Published by: and on June 2, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance
My Rating: ★★★★
🚨 MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD 🚨
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.
❝Alas, I know how well God listens to the prayers of the damned.❞
The Damned is the infinitely quotable, addictive sequel to The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh — one of the key books in kickstarting the vampire resurgence within YA. In truth, The Beautiful was underwhelming for me and I only gave it two stars, but vampire books happen to be my guilty pleasure and I didn’t want to give up on this series at the first book. I’m extremely glad I read the sequel as the stakes have increased in tenfold this time around. Whilst a lot of the first book was slow paced and shrouded in mystery, The Damned is fast, fun and has the right amount of enigmas to keep the reader hooked.
❝It is never too late to chase the better version of yourself.❞
One thing I loved about the first book was the New Orleans setting — it’s very atmospheric — but the expanding supernatural world in The Damned is immensely enjoyable too. Readers were introduced to a few different creatures in The Beautiful, but the spotlight is shared more equally this time around as Ahdieh dives deeper into vampire/werewolf politics and the ever-exciting world of the fey. This is very different tonally to the first and feels less like an urban fantasy towards the end. However, it’s a good change and propels a lot of the characters’ development forward as the complex layers and rules of the supernatural are peeled back. The found family trope is apparent within the Court of Lions and the unique relationships between this very diverse cast of characters makes it easy for a reader to resonate with at least one of them. Their bond and interactions are a true highlight. Albeit, this is also a perspective heavy book and I didn’t appreciate the excessive amount of POV changes. The different POV changes are overwhelming and too many things start to happen at once to the point of complication.
❝In the end, the monsters did possess the better stories.❞
❝And she was not a damsel in distress, waiting to be rescued by a knight on a shining horse.❞
Celine is the female protagonist in the series and she’s seductive, fierce and smart. She reminds me a lot of Buffy Summers, serving as a prime example that women can be feminine and badass — they don’t need to compromise between fighting and liking fashion, for example. She is a really refreshing character because she knows what she wants and isn’t afraid of speaking her mind, which is a big feat considering the book is set in the 1800s. She doesn’t take anything sitting down and I love how independent she is — she has her own mind and makes her own decisions without caring what others will think of her. I especially appreciated how quick she is to piece together people are lying to her and how determined she is to find out the truth. If anything, my only complaint is there’s not enough of her in this book — the focus is more on Bastien this time.
❝The face of the obedient son. The benevolent brother. The cool-headed leader. The vengeful vampire. The lost soul. The forgotten lover.❞
Our other main character is Bastien — a newly turned vampire who longs to be ‘unmade.’ As a vampire, Bastien is angsty and brooding, which isn’t the type of character I’d usually like. Whilst he isn’t anything special, I think he balances Celine fairly well. He is an interesting character, one that comes from a place of privilege and has a past that unfolds with each page, but I can’t understand why he didn’t fight harder for Celine. I wonder if he was too caught up in himself at times to realise that he could have had everything he wanted if only he took charge more. However, I did admire his constant efforts to improve as a person and the emotional depth that he offered as it is rarely seen in male characters.
MY FAVOURITE MOMENT
❝And real love may be a choice, but I plan to choose someone who steals the breath from my body and haunts my very dreams. That is the only kind of love worth having.❞
By far, the standout moment for me is Celine’s conversation with Pippa at the engagement party. It’s heart wrenching to think that Pippa is so prepared to settle for less than she deserves and a part of me hopes she ends up with Arjun — I think some seeds were being planted for their relationship. This scene really called attention to who Celine is as a character for me though — it shows she is passionate and vivacious and certainly won’t conform to the societal standards for women.
❝I have loved you in both my lives. I will love you in all the rest to come.❞
The notion of Celine not conforming is furthered when she takes control and initiates being intimate with Bastien. This ended up being another one of my favourite moments and it was done in a tasteful manner. It was nice to see the woman being dominant for once. When reading, I thought it felt natural and was the necessary step to strengthen Celine and Bastien’s relationship. If anything, it serves as a pay off after all the pair endured to find their way back to each other.
MY LEAST FAVOURITE MOMENT
I don’t think there’s anything I strongly dislike about this book — other than the amount of POVs, that is. Some of the POVs are red herrings in concern to the true villain, but it creates confusion as opposed to intrigue. In fact, the unnamed POV is a particularly underwhelming reveal, one that I guessed almost immediately.
Regardless of how people felt about The Beautiful, I would urge everyone to give The Damned a chance. It’s a phenomenal, action-packed read where there are no dull moments and it far surpassed my expectations. Twists and hints are around every corner, embedded into Adieh’s compelling writing style — the extended metaphor of fairytales throughout is executed flawlessly and solidifies how intricately woven The Beautiful’s world is. Although, it does contain an unnecessary amount French that is sometimes poorly placed (si les enfants sont précieux, then why are they so cruel to ethereals?). To me, it didn’t make sense why characters would speak half a sentence in French and change to English, but my biggest gripe with it is the lack of a translation guide. Some words are easy to figure out, some others made Google Translate a permanently open tab whilst I read it. Nonetheless, I’m immensely excited for the future of this series.
Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
read it and weep,