Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order.

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, #1)This is quite the mysterious read, to put it as easily as I can. The whole story is a mystery, little secrets were revealed as you read a long. Although the biggest and most dire ones were kept until the very end.

The story followed the protagonist, Gemma, on your journey to a London finishing school after her mother's unexpected death. Within the first chapter Gemma has a vision that reveals her mother didn't die because of cholera, but something entirely different. Gemma is suspicious of everything from then on, especially shadows. I thought Gemma was a really good character to base the story around. Her decisions are ones that I (for the most part) backed. Although, there were a few times when I was mentally screaming at her to not do this, or that. I loved every character, except Ann. Felicity seemed a little trait-confused as well, since there were many different sides to her. None of which I could figure out. Kartrik was a nice addition, and I really would love to see more development with him and Gemma in the following books.

I am a sucker for this time period. I love the Victorian-era, with the dresses and mannerisms, etc. But the thing I most noticed in this book that Libba Bray really showed a light on, was the sexism of it all. Fiction really glorifies these time periods that were so sexist to the women who couldn't even speak their own minds if they wanted to be considered marriage-material. You don't have to be a femenist to agree with this.

Above all, this was such a fun read. I loved the mystery aspect of it, and how the ending was. Everything major was tied up with an explanation, leaving a few stray side-plots that easily paved the way for the series to be based off of. I recommend this to fans of Victorian-era, magic, strong protagonists, and mystery.

4/5 stars


  1. I really, really liked this book, and the rest of the series just gets better. The next two books get deeper as well, so I really hope you like them too :]

    Great review!

    1. Thank you, I look forward to reading them! (:


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