A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
(Gemma Doyle, #1)
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Format: paperback from Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal
Read: 9/19/2012 — 9/20/2012
In Six Words: Teenage Amanda would’ve loved this book!
1. A Great and Terrible Beauty
2. Rebel Angels
3. The Sweet Far Thing
It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?
Why I Started Reading This Book and Final Verdict
Don’t let my in six words fool you: adult Amanda loved this book, too. (Also, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that it feels very weird describing myself as an adult, even though I’m 27 years old. When did this adult thing happen? Why hasn’t anyone told me?) Anyway. I first became interested in this book after finishing the audiobook of Beauty Queens and decided I needed more Libba Bray. Though A Great and Terrible Beauty is a very, VERY different book than Beauty Queens, I am still glad to have picked it up, and continue to want MOAR Libba Bray.
A Great and Terrible Beauty is exactly the kind of book I loved as a teenager: history, intrigue, and just a wee bit of the spiritual/paranormal world. Well, and a dashing love interest, the angst of making friends, GIRL POWER, and little life lessons nestled underneath it all. While teen Amanda would likely have enjoyed this more than adult Amanda, the two of us agree that it was good and we want more because it is clear that Gemma’s story is far from over. (Also, there are two more books, so obviously we’re not done here.)
I am a complete and total sucker for heroines in historical books who fight the oppression of women in their times. I thrive on characters like Gemma, because I’ve always admired them and wanted to be like them. The fact that times were different mean little; there is still inequality and discrimination against women in today’s society, just buried deeper and with new names. Gemma isn’t exactly fighting it, but the seeds are present, and that is all I need.
The paranormal aspect of A Great and Terrible Beauty is probably my only real complaint. It was often slightly confusing (for Gemma, too) and though I think this was likely intended, I just wanted MOAR information. I will not apologize for my information whorish ways. But the realms and magic were intriguing, and I’d like to see where Libba Bray takes this trilogy. Gemma Doyle’s world has a lot of potential–for heartbreak, for world-altering consequences, for bucking traditions and learning how to find one’s own way in the world.
A Great and Terrible Beauty is a slow and creepy book, and it is my sincere hope that the trilogy continues to get better as we go.