Today, I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, after reviving it last month! In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.
Today, I’m focusing on two intriguing, fantastical tales that make our reality seem that bit more magical.
The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh
Trigger Warnings: Mentions of rape, graphic depictions of murder victims.
In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.
When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.
Between this, Dracula and The Deathless Girls, I’m falling back in love with vampire fiction. This is a sumptuously written blend of romance and mystery that had me utterly entranced.
Ahdieh certainly knows how to create witty, sharp-tongued and strong women that define convention and showed off that skill once again her with Celine and Odette, who were my favourite characters of the book. I loved how Odette was an openly gay woman in a time where that open declaration would’ve been extremely dangerous and frowned upon.
The writing was just stunning, with this pulse-quickening romance entwined with a gripping murder mystery, including the perspective of the killer themselves at times. The setting perfectly complemented this grand story, feeling mysterious and atmospheric, at times like a gilded cage of elitism and carefully constructed appearances.
An elegant, interesting instalment of the apparent vampire renaissance in YA that I will be intrigued to continue next year.
Infinity Son by Adam Silvera
Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.
Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.
Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.
I read this over the course of last weekend and I was completely spellbound.
The multi narrative was really enjoyable and helped me get into the story more, as I got a glimpse through different characters’ perspectives, all of which felt well-rounded and relatable in one way or another. My favourite though has to be the somewhat tortured, conflicted Emil, trying to find his place in this ever-changing world.
The structure of the story was well crafted, constantly keeping me on my toes as Silver threw in some rally interesting twists. I also enjoyed exploring the magical creatures and system of this world that’s so like our own, but not. Of particular interest was Emil’s interest in phoenixes, which are some of my favourite fantastical creatures and getting to explore some of their mythology was a highlight of the book for me.
However, I do feel like the world building could’ve been stronger, as I felt like there wasn’t much explanation of the ‘glean craft’ and a few of the secondary characters felt like sketches rather than fully-fledged characters. There’s definitely room for growth, but I think Silvera will make it there with the sequel.