The Damned by Renee Ahdieh
From Goodreads: Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien.
Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn.
Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
Vampires are officially back.
Obviously it’s been done before. And on occasion it’s been done badly. Renee Ahdieh’s take on the supernatural creatures strikes the right chord between vampires being romantic and sexy, and them wanting to tear your throat out. I think the setting massively helps with that dangerous seduction feel to the book– everything is decadent and beautiful and hidden in the shadows. Usually, I’m not that fussed about setting, but it feels almost as if it is another character in The Damned, one that is just as lively as the characters who wander through it. Ahdieh’s gorgeous descriptions also do a lot to help here. They’re so heady and wonderful, and really put you right there in New Orleans. Her descriptions of food and clothing, in particular, are nothing short of masterful, but there’s a lot of poetic lines and details woven in that just made me sigh with contentment while reading them.
There’s also a lot of good things to be said about the characters. The female characters, in particular, are wonderfully written. It would have been easy to have made them meek and subservient, given the time period the novel is written in, but all of the female characters have a lot of agency and definitely stand up for themselves when they need to. It’s something that we see a lot of in YA, and yet I will continue to celebrate it whenever I see it because it’s so damn uplifting. Even Pippa, who has long wished to marry for wealth and to be a wife, has moments when she surprises you by being strong and independent. There are also a lot of points of view in this book (more so I think than in book one) which can be both a good and bad thing. From a positive perspective, I really liked learning some of the backstory of the other characters, particularly those from the Court of Lions. It was interesting to see their motivations and aspirations and I felt like these sections did a good job of fleshing out characters and making them seem more real and sympathetic.
Perhaps, that is part of the reason why the pacing was a little slow. I had a similar problem with The Beautiful in that it felt a little too flowery at times, a touch too languorous. By the end, I was hooked, but the beginning was definitely a bit hard to sink into, especially when there were lots of points of view chapters and one of the main characters didn’t come into it until several chapters in. It felt almost as though a lot of this was set-up. I’m not sure if it is the slow pacing or the worldbuilding that allowed me to put the book down quite a bit at the start. The worldbuilding is, at times, confusing and hard to fathom out and frankly a touch underwhelming. It felt like lots of it was being told, rather than shown, either through memories or explanations. But I feel like this second book in the series did a better job of ironing out some important information, and I think I followed The Damned a bit more than I did The Beautiful. That’s not to say it wasn’t a thoroughly enjoyable book, just that there was a lot to take in, and something felt a little bit… off somehow? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something didn’t quite fit right with me. But hey, that’s likely a personal perspective thing. The fact that I can’t quite explain what held me back at the start probably means it’s a very minor thing.
I will say, I’m kinda a bit surprised that this isn’t the final book in the series. I don’t know why exactly I thought it was a duology; possibly because both of Ahdieh’s other series have been two books long, possibly because the title, taken from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned (I massively appreciate this title) is obviously now complete, making me wonder what the third book will be called.
Overall, I’m giving The Damned a 7.5/10. The descriptions and setting marry together with the theme really well, making for a glorious, decadent atmosphere. And it was wonderful to read more about the characters and their hopes and schemes. But I felt like the pacing, particularly at the start, was a little slow, and the worldbuilding still feels a bit underwhelming somehow.
The Damned comes out in the UK on the 7th July!
Has anyone else read this book already or plans to? What do you all think of it? Let me know in the comment section down below ❤