If you loved Bridgerton but thought to yourself, “I wish this had just a hint of telepathy”, I have the perfect suggestion for you.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s newest novel, The Beautiful Ones, is a fantasy of manners and etiquette told with elegance and grace. Nina is wealthy, but she grew up in the country and knows nothing of the social graces and decorum she’s supposed to possess. Living with her doting cousin and his calculating wife for the Grand Season, she tries to find her perfect match among the Beautiful Ones of the city. Instead, Nina’s debut is a disaster. The telekinesis she struggles to control makes her the victim of vicious gossip; behind closed doors and waving fans, people even call her a witch.
When Hector Auvray arrives in town, everything changes. He is telekinetic too, but unlike Nina – a wealthy woman – people celebrate him for it. High society considers telekinesis vulgar and low class, but as a man, Hector can perform for adoring crowds and travel the world without any judgment or scandal. While he teaches her to control her abilities and even enjoy them, Nina falls for Hector. He seems to fall for her too, but will the secrets he holds keep them apart?
The Beautiful Ones is completely different from Moreno-Garcia’s other work. It’s not a mythological romp like Gods of Jade and Shadow or a feminist horror story like Mexican Gothic. It’s quieter and subtler; the book’s only fantastical element is Nina and Hector’s telepathy, and the fictional Loisail could easily be Regency England or France during the Belle Époque.
The novel’s strength lies mostly in its characters and the way Moreno-Garcia plays with traditional romance elements. Nina is the romantic heroine, a naive outsider who is too smart and honest. She’s more interested in etymology than fashion, and she’s even a brunette. As she matures, she has more poise and confidence but keeps her love of nature and forthrightness. Hector is a wounded loner with a broken heart and a secret who softens around the woman he loves. In Nina and Hector, Moreno-Garcia creates well-rendered and interesting protagonists, even if background characters remain within their archetypes.
Readers primarily interested in fantasy based on showy magic may not find what they’re looking for in The Beautiful Ones. However, fans of light speculative elements, romance and gorgeous prose will be satisfied. If this intrigues you, I would also suggest C.L. Polk’s The Midnight Bargain and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories.
The Beautiful Ones comes out on April 27 from Tor Books. You can preorder a copy now from Bookshop.org or your local independent bookstore!
This article was originally published on 3/31/21
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