Genre: YA, Fantasy (paranormal)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Published: July 2020
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Pages: 456 [hardback]
Initial Thoughts upon Finishing
Somewhat conflicted upon finishing this. I really wasn’t expecting to rate it 3 stars considering I LOVED book one and rated that 5. But whilst this was an enjoyable and quick read, there isn’t actually much that happens. Definitely feels like an in-between book for books one and three. Am hoping that Ahdieh will up the ante with action in the final (?) book!
What’s it about? (spoilers book one)
The Damned picks up after the events of The Beautiful after Bastien has been turned into a vampire to save him after the attack. In exchange for saving him, Celine has paid the price for his resurrection, the price being her memories, and no longer remembers Bastien or the events that unfurled in book one.
This book focuses on the inner turmoil of Bastien coming to terms with his new reality and Celine being confused for about 90% of the time about what the heck is going on. Michael is also still in the scene and over-taking Bastien as the love interest, doing an enormous amount of mooning over Celine which made even me feel a little uncomfortable.
Enter: the werewolves. Though they were present in book one they get a much bigger role and the animosity between vampires and werewolves spikes up like flag pole in this book. Many angsty moments await you in this book and few fight scenes that make you check if you’re reading Ahdieh or Meyer.
Hm. Mmmm. Well. Okay folks look I was a little disappointed. I was so confused upon finishing this becausenearly all the rest of the reviews out there are raving about how amazing this is and claiming it is FAR superior to book one. I’d like to just quietly say, no, no it’s really not. There were like five brutal murders in book one, sexual tension to make your toes curl, a cliffhanger sure to stop your heart and so much EXCITEMENT. So please, hear me out.
There are honestly a lot of issues with this book that amount up to it not being fantastic. HOWEVER. If you’re willing to roll with it and enjoy the scene that Ahdieh is painting, it is actually still really enjoyable. I read through this pretty quickly but I confess to getting about two-thirds of the way through and going, man I don’t even know if this is going to make three stars at this rate!
My ultimate problem with this book is that it’s suffering from “middle book syndrome” where nothing of note really happens and the major efforts of the narrative are put towards paving the way for the finale (if indeed this is to only be a trilogy). There are some things that happen, notably, Bastien being a vampire is a relatively important one.
BUT. I struggled because the Twilight vibes were hitting me so hard for the first third of the book. It felt clichéd with Bastien all sulky and moody because he’s a bloodsucker now and boo-hoo, et cetera, et cetera. I so wanted the chapters to be a little more action-heavy with Bastien making more efforts to lean into his rage or his love or his SOMETHING. But the internal dialogue is mostly focused on him going, no, I’m going to be a good boy and not be angry.
Granted, this attitude leaves us with a wonderful quote: “it’s never too late to chase the better version of yourself”. I loved this throughline! Is it really followed up on? Ehhhh. Sort of, but in ways that kill the vibes of the story line and suck out all the glorious action. We experience several scenes where the action is at PEAK and then Bastien remembers he’s trying to be good and just stands down. A lovely moral, perhaps disappointing on the back of the serious bloodshed, gore and excitement of book one. I didn’t want a nice book, I wanted the thrill of book one continued. Wah.
The other thing about this book that probably went on too long was the way Celine’s memory loss really hampered the storyline. We spend so much energy in the book with Celine having trust issues and being super confused. The poor girl can’t remember a solid chunk of the last little period of her life and she’s got this guy (Michael, I liked him much less in this book) trying to kiss her, woo her, and clearly itching to pop and proposal. Like mate, back off a little. The woman has experienced trauma. Keep it in your pAnTs.
The character development also died out so quickly. You could argue what Bastien is going through was character development but it felt like he was brooding in a circle . . . and I’m not sure that quite qualifies. The tension between Bastien and Celine was a little lacklustre and any progress made between the two of them (platonic or romantic) felt a little off. There is one scene in particular (and if you’ve read, it’s THAT one *waggles eyebrows*) that I both enjoyed and felt confused by. What was the point? What did that achieve? It felt out of place even if I enjoyed the smut.
One of the best things about this book is the world expansion. Oh my GIDDY AUNT. That was a good move. Once we get past the Twilight phase of the story, the Alice and Wonderland vibes hit us so hard. We get to explore more of the fae world (unexpected, but I liked it) and a little more history about vampires and such. This was a really fun twist to the book and helped broaden the scope of the narrative and stopped it getting stagnant.
Unfortunately, we don’t get much out of this added element. There’s a really strong motive for Bastien driving his good-two-shoes approach to life that entwines with this expanded world theme. But nothing comes of it. I AM FRUSTRATED. We go through a massive quest-like adventure, involving loads of new and exciting characters, only to get to the climax and poof. Disappointment. Nothing happens. People are let down. Excitement runs away and hides under the bed.
I’m really glad to see a lot people are able to overlook these things and enjoy this even more than book one. But this just didn’t cut the mustard for me. Whilst I enjoyed it on a surface level, once I start comparing it to book one I sound like I’m writing a one star review. I am SO hoping for improvements in the next book or else I will sob like a baby. Ahdieh painted such a rich and beautiful world of New Orleans in book one, but come book two I feel like I missed a step coming down the stairs and was jolted out of the magic and am now confused and wondering what I missed. Let us pray for extreme stabby-ness in book three and much MUCH MUCH more action.
Grab a copy!
I am an affiliate with these companies. By using these links to purchase books you are supporting Upside-Down Books!
Get free worldwide shipping and great prices with The Book Depository and Wordery!
Support an Australian company with Angus & Robertson and get free shipping on orders over $60!
Support an Australian company with Booktopia and enjoy flat rate shipping for AUS/NZ!