A Great And Terrible Beauty

Book: A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Publishing Info: Published by Simon and Shuster; 403 pages in hardcover

Goodreads Summary: 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 was a really interesting.  I loved the relationships between Gemma, Ann, Pippa and Felicity.  They felt very real, and seemed accurate for something set in a boarding school in the Victorian era.  They were pretty rebellious for a group of girls in the Victorian era, and they seemed slightly out of place, as did one of their teachers.  I’m not doubting that there were women who didn’t conform to what society expected, but it was a nice change from a lot of other protagonists.  And overall, it felt very Victorian and very Gothic.

It’s a pretty engaging book once you get past the first few chapters.  It’s also a lot funnier than I expected.  Gemma is certainly an interesting, likeable character.

I liked the idea of the other realm, and that even in a fantasy world, there are consequences to our actions.  I felt like we got glimpes of the other realm, instead of a backstory, but overall, the other realm was an interesting escape.

It gets a 3 out of 5.  It’s well-written and an interesting read.

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