The Damned (2020) is the sequel to Renée Ahdieh’s The Beautiful, a young adult vampire novel set in 19th century New Orleans. You’ll need to read The Beautiful first, and this review will have a few spoilers for that novel.
The Damned begins where The Beautiful left off. (Spoilers for The Beautiful are starting here!) Sébastien Saint Germain had been betrayed and murdered by his friend. Celine begged Sébastien‘s uncle, Nicodemus, to save him by turning him into a vampire, but Nicodemus was disinclined until Celine agreed to have her memories of Sébastien erased in exchange. (Nicodemus thinks Celine is an unsuitable match for his nephew and is pleased to wipe Celine’s memories of him.)
Sébastien is not happy about being turned and at first he refuses to drink blood or follow the vampires’ other customs. He spends his time drinking (alcohol), carousing, and brooding. But he’s a very strong vampire and Nicodemus, hoping to use Sébastien’s strength to earn back the vampires’ place in the fae court, pushes him to obey. But all Sébastien wants is to find a way to restore his humanity. The clue he needs may reside in faerie.
Meanwhile Celine is also in recovery and is disturbed that there are large holes in her memory. Michael, the young police inspector who’s in love with Celine, is taking care of her, but he’s not telling her what she wants to know. The existence of Sébastien isn’t the only secret that’s being kept from Celine. It turns out that she is not at all the person she thought she was …
When Sébastien and Celine accidentally encounter each other upstairs at Jacques’, sparks fly. Soon Celine realizes that Sébastien may have the answers she needs to restore her memory. And since Sébastien is also seeking answers, they team up. Their quest involves a magical object, a prophecy, and a destiny.
I wasn’t a big fan of The Beautiful — it’s better suited to teens who like dark vampire romances — but there was a big twist at the end that made me want to know what happened next. Plus, the audiobook was already loaded onto my phone, so I was happy to give The Damned a try.
Unfortunately, The Damned maintains the flaws of the first book — the excessive drama, shallow romance, and overwrought language — while missing some of its best elements such as the sultry New Orleans setting. While much of the story happens in that decadent city, the setting is de-emphasized, and a lot of the action takes place in misty fae lands which feel pale compared to New Orleans. The parts of the story set in faerie feel rushed, too.
It was nice to learn more about Sébastien and his sister and uncle, and about the fae court and the war between the vampires and the werewolves, but much of this was told in info-dumps and just wasn’t that interesting or imaginative. There was nothing I haven’t seen before. The secrets about Celine felt too coincidental and contrived, and I had a tough time believing in some of her reactions and decisions.
Same with Sébastien who is confident enough to think he will be the first person to find a way to be unmade, but is impotent enough to declare that, though he loves her, it’s impossible for him and Celine to be together because they’re supposed to be mortal enemies. There’s so much drama over this: While one of them is saying they must be together, the other is saying no. They can’t seem to get coordinated. Whatever. I don’t believe in their romance anyway.
The BEAUTIFUL series is going to work better for teens who really love paranormal romance involving vampires, werewolves, and faeries. Like the previous novel, this one ends with another big twist that’s the most exciting thing that happens in the whole story as well as some foreshadowing that has even me kind of wanting to pick up the next book because I think it might focus on Pippa, a character I like much better than Celine.
I mentioned in my review of The Beautiful that I wasn’t crazy about Listening Library’s audio editions of this series. Narrator Lauren Ezzo’s voices for the main characters are nice, but others were unpleasant and a little muffled. If you’re considering the audiobook version, try a sample first and make sure your app lets you increase the playback speed.