Genre: Fantasy of Manners, Romance
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books on October 24, 2017
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
In a world of etiquette and polite masks, no one is who they seem to be.
Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society. Under the tutelage of the beautiful but cold Valérie Beaulieu, she hopes to find a suitable husband. However, the haphazard manifestations of Nina’s telekinetic powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.
Yet dazzling telekinetic performer and outsider Hector Auvray sees Nina’s powers as a gift, and he teaches her how to hone and control them. As they spend more and more time together, Nina falls in love and believes she’s found the great romance that she’s always dreamed of, but Hector’s courtship of Nina is deceptive.
The Beautiful Ones is a sweeping fantasy of manners set in a world inspired by the Belle Époque.
From glittering ballrooms to decaying family estates, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s THE BEAUTIFUL ONES showcases the grandeur of society inspired by the Belle Époque…and the grit that’s carefully concealed beneath it.
When young Antonina Beaulieu comes out in society, she’s thrust from the socially relaxed country town where she grew up and into the blinding lights of Loisail. Guided by her aunt, the coldly perfect Valérie Beaulieu, Antonina struggles to conform to the social niceties required to make a good impression; her clumsiness, brazen attitude, and completely disregard for etiquette quickly mark her as a borderline unmarriageable miss. Add in her unsettling tendency to move things telekentically when she’s upset, and Nina has her fair share of hurdles to overcome before she can make a match of it. Until the mysterious, accomplished telekenetic performer Hector Auvray knocks on the door of her Aunt’s home…
Nina is quickly captivated by Hector`s attention, his plain-speaking, and his good looks. But Hector is pursuing Nina for all the wrong reasons, and it`s not long before that comes to light. Moreno-Garcia captures perfectly Nina`s feelings of betrayal, anger, and shame in the wake of her heartbreak, and I really appreciated the time she gave Nina to mourn the loss of Hector`s courtship and accept the reality of her circumstances. THE BEAUTIFUL ONES is a romance, so it`s not exactly surprising how the triangle between Nina, Hector, and Valérie ultimately plays out, but I really appreciated the care that Moreno-Garcia took in getting there.
THE BEAUTIFUL ONES stands apart from other fantasy of manners and romance novels thanks to Moreno-Garcia’s writing style, a lyrical yet precise way with words that’s typically reserved for “literary fiction.” A genre chameleon, Moreno-Garcia proves that she has the talent to pull off any kind of story with a style that’s uniquely her own. Some fans of CERTAIN DARK THINGS may not find what they’re looking for (namely, thrills and chills) in THE BEAUTIFUL ONES, but personally I loved reading Moreno-Garcia’s description of an entirely different world.
More than anything though, I found myself captivated by the characters and their multidimensional personalities. Nina, with her fresh optimism, kindness, and unbearable naivete; Hector, with his genuine heartbreak and fondness for Nina coupled with his scheming, manipulative behaviour; and Valérie, with her wild heart trapped by the conventions of the upper-class lifestyle she desperately clings to. Not all of the characters in THE BEAUTIFUL ONES are likable, but they’re all convincing and well-drawn. Valérie, in particular, impressed me — she’s selfish, cruel, and conniving, but her motivations are understandable and convincing. Moreno-Garcia makes it clear that Valérie wasn’t born this way: she’s been hardened by the sacrifices she’s made to conform to the expectations of a patriarchal society and the strict boundaries of class.
While I enjoyed the sprinkling of magic in THE BEAUTIFUL ONES, I admit that I craved more detail about the telekinetic powers that Nina and Hector both possess. We hear a lot about Hector`s unrivaled skill with his abilities, and although he does perform a few times on page, I confess that I wanted to know the true extent of his abilities. I’m sure he’s capable of much more than what he displays in his acts. That said, I was quite pleased with the way Nina`s developing control over her own gift plays into the climax of the story. Pretty badass!
THE BEAUTIFUL ONES is at once charming and thought-provoking, full of style, wit, and social commentary. With her trademark skill and style, Silvia Moreno-Garcia proves that she has staying power in any genre she chooses.