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The Beautiful Ones: A Novel by Silvia…

The Beautiful Ones: A Novel (2017)

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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9614192,786 (3.98)5
Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society in hopes of landing a suitable husband. But Antonina is telekinetic, and strange events in her past have made her the subject of malicious gossip and hardly a sought-after bride. Now, under the tutelage of her cousin's wife, she is finally ready to shed the past and learn the proper ways of society. Antonina, who prefers her family's country home to the glamorous ballrooms of the wealthy, finds it increasingly difficult to conform to society's ideals for women, especially when she falls under the spell of the dazzling telekinetic performer Hector Auvray. As their romance blossoms, and he teaches her how to hone and control her telekinetic gift, she can't help but feel a marriage proposal is imminent. Little does Antonina know that Hector and those closest to her are hiding a devastating secret that will crush her world and force her to confront who she really is and what she's willing to sacrifice.… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Oh this book. The author tweeted about it being "Dangerous Liaisons but with Force Users"; I'd probably call it Edith Wharton with telekinesis (but French). The point stands. Bound-tight societal emotion, with bonus magical powers.

I loved it. It has a slow start, gradually unfolding itself with intriguing characters tearing themselves ragged on each other (and we know I'm a sucker for that) and an excellence in construction that I could appreciate intellectually. But by around a third to a half of the way through, it had somehow and inexplicably become essential. I burned through the second half of the book in about 24 hours because I had to know, and not just what, but how. Every word was vital. Every word was perfect.

It's gentle. It's intense. It's an amazing journey for all characters involved. It's a delight. If you're into fantasy of manners--or characters who are immaculate catastrophes--then get thee into this because wheeeee! ( )
  cupiscent | Aug 3, 2019 |
This book has been on my TBR pile for quite some time, but I never seemed to find the right time to get around to it: after greatly enjoying Certain Dark Things, I was more than curious to see how the author dealt with a totally different genre, but at the same time I was also a little wary about the romance angle in this story, since it's not one of my favorite themes. So it was with great surprise that I found myself enjoying The Beautiful Ones even beyond my expectations.

The novel's core focuses on Nina Beaulieu, a young woman from the country who came to live in the big, fashionable city of Loisail for the Season - the opportunity for all unmarried women to catch a suitable husband. A guest in the home of her cousin Gaetan, she's chaperoned by Gaetan's wife Valerie, one of the city's trend-setters and a woman with little patience toward her charge: Nina has little interest for the conventions of Loisail's polite society, causing no end of embarrassment to her chaperone, and what's worse she possesses some raw telekinetic talents that often manifest themselves in untimely circumstances, thus dramatically diminishing her chances to make a good match.

Valerie's irritation comes from deeper roots than that, however: she married wealthy Gaetan at the urging of her impoverished family, giving up her dreams of a future with penniless telekinetic performer Hector Auvray. While she enjoys the status the marriage conferred her, she buried those old dreams under a thick cover of strict adherence to society's rules, and Nina's lack of interest in them grates on her nerves just as much as the open affection Gaetan displays for his young cousin and the rest of her family. The situation becomes even more complicated with the arrival of Hector Auvray in Loisail: he's now a successful artist, and he's come back to try and win Valerie away from her marriage, because his feelings have not changed in the decade he's been away.

The three of them become entangled in a complicated, dangerous and heart-wrenching game that shows their true personalities - and more often than not it's far from an inspiring spectacle: Hector starts courting Nina as a way to get close to Valerie; Nina finds herself in the throes of her first love and throws what little caution she possesses to the four winds; and Valerie comes to the fore as the proverbial wicked witch we all love to hate. Described this way, the story might look like a classical love triangle, fraught with all the shades of emotional turmoil you might imagine - and it is that, too - something that usually would have me running screaming for the hills, but under the skillful handling of Silvia Moreno-Garcia, this becomes a compelling story, a study of characters under the most stressful situations, and in this it finds its true strength and the reason it's such a fascinating read.

Nina appears as an innocent - and up to a point she is - but there is much more under that surface layer, and that's why it's easy to root for her, even when she behaves like a moon-struck idiot and I want to shake her so hard that her bones rattle: unlike other girls of her age, the Beautiful Ones moving through Loisail's whirlwind of social occasions, she is curious about the world, she cultivates many interests that keep her mind alive beyond the superficial needs of parties and balls. Nina stands out not so much because her manners might not be as refined as Valerie wishes, nor because of her telekinetic powers, but because she never truly embraces the shallow tenets of the city's society: Loisail (and Valerie) despise her because for all her naiveté she feels more authentic than the rest of them.

They might have been more accepting if, perhaps, she'd shown herself meek and solicitous […] They saw a determined spark [,,,] that they classified as insolence, a lack of artifice that struck them as boorish, a capacity to remain unimpressed […]

That inner strength, that capacity to lift herself by the bootstraps, is what keeps her from shattering when her world comes crashing down around her, destroying her youthful fantasies, and that's the moment she grows into a stronger, self-determined woman:

They had likely expected her to die of heartbreak, to wither and grow gray, but Nina thought she would not give them the satisfaction. Not to the silly folk who made jokes about her, nor to Valerie […]

Valerie, though being the undisputed villain of the story - and she makes no effort to disavow the readers of this notion - is ultimately a creature to be pitied, up to a certain point: used as a bargaining chip by her family, she submits to their needs negating her own wishes, and becomes so enmeshed with the rules she was forced to obey that she is unable to see beyond them, her hate for Nina stemming from the awareness that the younger woman does not care for those same rules and is ready to scorn them for love - as she was unable, or unwilling, to do. Whatever pity I might have harbored for Valerie, though, quickly evaporates in the face of her decision to bring others to the same depths of despair she wallows in, out of pure spite - if she is unable to have something, no one should as well…

As for Hector, he's as far from a noble figure as one might conceive: obsessed with Valerie to the point he can't see neither of them is the same person as they were ten years before, he concocts a plan to get close to her, not realizing until it's too late that he's fallen victim to his own machinations - even once he finally opens his eyes and tries to make amends, he comes across as something of a weakling, and indeed I see him as the less substantial personality of them all.

Re-reading my notes about this novel, I realized that I've been ensnared by a story that contains too many of the elements I actively avoid in my reading material, and I wondered why: there was too little fantasy here and too much romance - how could I be so enthralled by The Beautiful Ones? The only answer I can find is that Silvia Moreno-Garcia is such a skilled writer that she can mesmerize me with her tales even agains my usual dislikes. And that's the mark of an author to keep on my radar, no matter what…

Originally posted at SPACE and SORCERY BLOG ( )
1 vote SpaceandSorcery | Dec 25, 2018 |
The Beautiful Ones by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

2017, Innsmouth Free Press/Thomas Dunne Books

I have to preface this review by worrying that I’m not the right person to write it! I rarely read romances, and my knowledge of the Belle Époque period that The Beautiful Ones draws on for its setting and, I think, its style, is fairly limited – although I have read a passable cross section of other 18th and 19th century fiction including a fair number of gothic novels. Despite not feeling up to the task, I find a lot to recommend and to talk about in The Beautiful Ones, so I’m going to dial up my courage and engage with this book on its own merits.

The Beautiful Ones follows Nina Beaulieu, a woman who has travelled from her countryside home to the big city for her first ever Grand Season. Nina is, as befits this trope, somewhat overwhelmed by city life and bemused by the things the people surrounding her find important, and has unfortunately been left in the primary care of her married cousin, Valérie, who is equal parts vindictive and impatient towards her relative – having been left embittered by her own experiences of romance and marriage a decade earlier. To make matters worse, Nina has telekinetic powers, a rare gift in her world and a practice considered decidedly unsuitable for well-bred young women.

Enter Hector Auvray, a dashing performer renowned for his own telekinesis, who gets talking to Nina at a ball and soon falls into her orbit. Nina is initially keen to spend time with Hector in order to get him to teach her to control her powers – which, untrained, flare up when she gets emotional – but when he apparently begins to court her, her feelings quickly change into something more. We learn early on, however, that Hector is the very man who had his heart broken by Valerie a decade earlier, and that his scheme to get close to Nina may be no more than a ploy to get close to his old flame...

Given the conventions of romance novels, particularly the need for a “happily ever after”, I spent almost the first half of the book being deeply sceptical of the narrative, and particularly of Hector, a much older and more experienced man who is shamelessly using the affections of a young, inexperienced woman for completely pointless ends. I was therefore pleasantly surprised by how the second act was handled, with both Nina and Hector offered opportunities to grow and to re-establish a relationship in a way which felt much more “right”, despite the external obstacles placed in their way. Nina’s telekinesis, and her process of learning to use it, is utilised to great effect, particularly in the second act. This is the second of Moreno-Garcia’s books I’ve read with a magic system greatly affects the characters without impacting the setting (although Signal to Noise is urban fantasy, whereas the Beautiful Ones is set in secondary world – just an overwhelmingly mundane one) and once again I think its handled very well, with the disapproval of society towards Nina providing a perfect encapsulation of how disinterested these “Beautiful Ones” are in her true self, and how narrow and unsatisfying that definition of “beauty” is.

The Beautiful Ones keeps its main cast small: apart from Nina, Valérie and Hector, we also have Valerie’s husband Gaetan – who is nowhere near as boring and awful as Valérie makes out – and the siblings Luc and Étienne Lémy, who serve as complicating factor and friend of Hector respectively. I did feel the lack of a larger supporting cast made things quite claustrophobic at times, which heightened some of the melodrama but also undermined the feeling of being in a grand city full of societal intrigue. In particular, it’s a shame that Nina makes no female friends her own age, even in the second half of the book where she is less reliant on Valérie and the plot does not require her to be directly constrained. I also felt occasionally that the writing style muffled the more lurid plot elements – there’s a magical performance and a duel in this book, after all – and could have played with a less detached style, particularly at those more melodramatic points.

Despite those issues, the Beautiful Ones was gripping and didn’t feel slow to me at all, given the amount of both internal and external nonsense the characters have to wade through in order to get their HEA. I still don’t think romance is going to form more than an occasional (and usually accidental) part of my reading diet, but I was overall very impressed by this book, and it’s cemented Sylvia Moreno-Garcia on my ever-growing “author to watch” list. While I can’t analyse the Beautiful Ones against many other works of its genre, or the historical period it pastiches, it stands perfectly well on its own merits and I would recommend it as such.

(Originally posted to: https://adrijoyreads.wordpress.com/2018/02/25/the-beautiful-ones-by-sylvia-moren...) ( )
  Arifel | Sep 22, 2018 |
Love, deception, and etiquette are a the center of this story in which a young women travels to the city of Loisail for her first Grand Season. The aim of her trip is to mingle with the Beautiful Ones who make up the wealthy high society in the city in the hopes that she’ll find a suitable husband. But she her manner and her telekinetic abilities make her a target for gossip. When she meets telekinetic performer Hector Auvray, she thinks she’s found the kind of love read about in books — but learns that no one is what the seem in Loisail.

This is a charming fantasy of manners, full of polite but cruel society and wonderful explorations of the people who live in it. I have so far bought and read three of Moreno-Garcia's books and I have loved all three of them. The Beautiful Ones was no exception, and I can't wait to see what she does next. ( )
  andreablythe | May 30, 2018 |
When you think of a sci-fi or fantasy book you tend to think of quick paced action and obvious differences or powers in the world you're reading about. What Silvia Moreno Garcia gives you instead is a beautifully constructed realm that blends and bends reality so closely with telekinetic powers that you'd hardly notice if they were there or not. You come into her story feeling as though you've missed a previous book, but that serves you later on. The Beautiful Ones has a lot of subtext, a lot of the story is unsaid, but you pick up on things as you read. The romance aspect of this novel is entertaining though. At one point it feels like a quadrangle instead of your typical triangle, or perhaps a circle? The imagery is beautifully described, and the characters feel real and well developed; at times even causing the reader to feel sympathy for the devil. And while each even happens in a long succession from the one before it, each serves the purpose of the story. I'd love to see another book or two in this world, the slow boil method really works here. ( )
  BrainyHeroine | Mar 20, 2018 |
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