Classic middle installment provides more exposition, more twists, more romance, and more obstacles to the paranormal love story at the heart of Renée Ahdieh's lush and atmospheric vampire saga. Romance fans may not care about much other than the inevitability of Celine and Bastien's relationship; readers who picked up on the love triangle attempt in the first novel will see how Michael, however kind, caring, and attractive, is no match for brooding and fiery Bastien. Ahdieh seems uninterested in Teams. This is no Edward-Bella-Jacob or Gale-Katniss-Peeta dilemma; it's hard to imagine a reader believing for one minute that Celine could truly love anyone but Bastien given the intensity of their chemistry. If anything, there's more tension between Celine's best friend Pippa, who's engaged to a safe and rich New Orleans scion, and Arjun, Bastien's confidant, than there is between Michael and Celine.
Although a quick read, the 400-plus-page The Damned introduces more supernatural lore and lots more immortal creatures. The world-building expands to otherworldly dimensions and teases a future that's sure to come into play in the next book. Readers used to Ahdieh's duologies need to know that this is just Book 2, so there are a host of unanswered questions, plot twists, and just when one issue seems resolved, another possibly devastating challenge is thrown onto Celine and Bastien's path. The book swaps multiple points of view, but aside from the central duo, the ones that stand out most are Odette's, Arjun's, and Jae's -- those immortals all have fascinating teased out backstories. Ultimately, those perspectives add even more international flavor to an incredibly diverse cast, but in the end, this is definitely a love story.