Proceed with caution, this review contains spoilers for the first book in the series.
Upon finishing The Beautiful I immediately knew I would be picking up the sequel to follow Bastien’s journey and it turned out so much better than I thought it would. Whilst I was on the fence with The Beautiful, the sequel did everything right.
It jumped into the action, it gave us much better perspectives and there was naturally more vampire content. The Damned managed to remedy every issue I had with its predecessor. Firstly, the focus of the second book on a handful of diverse characters who were one of my favourite elements of the first book provided not only a rich background to the story but it gave weight and authenticity to the world and the plot. These characters seen through Sebastien’s eyes provide so much more depth to both him and the world Ahdieh has created. This book is very much about the characters, in my opinion. The plot itself is simplistic and at times predictable but it still manages to remain compelling because you care about what happens to the characters, you still want to go on the journey with them regardless. Personally, I guessed the main plot points before even starting this book but I still enjoyed it. The introduction of Celine’s heritage and the fae (and other creatures) does a great job of adding to the mythology.
That’s why choosing to give Celine’s perspective a back seat was such a good choice in The Damned, it allows us to see the extent of the world. I admit I’m also somewhat biased because I didn’t love Celine in the first book – I appreciate her as a character, her strength and what she represents and how Ahdieh (especially in the first book) uses her to introduce some pervasive social commentary. This coupled with the way in which the author addresses Celine’s trauma makes for a more palatable character.
As I’ve previously mentioned, this is primarily a character driven book and as a result I’m going to inevitably end up talking about the cast at length. I liked Bastien and getting to experience the vampire world through his experiences and the history we got from that. What’s more, not only does the sequel put Bastien in the spotlight, almost adjacent to Celine’s conscience in the first book, it allows us to see his efforts to deal with his own trauma and the murky waters that are the moral throes often present with vampirism. I absolutely adored Jae, in fact I could read a whole book about him.
Whilst the writing is not as poetic or descriptive as the first book, I think it’s a strength within this particular narrative. Not only does it carry along the worldbuilding versus action in a well-paced fashion – it never feels like we’re being bluntly dumped with information – it also helps us connect to the cast of characters much better.
Where The Beautiful felt almost patronising, The Damned takes heed from it’s main character Sebastien and feels genuine. In conclusion, vampires never left for me but hopefully Ahdieh has brought vampires back into the mainstream for everyone else. The Damned walks the line between rich storytelling, bittersweet pining and the inevitable enticement of vampires, werewolves and more.
I was provided a copy of this book for review by the publisher.