A young adult, soon to be, trilogy that I have wanted to read for a while, this enters the marks as one of the better books I have read this year. Young adult books are much better than they were when I was a young adult, I know that much.
From the back of the book:
Gemma Doyle isn't like other girls. Girls with impeccable manners, who speak when spoken to, who remember their station, and who will lie back and think of England when it's required of them.
No, sixteen-year-old Gemma is an island unto herself, sent to the Spence Academy in London after tragedy strikes her family in India. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma finds a chilly reception. But she's not completely alone... she's followed by a mysterious young man, who warns her to close her mind against her visions.
For it's at Spence that Gemma's power to attract the supernatural unfolds; there she becomes entangled with the school's most powerful girls and discovers her mother's connection to a shadowy group called the Order. It's there that her destiny waits... if only she can believe in it.
A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY is a curl-up-under-the-covers kind of book... a vast canvs of rustling skirts and dancing shadows and things that go bump in the night. It's a vividly drawn portrait of the Victorian age, when girls were groomed for lives as rich men's wives... and the story of a girl who saw another way.
I regret that it took me so long to discover this book. I had heard of it, but it never grabbed my attention enough to buy it until recently. Now, I can't wait to read the next one and I hope it will be equally good. Young adult novels have come a long way, some of them are even better than novels marketed at adults.
This novel was attractive to me because people were saying it had fantasy elements to it. I enjoy fantasy novels, so I decided to see what these fantasy elements were. This book takes place in the later part of the 19th-century. The main character, Gemma Doyle, is dealing with being a sixteen-year-old. Teenage years are never easy, and with the last few months has brought a very difficult daughter for Gemma's mother. They used to get along, but now Gemma has it stuck in her head that she absolutely has to go to London. Her mother doesn't agree, and this causes lots of conflict between mother and daughter.
Then one day, everything changes for good. While in the marketplace, Gemma says a horrible thing to her mother and the next thing she knows, her mother is not around anymore to argue with. Gemma blames herself, and is racked with guilt for quite some time. She is her most annoying at this part of the book, while she deals with the loss of her mother. But then, she discovers she has an amazing gift that results in a whole other world for her. A young man, who you will find an interesting member of the cast of characters, follows Gemma to London where Gemma is attending Spence Academy.
When Gemma first arrives in London, she wonders why she ever really wanted to go there in the first place, but then she starts to make friends and lets her powers work, and a whole new world is open to her, a world of adventure and danger. She is in a school where girls are supposed to be learning how to be good wives, they are more interested in pleasing their men folk than doing anything for themselves. Gemma soon learns this is not the way that she wants to spend her life.
I hope I am not making this novel sound silly, it is anything but. I was glued to my seat while I was reading this, waiting to see what adventures would happen to the quartet next. As Gemma is not alone when she has her adventures, most times she has her three female friends with her. They are an interesting group, but they each have something to bring to the novel as a whole.
I can't wait to read the sequel!
I'm afraid I don't share most everyone else excitement over this book. Sure, I've heard so many things I was expecting something actually, well, exciting. Don't get me wrong, Libba's writing is wonderful. It's the subject matter that I found sorely lacking. The story started off promising enough and I was quickly drawn into it but, as soon as the four main girls started with the "club" I quickly grew bored. And annoyed. Those had to be the four most petulant and annoying girls I've ever read about. They start out nice enough but, by the end of the book, I was all but hoping they'd get spanked, smacked or something. Watching their utter stupidity reveal itself and the way they thought they "knew what's best" reminded me of every smug teenager that has utter those very words, then realize how sadly they were mistaking once they saw they were in over their heads.
It's not a good thing when you are rooting for the bad guys to win simply because the heroines are all some kind of serious idiots.
If ever Mrs Bray writes any other novel I am sure I will be reading it as I did love her writing. I just hope the hero or heroine isn't related to any of the four from this novel.
A solid 4 for her writing and a 3 for the story since it did have a promising beginning.
As a final note, and although I am far from being a prude, I think it's only fair to warn parents of children under the age of 15 of the following encounter [in a dream] between the main character and her love interest. Something similar happens again latter on in the story, although I don't remember it being as detailed as this one. I
Those black eyes flutter open, see me...Every muscle in his arms flexing as he pushes himself up, pulls me under, slides on top...His fingertips are a whisper on my skin. A thumb inches towards my breast, traces circles over and around...Feel my thighs moved apart by a knee...
The warm fingers trail down, hesitate, then brush past a part of me I don't understand yet, a place I haven't let myself explore...
The fingers, strong and sure and not entirely unwanted, are back, the whole of his palm cupped against me...The thumb on my breast rubs my skin into a delicious rawness, as if I've never truly walked in my skin before.
Dance Chica's Review
I agree with Mailyn. I liked the book—really, I did—but Gemma, the main character, annoyed me at times. There were moments when I wanted to slap her and the other girls. However, I do think the book was well-written. Bray is great at suspense. The entire novel is oozing with suspense; the world, the characters, etc., are so mysterious that it makes you want to know more about them, and I feel that Bray did a good job of capturing the Victorian age. There’s also a lot of thought-provoking, social commentary throughout the book. However, I don’t know if I’ll pick up the sequel, Rebel Angels, anytime soon. While I did enjoy the magic and suspense of A Great and Terrible Beauty, in all honesty, I was disappointed. I was expecting it to be much better than it was. So in conclusion, I'd recommend it as something to check out because it was a good story (and most people really loved it), but while I did like it, I just felt it was a little overrated.
3.5 out of 5.