The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: The Beautiful Ones
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Series: N/A
Pages: 327
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: October 24th 2017

      “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.

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“Hector raised his hands, the candle flames rising with them, and with one movement of his arms they merged into a prodigious ball of fire that he then snuffed out with a clap of his hands, causing several spectators shriek because, for a moment, it seemed like he was about to scorch himself.”

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s The Beautiful Ones is a character-driven novel that combines fantasy and romance in a eloquent story rapt with emotion. Antonina “Nina” Beaulieu has been invited to stay with her cousin in Loisail for her first Grand Season. The city is a far cry from Nina’s home in the country, but she can’t help but see its appeal when she meets the mysterious Hector Auvray. A gifted telekinetic, Hector has risen to prominence performing for audiences across the globe. When Hector begins courting Nina, she’s convinced that they are meant to be. Hector, however, has a ulterior motive, one that will bring Nina’s world crashing down.

Moreno-Garcia juggles three perspectives and does a masterful job of fleshing out each character, making them feel real to the reader and allowing each to have their strengths as well as their faults. Nina is more comfortable trying to catch beetles and butterflies than a potential husband. Not the kind of young woman that suitors line up for in a city like Loisail, Nina finds rules regarding etiquette to be stifling. It doesn’t help that her telekinetic ability often manifests at inopportune times. While those in Loisail can appreciate such a talent as a means of entertainment, it is not something suitable for ladies to display. Nina is markedly younger than the other two characters and it very much shows. Hopelessly romantic and naive about the world, Nina is easily taken in. She believes the very best about people because she has never been exposed to those who would use others for their own gain. Her inexperience opens her up to plenty of heartache. Though her openness was one of the first things I admired about her, her growth as a character made me appreciate her even more. I loved that Moreno-Garcia took the most humble of the three characters and allowed her to develop and show strength unparalleled.

Hector is not a character that you immediately fall in love with. Yes, in some ways, he can be seen as simply a tragic figure. Coming from nothing, Hector has managed to accumulate the kind of wealth that people in Loisail are either born with or marry into. While trying to recognize this dream, he ended up losing his first love in the process. His choice to court Nina only as a means to get close to another instinctively made me bristle. That being said, his is a really rewarding character arc as he is forced to confront his own naivety. Even as a grown man, he still has a lot to learn. Hector learns to see the past and present how they are and now how he wishes them to be.

At times I wanted to dislike Valérie wholeheartedly, but Moreno-Garcia has created such a complicated character that it’s difficult not to admire her in some way. Valérie was pressured into marrying Nina’s cousin Gaeten in order to save her family from financial ruin. But lest you think she is some tragic figure, Valérie is also vain, resentful, and prone to jealousy. She often regards Nina with disdain because, unlike her, Nina has more freedom to choose who she marries. Nina also has the love of her cousin, something Valérie doesn’t necessarily want, but which her proud personality demands. She’s an incredibly manipulative person who is much more comfortable being cruel than sentimental. For her, loving someone means they have power over her and she refuses to be under another’s thumb. There’s no way to justify Valérie’s every decision, but because she is such a well-developed character, I understood why she did the things she did and this ultimately made her an exceptional antagonist.

The Beautiful Ones showcases just how versatile and gifted a writer Silvia Moreno-Garcia is. The world she builds is very easy to fall in love with and my only criticism is that I wanted to see more of the telekinetic aspect. Still, there are few books that leave me feeling completely satisfied and The Beautiful Ones is one of them.

5/5

★★★★★

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The Friday 56: Certain Dark Things

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“Open your eyes.”

He did. She was sitting beside him, on the floor. Domingo blinked. His head felt like it was about to explode.

“Am I a vampire now?” he asked.

Atl chuckled. “Don’t be silly. I told you that wasn’t possible. You should stop believing the crap they say about us.”

In Certain Dark Things Sylvia Moreno-Garcia has created a really interesting world with a unique take on vampires. I don’t typically read vampire novels, but this is one did such a fine job with its world-building, I wouldn’t have minded spending more time in it. You can read my full review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…
       Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy eking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life.
       Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten.
       Her plan doesn’t include developing any real attachment to Domingo. Hell, the only living creature she loves is her trusty Doberman. Little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his effervescent charm.
       And then there’s Ana, a cop who suddenly finds herself following a trail of corpses and winds up smack in the middle of vampire gang rivalries.
       Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive?”

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Certain Dark Things
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Series: N/A
Pages: 323
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: October 25th 2016

      “Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…
      Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy eking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life.
      Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten.
      Her plan doesn’t include developing any real attachment to Domingo. Hell, the only living creature she loves is her trusty Doberman. Little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his effervescent charm.
      And then there’s Ana, a cop who suddenly finds herself following a trail of corpses and winds up smack in the middle of vampire gang rivalries.
      Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive?”

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“The sand was red beneath her feet, and the moon had disappeared. She coughed, and this black, disgusting substance oozed from her mouth and she knelt upon the sand, a river of black bile and blood streaming out, and she tried to stop it but it would not stop. It. Just. Did not. Stop.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things is a gritty, complex vampire novel with rich world-building and an interesting cast. On the run from the vampires who killed her family, Atl is a fish out of water. Despite being a sort of refugee country for vampires, Mexico’s capital has been able to stave off the bloodthirsty clans. The streets of Mexico City aren’t exactly safe, but most people would choose gangs over vampires any day. Atl is desperate to find her way to South America before the rival vampire clan that is hunting her discovers where she’s been hiding in Mexico City. Her quest brings her into contact with a street kid named Domingo, who may be the only person willing to help her, but their unlikely alliance may get them both killed.

Moreno-Garcia’s world of vampires is vibrant and intriguing. It’s worth noting that in this world vampires cannot be made, but are born and brought up in a clan. Alt is a Tlāhuihpochtli, a vampire descended from the Aztecs. Her family has a rich history in north Mexico as do many vampire clans within the country, but the more recent arrival of Necros, vampires originating from Europe, has threatened their sovereignty. One thing that really stood out to me was that Moreno-Garcia’s take on vampires is much broader than what I’m usually used to seeing. Each subspecies of vampire has unique traits and are terrifying in their own ways. Necros most closely resemble the vampires we see in popular culture, equipped with sharp teeth and repulsed by sunlight. The Tlāhuihpochtli have bird-like characteristic from talons to the ability to fly. The Revenants are another subspecies we get a closer glimpse of and it is these vampires that I found the most unnerving. Instead of feeding on blood, a Revenant sucks the life energy from its victims, both human and vampire alike.

We get a few glimpses into Atl’s past, one that’s more carefree than anything else. She enjoyed all the luxuries of belonging to a powerful family without any of the responsibilities. Her sister Izel was much more levelheaded and equipped to deal with clashes between clans, but Atl is more impetuous and it is her lack of restraint that cost her someone close to her. I really wanted to know more about Atl’s clan and family. One of the distinct characteristics of the Tlāhuihpochtli vampires is the line of matriarchal succession. Atl’s mother had been grooming her older daughter Izel to take over and I think it would have been really interesting to see this through Atl’s eyes. Domingo felt like a very lost puppy for the most part. He’s immediately drawn to Atl and has a very romantic idea about what a vampire should be. I felt a bit iffy about any kind of romantic notion between the two because Domingo came off as really young and naïve at times while Atl couldn’t afford to be ignorant about the world.

Beside focusing on Atl and Domingo, the story also gives a glimpse at those hunting the young vampire. Nick is a particular nasty character, both impulsive and entitled. Atl got the better of him and now he’s determined to make her suffer. The Necros vampire is driven by both pride and a need to prove himself. It is his human victims that put Mexico City’s gangs on his and Atl’s trail. Detective Ana Aguirre transferred to Mexico City in hopes of getting away from the vampire infestation. All she cares about is keeping her daughter safe. When a local gang reaches out to her to help rid the city of the newly arrived vampires, she reluctantly agrees.

Though a little slow getting started, Moreno-Garcia’s novel is perfect for those looking for a well-rounded vampire novel. Certain Dark Things is a delight with creatures that will make your skin crawl and a perilous undertaking that will keep you on your toes.

4/5

★★★★