Good news for those that didn’t enjoy The Beautiful: The Damned is very different, and, depending on your perspective, a hell of a lot better. With everything that was done right in The Beautiful, the opposite was done in The Damned. Is there too much info-dumping? Sure. Do I wish we heard more from Odette and Pippa and Arjun? Always. Is this the most counterproductive beginning to a (mostly) positive review ever written? Maybe. Nonetheless, I’d recommend giving The Damned a try regardless of how you felt at the end of the first book in the series.
The worldbuilding in The Beautiful was basically nonexistent, which was rather unfortunate, but understandable, considering the majority of the book was from Celine’s perspective when she was unaware of the paranormal of New Orleans. In The Damned, Ahdieh inundates the reader with background information about rivalries and loyalties among the fey, vampires, and werewolves. The actual historical NOLA backdrop is still lacking, though.
We learn about the Otherworld, which remains a murky, ever-present force driving formerly unknown character motivations till the end. The world is fleshed out through a greater amount of unique character perspectives, and the more knowledgeable perspective of Bastien that dominates the novel. It’s definitely a lot to take in, which is why I wish Ahdieh had included more worldbuilding in The Beautiful, especially since this wider lens came at the cost of the more potent character relationships in The Damned.
The decision to center The Damned on Bastien rather than Celine was interesting. This meant that we got to get a deeper look into the supernatural of New Orleans and were spared the repetitiveness of Celine’s perspective now that she’s lost her memories. Bastien’s struggle between light and dark was interesting, and the growth that results easily rivals Celine’s, but for some reason, it still feels empty. This might be because, in the last book, he was a stereotypical hot, mysterious love interest to be objectified gleefully in a novel highly anticipated for the romance, and now we have to consider him as an actual human being, which is just cruel, but I can’t be sure.
The relationship between Celine and Bastien in The Damned is unfortunately lacking. It isn’t hard to enjoy their scenes together, especially since we finally get to see Bastien’s perspective and behind the cold facade requisite of our beloved antiheroes (a male love interest with feelings? I’m shook to my core!), but their interactions are few and far between until the end.
Due to all the new characters and the introduction of a semi-cohesive plot, as well as the aforementioned worldbuilding, the same can be said for Celine’s friendships with Odette and Pippa. While I’m not a fan of certain aspects of Ahdieh’s writing style, the dialogue is always forceful (unless it shouldn’t be) and adds to the entertainment when areas such as this are lacking. It’s unfortunate, but up to the reader to decide if this was a worthy trade-off.
Overall, The Damned is a decent fantasy sequel, especially in the ways that The Beautiful wasn’t, and it sets up a world on the brink which demands a trilogy.