fateful night amid the silks in the atelier, Celine had longed for comfortable silence. It had been weeks since she’d felt safe in the presence of others. Safe with the riot of her own thoughts. The closest she’d ever come to wading through calmer waters had been in the presence of Pippa.
 
When the ship drew near enough to dock, Pippa took sudden hold of Celine’s wrist, as though to steel herself. Celine gasped. Flinched at the unexpected touch. Like a spray of blood had shot across her face, the salt of it staining her lips.
 
“Celine?” Pippa asked, her blue eyes wide. “What’s wrong?”
 
Breathing through her nose to steady her pulse, Celine wrapped both hands around Pippa’s cold fingers. “I’m frightened, too.”

Customer Reviews

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The Beautiful 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Sherriska 3 months ago
When I read the synopsis of Beautiful, my first thought was FINALLY. Finally the vampires return to YA under the worthy pen of someone like Renee Ahdieh. I could not wait to sink my teeth(sorry!) into this one. I must stop here and agree with some of the other reviews who wished for more vampires. A wisp here and there, a brief mention or a bloodied corpse was really all the reader was given. Simply not enough. I never felt fully grounded with either Celine(whose infatuation with Shakespeare started grating after a while) or Bastien's crew, although I did enjoy the budding romance between the two. I also couldn't tell what the deal was with Bastien through most of the novel--he's mortal? he's other? What in his lineage is so important that he must be protected at all costs? Still can't answer that one... I will definitely read the next one because I am curious how Renee picks things back up. On a last note--I would LOVE to read a vampire tale that does not have to include werewolves...just sayin'...
ElysianF 13 hours ago
Well I finished it... I'm dissapointed. Here are ten quick thoughts I gave about the book; 2.5 stars. 1) It's not a vampire book, a supernatural book, nor really a romance. 2) It's a turn of the century, French Quarter, Gothic tale with a handfull of creatures, a hard headed woman, and a somewhat interesting man. Bastian was lost on thus author, she had such a great character and squandered him. 3) The author sure loves to describe everything, but doesn't let her characters actually do anything. I got a derailed, in depth description if everything in New Orleans, but the characters didn't actually do much of anything. What they did was talk or make dresses. 4) There is no HEA. Well maybe you might consider the epilogue. It's two lines and effectively reverses the last 25 or so pages. You can't have it both ways, you get one ending, you much choose!! Either way is not a HEA. 5) the title and cover don't match the story at all. Well the creatures are called the beautiful, once. 6) The story's action could have been told in 200 pages. That leaves 225 pages of description and non-action. 7) the ending angered me. I worked really hard to finish for that bullsh*t! I understand there us a book two, but why is that needed when half of this book was wasted time? 8) extremely slow pace, consistent, but slow. 9) the book is grand in atmosphere but not much else. The author could have developed the characters (all of them) in greater depth if not for the wasted descriptions of the room, the dress, the hair, the food, the sounds... 10) it's nothing like I expected or was "told" from reviews. It wasn't a waste of my time as it was a great trip through 1880's New Orleans; it just wasn't what I wanted nor what I would have chosen. I will look jnto book two, but only for soneone to spoil it for ne. I'm curious but not enough to read it.
TheWolfandBooks 11 days ago
For fans of Stalking Jack the Ripper, The Gilded Wolves, and Serpent & Dove. The Beautiful is absolutely delicious and macabre. There are bodies piling up, secret rifts between childhood friends, a strong heroine... all set in a backdrop if 19th century New Orleans. There are definitely vampires in this but they aren't running around and about exposing themselves like in The Vampire Diaries. If there were more vampires, people would say it felt forced... cheesy even. It's 1872. Vampires aren't really a things so therefore it makes perfect sense that they are in the shadows at this point. I do not want nor need a Twilight copy cat. The Beautiful sets itself apart. Celine and Sebastian aren't like any character's I've read about. Now if you read the synopsis, the word "vampire" isn't even mentioned. I never expected a single book to solely bring vampires back. To put that on one author is unreasonable. I'm OBSESSED with this book. I don't know what people expected? This is a very slow burn and introduction into the world of vampires... as it should be considering the time period. Please give this a chance. The only way vampires can make a come bac is if we allow for different types of stories to be told and not hold a single author to an impossible expectation.
bookishIN 13 days ago
I've been waiting for this one! I had been hearing the hype for Renee Ahdieh's newest book, "The Beautiful" December 2018 when Melissa Albert was discussing upcoming 2019 releases on the B&N YA podcast, and I was THRILLED to finally read the entire novel. The beginning gives you a first look at your main characters and the setting in New Orleans is dreamy and romantic, with so much imagery written into the descriptions that if you've been to Nola, you will definitely be able to place yourself right in the middle of the action. The main character, Celine, is a French seamstress, who leaves France after committing a crime she thinks will bring disgrace to her family. Celine arrives in America and with no contacts, family or money has to live in a convent and contribute to cover her lodging. Celine meets a glamorous woman in Jackson Square who asked her to design a dress for her. The adventure and high stakes take off from this jumping off point as Celine is drawn into a dark, shadowy and full of danger adventure. There is a handsome young man Celine is drawn to, details about beautiful clothes Celine once made, murders to solve and sumptuous descriptions of food-all of the making of a true Ahdieh novel! This was an engaging gothic vampire tale that is the first in four planned books. It was not quite as good as I expected with all the hype, but I still enjoyed reading it. The next book, "The Damned," releases Summer of 2020.
Kelsey Bickmore 15 days ago
Why do the bad boys always have to be too good looking? Not that this book isn't good, but it does seem like that is always the case in young adult novels. I did enjoy reading this because I do like vampires and other supernatural creatures. Celine is nice in that she is not the perfect little princess waiting to be rescued by the bad boy Bastien. She can take care of herself and she does, even when the choices she makes are not always the best because she is drawn to darkness. I liked her friendship with Pippa which provided some light points in this novel. I was not not as much a fan of the instalove/attraction between Celine and Bastien but I suppose that is inevitable due to the genre that this book is. There is lots of action and murders though, which help to balance out that attraction. I liked that. This a different New Orleans and I would really like to know more about it which is likely as this book ends with quite the cliffhanger.
Khristina Moraa 15 days ago
Unsure about this one. So, I'm not really certain how I feel about this one. All I know is that I didn't connect with the characters well enough and that is always a major deterrent for me in a book. I somehow can't bring myself to subject myself to reading a book about characters whose stories I do not enjoy to read. I will, however, concede that the premise was stellar. As well as the cover. Both were the reason I immediately clicked on this book and I was a little more than disappointed to find that it did not live up to what I thought it would be in my head. I do look forward to giving this book a second chance but I don't think that will be anytime soon. I am aware that staying away from it longer won't solve the problem but I do believe my mind needs a break.
Anonymous 25 days ago
This was good! Great characters, loved the descriptions of New Orleans. A great start to what could be a fabulous series!!! I am hoping we get more descriptive details and backstory into how the characters came to be, and the two warring immortal factions in the next book!! Vampires and New Orleans are always a must read for me!!!! I’m definitely team Bastien LOL!!
Take_Me_AwayPH 29 days ago
Normally I don't like historical fiction, but if you pair it with something I do like.... say vampires, I'll still give it a shot. And that's of course what this book did for me. And of course there's the fact that Renee Ahdieh wrote it. Because that means I HAVE to read it no matter what it's about lol Celine Rousseau has come to New Orleans to flee her past life in Paris, France. She resides now in the Ursline Convent with other girls. She is quickly swept up into society's underworld and the leader, Sebastien Saint Germain. A girl from the convent is suddenly found dead and then more bodies began popping up. Celine takes matters into her own hands and wants the killings to end. But what if she her searches reveal something a lot more sinister at play? After the sparkly vampire came out, I remember every paranormal romance wise was about vampires. It got to the point where I didn't want to read them anymore. I don't think I've read one for a good 10 years. So when this one came out, I remeber being a bit iffy. And as soon as I started readiong it, I'm not sure why I was iffy about it. This isn't the sparkly nonsense that I used to love so long ago. This one has actual eat your throat out vampires and listen, I AM HERE FOR IT. Like I stated before, I LOVE Ahdieh and will read everything she has. And this was no different. I highlighted so many passages I loved in this book and wrote down about 4 pages worth of quotes. That's normal for me with authors that I love, but normally it's when I write down longer quotes. These were fairly short and I still managed to have about 4 pages worth. It was just that good. But even with those things, the plot wasn't great. I found myself almost DNF'ing this for most of the first half of the book. I remember writing down the percentage when things really started happening and it wasn't until about 60% that they sped up, and that made me really upset. If I knew I was going to spend most of my time reading fluff, I would have skimmed that or even read something else first. Don't get me wrong, this book is good, but I could have listened to this on audio where I sped it up and probably would have liked it more. The characters were ok, but not exactly memorable. The main character Celine was good, but she ended up being the only one I liked. I wasn't even a fan of the love interest and I normally like the broody, quiet ones. They just weren't my favorites. This book took me through a lot of ups and downs, but to say I'm not a fan of two of it's hugest aspects, ple
book_junkee 3 months ago
I’m pretty much here for anything Renée writes, but I was irrationally excited for vampires and New Orleans. I really liked Celine. She’s resourceful and strong and I enjoyed reading her find herself in a new city. Bastien was interesting, but an enigma and I did love the button pushing between the two of them. There are a good amount of characters in this story, but I need about 2000% more of Odette. Plot wise, it was weird. There’s a lot of mystery and murder and the atmosphere was amazing. The descriptions of food and the city and clothing were lush and I sort of wanted to jump into the book and roll around. What I was annoyed with is the fact that nothing felt explained at the end. The reveal and reasonings didn’t make any sense to me and I’m hoping that part of it is because we’ll get more in the next book. Overall, I loved the idea and Renée’s writing and the wait for book two might be unbearable. **Huge thanks to GP Putnam’s Sons BFYR for providing the arc free of charge**
Cristine Paquette 4 months ago
3.5 stars- What i loved: Vampires are my guilty pleasure. Put a vampire in a book or tv show and I automatically love it. When I first read the synopsis for this book, I knew I had to read it the second I got my hands on it! Not only does it have vampires but it takes place in New Orleans during the 1800s. So basically I’m imagining The Originals through the whole thing. Not to mention, Renee Ahdieh is a wonderful writer who is so good at representing many cultures, ethnicities, and sexualities. The main character Celine, is a tough and smart feminist that isn’t afraid of no bully! Or wearing pants, or falling in love with a dangerous and mysterious dark gentleman who she may or may not suspect to be a blood thirsty murderer. What i didn’t love: this book was way too mysterious for me. In fact, the only reason you knew the book was about vampires was because the synopsis on the back of the book said so. They were eluded to as a mysterious and inhuman creature but the word vampire wasn’t actually said until the last 10 pages. Let me remind you, I came here for the vampires! I wanted more details on the vampires and who exactly they were.
Belle Aurora 4 months ago
I am a huge fan of vampires! The synopsis caught my interest and I couldn't wait to read this. My consensus: it was okay. The author starts the story out where I am intrigued and wanting to know more about the characters and the world I am being brought into. Sadly, I couldn't connect with the characters and there was just something missing. While descriptive so I can paint a clear picture, it falls short. We don't go deeper into our main characters, we don't explore the world and its residences, and the love triangle was not really done well. The plot is not there. I really wanted to love it but it's an okay read. I will be willing to read the next one to see if it gets better but we shall see.
hufflepuffilicious_books 4 months ago
Oh this book has so much potential, but it kind of fell flat in some areas. I really was interested in the book and it was pretty fast paced, with plenty going on. Although the plot itself felt like it didn’t go anywhere and there was too much filler. Celine is a good character who doesn’t always follow the rules, but is trying to find a place in the world after an incident in Paris causes her to flee to New Orleans. Sebastian is your typical brooding YA love interest. I wasn’t really his biggest fan. I also found the world building to be lacking. You don’t find out what kind of creatures the members of La Cour des Lions are, and there’s not a lot of details about them. When I read a paranormal story, I want to know everything about the creatures and how they work. Can they go in the sun? What do they eat? Do they sparkle? (haha just kidding). You’re told who the vampires and other creatures are, but there are no back stories or anything else. Also there’s a love triangle and I HATE love triangles. Celine starts out hating both of these romantic interests, but then changes her mind in about 10 minutes. Which isn’t really convincing. There’s going to be a sequel which will probably answer a lot of the questions I have. I hope there’s a little more purpose to the plot.
kmg7777 4 months ago
The Beautiful starts off in compelling fashion, following Celine as she flees her life in Paris for the sultry melting pot of New Orleans in the 1780s. The scenery and settings are described sumptuously, making for a city of years past that you can practically see. Celine is a strong female character and loyal to her friend Pippa, who came over with her from the Old World to live at a convent while striving for a better life. But it isn't long before darkness draws Celine into its fold and sees her as a pawn in a game among immortals. This is the point where the book gets stuck in neutral for me. You don't really know why Celine is a target, just that she is and she spends her time flitting in and out of parties and the headquarters of La Coeur de Lion trying to deduce why someone is out to get her while falling in love with Bastien, a dark moody young man that has the whole city in thrall. While the reason Celine is being hunted is disclosed by the end of the book I felt more than a little confused and the ending didn't help any. I can tell that Ahdieh left it open-ended to provide a next chapter to the story, and yet in the same regard created closure that makes me wonder just how many characters in this story will be a part of the next one.
Haylee42 4 months ago
The Beautiful, goes without fault. On first glance, the title in and of itself says all you need to know about this work, which is that from the character design to the plot, The Beautiful is captivating and, just as the title suggests, beautiful. Each page entices you to continue, and holds twists and turns in all kinds of directions. It may seem easy to guess what might happen next, but chances are that you will probably be incorrect in your assertions. Right from the beginning it is easy to fall for and relate to our characters, from Celine's fire, Pippa's loyalty, Odette's enticing nature, and Bastien's debonair, dangerous allure. One of the many great charms this book has is its way to make you fall for the characters, because face it, we all look for fictional partners when reading. One of the greater parts of this novel is the way that Renee Ahdieh was able to rekindle my love for vampires in novels. She writes vampires amazingly well, and will not disappoint if sparking vampires is not your thing. I do have only one issue with this novel: upon finishing it I could not go on to the next! I am not looking forward to the long, treacherous wait for the next novel. Surprising to me, this novel has became my favorite, and I am happy to have had the chance to enjoy this work of art. I am excited for all else to read it and suffer in my emotional wreckage, as you will not be disappointed!
KarenfromDothan 4 months ago
Celine Rousseau has left Paris, her father, her whole life behind and sailed for New Orleans. The year is 1872, and she along with six other newly arrived young ladies are being sponsored by the Catholic church. They’re given room and board and in return are expected to help out around the church until suitable husbands are found for them. Celine is a very bright and capable young woman and is vexed by the restrictions placed upon her both by society and by the Mother Superior. She soon catches the attention of La Cour des Lions and their dashing and mysterious leader, Sebastien Saint Germain, and finds herself right in the middle of a fiendish plot. This is a sultry young adult fantasy. Most of the story is built around the attraction between the two main characters. Personally I would have liked more of the fantasy element and a little less romance. I do like the characters. At sixteen, seventeen and eighteen they are very mature, very responsible teenagers, having to make their own way in life. Also, for me, the pacing was kind of slow. It seemed to take a long time to get to the heart of the story. The mystery surrounding the murders is very good and twisty though. I’m glad this is the first of a new series as I was left wondering about a few things. I think it’s a good start and an entertaining read for those who enjoy YA fantasy fiction. 3.5 stars
Sabrina207425 4 months ago
I have been anxiously awaiting the return of vampires to the YA genre. This book was hyped as being exactly what I have been waiting for, however, the slow pacing caused it to be more of a book with the threat of vampires. This being said, I am definitely looking forward to continuing the series as all of the build up in The Beautiful should come together to create a sequel with more action. I loved the setting in 1872 New Orleans- the city comes alive through Renee Ahdieh’s words as she describes the decadent clothing, the architecture, and the sweeping sense of intrigue. I also enjoyed Celine as the headstrong protagonist and Bastien as the charmingly mysterious love interest. There is a lot of potential for exploration with secondary characters as well- I hope to get to know the members of La Cour des Lions in more depth in subsequent novels. Since we alternate POVs a little in this novel (it was a great idea to give us the POV of the villain periodically without revealing their identity!), I would love this to be expanded to other characters as well. Overall, this story has a lot of potential that I hope will come to fruition in the sequel.
loveofmuse 4 months ago
First of all, I am happy that vampires are back; I missed those suckers. I was very excited to pick up The Beautiful because I enjoyed Renee's other books and of course this book being about vampires, I had to read it. Overall, I enjoyed it with some reservations. The first part of the book was very slow-paced, the second half was more action-packed and captivating. It took me a while to get through the first half because not a lot was happening, while I was inpatient for some action. I loved the sultry historical setting of New Orleans, and I found the characters interesting but underdeveloped. Sebastien and Celine have great chemistry, and their romance has potential, but I wanted to see more interactions between them. I cannot wait to see their relationship grow and develop in the next book. I also want to learn more about La Cour des Lions and all its members. The Beautiful ended on a cliff-hanger and whetted my appetite for more. I am very much looking forward to the next book. *ARC provided by the publisher and BookishFirst
onemused 4 months ago
3.5 stars THE BEAUTIFUL takes place in New Orleans, primarily following a young woman, Celine. Celine fled France after a terrible event and found refuge in the Ursuline Convent, where she and other girls are helping to get it up and running and teach classes. Celine feels like an outsider and has not really found her place, until she happens to meet Odette, a young woman of means who wishes to commission a gown from her for an upcoming masquerade. After seeking permission from the convent, she travels into the city at night with another girl, Pippa, to take Odette's measurements for the gown. The journey is to change her life forever. She meets Bastien, a young man who becomes a larger figure, and they trade barbs. She is introduced to a secret society of people with untold gifts. She also finds a murdered young woman, the second to be found in New Orleans, and this places her into the police eye. Celine has also caught the eye of this mysterious killer, upping the ante on the mystery. What I loved: For historical fiction, this was very lush. While it may not be quite historically accurate, the genre allowed the book to move more slowly and spend more time building the world and characters. There are also a lot of diverse characters, which is always great to see. While the plot was intriguing, I particularly enjoyed the perspectives from the unknown 'other' that are given throughout and really added to the mystery of the whole thing. Many of the side characters were particularly intriguing, and I hope they will have even bigger roles in future books. What left me wanting more: The pace was slower than I anticipated, which will appeal to some. There are a lot of mysteries in the book as to the societies, characters, and of course the murders. While some of this is given at the end, much is left to be later explained in future books. I would have liked some reveals to come earlier and with more information. The romance felt a little insta-love to me, as the characters only spend little time discussing bigger things together and do not start fondly. However, the historical setting could also account for this (as courting rituals and such limit the time spent together). I would add warnings for attempted sexual assault (attempt described/in the past), the start of a love triangle, and somewhat gruesome murdered body scenes. Final verdict: Overall, this is an intriguing historical fantasy that I would love to continue reading. The world-building is lush, and the mysteries are quite intriguing. Would recommend for fans of slow-burning historical fiction/romance with a fantasy twist and/or FAWKES and THE LOST PRINCE. Please note that I received an ARC. All opinions are my own.