New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight. In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans is a safe haven after she's forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent in the middle of the carnival season, Celine is quickly enraptured by the vibrant city, from its music to its fancy soirées and even its danger. She becomes embroiled in the city's glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group's enigmatic leader, Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in Sébastien's own lair--the second dead girl to turn up in recent weeks--Celine battles her attraction to Sébastien and suspicions about his guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret. After a third murder, New Orleans becomes gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose--one who has now set Celine in his sights. As the murderer stalks her, Celine finally takes matters into her own hands, only to find herself caught in the midst of an age-old feud between the darkest creatures of the night, where the price of forbidden love is her life. At once a sultry romance and a decadent, thrilling mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet.
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The journey is to change her life forever. She meets Bastien, a young man who becomes a larger figure, and they trade barbs. She is introduced to a secret society of people with untold gifts. She also finds a murdered young woman, the second to be found in New Orleans, and this places her into the police eye. Celine has also caught the eye of this mysterious killer, upping the ante on the mystery.
What I loved: For historical fiction, this was very lush. While it may not be quite historically accurate, the genre allowed the book to move more slowly and spend more time building the world and characters. There are also a lot of diverse characters, which is always great to see. While the plot was intriguing, I particularly enjoyed the perspectives from the unknown 'other' that are given throughout and really added to the mystery of the whole thing. Many of the side characters were particularly intriguing, and I hope they will have even bigger roles in future books.
What left me wanting more: The pace was slower than I anticipated, which will appeal to some. There are a lot of mysteries in the book as to the societies, characters, and of course the murders. While some of this is given at the end, much is left to be later explained in future books. I would have liked some reveals to come earlier and with more information. The romance felt a little insta-love to me, as the characters only spend little time discussing bigger things together and do not start fondly. However, the historical setting could also account for this (as courting rituals and such limit the time spent together).
I would add warnings for attempted sexual assault (attempt described/in the past), the start of a love triangle, and somewhat gruesome murdered body scenes.
Final verdict: Overall, this is an intriguing historical fantasy that I would love to continue reading. The world-building is lush, and the mysteries are quite intriguing. Would recommend for fans of slow-burning historical fiction/romance with a fantasy twist and/or FAWKES and THE LOST PRINCE.