In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamoured with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.
When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.
I have been a huge fan of Ahdieh’s writing ever since I first found my way into her books. Both her previous series; The Wrath and the Dawn and The Flame in the Mist are favourites of mine, so I was ridiculously excited to get accepted for a review copy of this from the publisher via Netgalley.
Celine Rousseau is a woman on the run from her past, believing she can find a new life in New Orleans she makes the perilous journey with the hope of starting afresh in a new city. When she meets Odette, a seemingly innocent enough girl who hires her to create a costume for the Mardi Gras ball, Celine gets dragged into the mysterious Court of Lions. Each member seems to have some sort of special ability and Celine is not sure that they are all human. Especially Bastein, the nephew of Le Comte de Saint Germaine one of the most powerful men in New Orleans. Their first few meetings get off to a bumpy ride, but their paths may be more entwined than either of them realise.
One thing Ahdieh knows how to do best is create a world so rich and magical that you get dragged into the pages of the book, experiencing the story right alongside her incredibly strong, resilient and lovable characters, so much so that you feel as if you yourself are part of this mysterious world. This book was no different. I was swept away to New Orleans, smelling the Beignet’s from the bakery’s on the corner, and experiencing the wonders of carnival season, her descriptive skills are amazing and I couldn’t get enough of reading her interpretation of the dress styles, etiquette and beliefs of the time.
Celine’s story was one I had a true pleasure in following. The epitome of a heroine; strong, loyal and more than able to hold her own in a world run by men. I loved her interactions with Bastien, neither willing to back down especially in regards to the safety of their friends. Though we get introduced to a multitude of characters, they all bring their own special something to the book and my favourite side character would have to be Odette. The first person to introduce Celine to the Court of Lions, she was equally witty and resilient. I enjoyed seeing the friendship between these two bloom, and couldn’t get enough of their scenes together.
With this being a book by Ahdieh, there was, as is to be expected, a heavy reliance on romance, although I feel this was slightly less ‘full on’ then in some of the other books. The romance only truly picks up towards the end of the book, before that the conversations between Celine and Bastien were some of my favourite interactions in the book snarky and steaming with tension, you weren’t sure whether they would kiss or kill each other. At the start they are both unsure how to take the other, and its only after a few meetings that they begin to relax in each others presence. Both believe they would be bad for each other, aware that their pasts might inevitably catch up with them. I felt this was quite a fresh take on the overused ‘good girl saves the bad boy.’ Both of the characters need redemption in their own ways, and it might be that they can only achieve that together.
As well as Celine’s POV, we have a second narrator, the ‘demon’ seemingly responsible for the attacks in New Orleans. There are plenty of options for who this person could be, but I did not expect that! A true plot twist that hit me from out of nowhere. I had my suspicions throughout the book, but none hit the mark. I had to re-read the few lines again to make sure I had read them correctly, and even then I couldn’t truly believe it. Let me tell you it definitely left me wanting more and eagerly awaiting the next book.
This book was a 4.5 for me! Ahdieh created a rich magical world that I couldn’t get enough of, my one down point was I didn’t FEEL the romance like I had in her other books. However, this was a small part of the book in consideration, and It did not effect my overall enjoyment. Perfect for fans of Stalking Jack the Ripper who are looking to add a bit of magic to their reading.