Saturday, August 13, 2011

Review: A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Release Date: December 9th 2003
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Page Count: Hardcover, 403 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical

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 is an impressive first book in what should prove to be a fascinating trilogy. - Good Reads 

This was an interesting read. Libba Bray has a magical way of weaving words. I felt tuned in with the era it was written and really enjoyed her writing. It was spot on.

Gemma, the heroine of the story was a complete brat in the beginning and I did see some growth by the end of the book, but the friendship and trust between Gemma and her friends didn't feel legitimate to me. They were interesting girls, but I found myself feeling Gemma was a little dumb for being friends with such mean spirited girls. Felicity in particular showed her true colours numerous times throughout the book, yet Gemma seemed not to mind.

I think what I loved the most in this book was the moments between Gemma and Kartik. They were definitely swoon worthy! I think that storyline and the general underlying creepiness of the story were the only things that swayed my emotions. In parts where I would normally cry or get upset I didn't really feel anything. I read long into the night and every little creak in our place had me feeling jumpy, so the creep factor was definitely there.

Overall, it was an interesting read. It wasn't amazing, but it was good. I mostly want to keep reading just to see what happens between Gemma and Kartik...


  1. I felt the same way; it was good, but didn't really amaze me. I did enjoy the creepy walks through the woods. I kept waiting for things to jump out of the shadows!

  2. I had mixed feelings about this book, too, for the same reason as you - I didn't really like the 4 girls or believe in their friendship. However, I much preferred the second book, Rebel Angels, and I think all the girls get greater depth in that one (especially Felicity) and their friendship is stronger. I agree Libba Bray's prose is lovely; I also love the way she portrays female strength.

  3. BJ: That's exactly what I felt like!

    TG: I started Rebel Angels and then picked up Hush, Hush and Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick and got addicted to those yesterday. I finished both, so I'm going to pick up Rebel Angels again!