Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Damned - Renée Ahdieh (The Beautiful series, #2)

The Damned is the second book in The Beautiful series.  You can read our reviews of the first book here and here.

Summary: Following the events of The Beautiful Sébastien Saint German is  no longer human.  Like the rest of The Fallen, Bastien is now cursed to walk the earth forever, hungry for blood. And after breaking the tenuous peace his uncle had brokered with the Brotherhood, promising never to bring another vampire into New Orleans, war between the Fallen and the Brotherhood seems imminent.  But Bastien is too obsessed with his lost humanity to care, and thoughts of Celine - who ensured his life by giving up all her memories of him and any claim on his heart - haunt him. Bastien decides Celine paid too high a price and sets about unmaking himself, intent on finding his way back to her. 

Celine, meanwhile, recovering from the attack on her life, is still gravely troubled by the events of a night she struggles to remember, and she can't help feeling that everyone is lying to her about what happened.  What, at last, she crosses paths with Bastien, now a stranger to her, she feels an inexplicably intense emotional reaction to him that leaves her bewildered by desire.  As Celine tries to puzzle out her connection to Bastien, one she knows he felt too, forces lurking in the shadows finally strike out, threatening not only Celine and Bastien's relationship, but their lives.  This next chapter in The Beautiful series is as perilous and romantic as the first.  (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  I read The Beautiful several months ago and thoroughly enjoyed the lush setting and headstrong heroine, Celine Rousseau.  It ended with a cliffhanger and I was nothing short of utterly compelled to pick up the second book at the earliest opportunity. The Damned begins soon* after the night when Celine gave up her memories of Bastien in order to save his life. Both Celine and Bastien narrate the story, but the perspective flits between other narrators as well.  The Damned focuses more on Bastien's character than the first, which makes sense considering the evolution of his character.  It felt like the author was taking turns, with the first book centering on Celine and the second on Bastien.  It's likely that later books could focus on another character entirely, but I imagine Celine and Bastien's story will always remain central.  As the story unfolds it becomes clear that there is far more to Celine than is evident in the first book and the setting expands into a more than just New Orleans. I can't say that I completely loved the new turn of events, but it did add a sort star-crossed lovers quality to Celine and Bastien's relationship.  

I didn't like The Damned as much as I liked The Beautiful, but there were aspects of the book that I enjoyed.  From a superficial aspect, I loved the gorgeous street map of New Orleans on the inside of the front cover.  And this may seem cruel to the character, but I kind of liked that Celine lost her memories.  It set the romance between her and Bastien back a little bit, drew things out, and allowed time for a little love triangle to develop.  And, yeah, it was kind of a lukewarm love triangle, I still appreciated the romantic tension it brought to the story.  Speaking of romantic tension, I was totally 'shipping' Pippa and Arjun and I cannot be the only one.  Their interactions were relatively brief but absolutely brimming with love/hate chemistry.  Pippa, in general has a lot of potential for development and I would love to hear more of her story.  Celine is a very strong character and I loved how Bastien acknowledges Celine's strength and her ability to make her own decisions.  I appreciated the moral message behind Bastien's story, but didn't care much for the cliffhanger at the end of the book.  I have grown so used to Ahdieh's duologies that I just assumed The Beautiful and The Damned were one of them. I was wrong.  There is more to the story and that is problem for me, because I won't be continuing to read the series.  

Alas, it felt like it took forever to finish this book.  Perhaps it's because I am homeschooling half my crew right now and can't seem to squeeze much reading into in the tiny breaks I manage to steal.  It could be because I have a pretty awesome line-up of books waiting in the wings.  Whatever the reason, I just did not feel as invested in the story as the previous  novel. I was also disappointed by the increase in sexual situations that painted a far clearer mental picture than I would personally feel comfortable recommending to teens.  I know that makes me sound like an old lady, but there you have it. Unfortunately, with the sensitive reader issues and my lack of investment in the story, I have no plans to continue reading the series.

*Okay, so I don't actually remember how long after it was and I've already returned the book.  It wasn't immediately after and it wasn't months later.  

My Rating: 3 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  A handful of swear words, including at least two F words.  Brief mentions of two separate characters same-sex orientation.  Several moderately detailed sexual situations.

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