Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Great and Terrible Beauty

by Libba Bray
published: Simon and Schuster, 2003
pages: 403

Gemma Doyle isn't like any other proper Victorian lady.  She doesn't care much for being seen and not heard, speaking only when spoken to, or dancing with grace.  What she really wants is to go to London.  After tragedy strikes in her family, 16-year-old Gemma gets exactly that.  She is sent to attend a boarding school in a Gothic mansion that is wrapped in mystery. When she makes friends with an unlikely group of girls, she begins to uncover more about herself and the mysterious Order she keeps hearing about.

I've been looking to read this book for a long time, but it somehow slipped off my radar for a bit.  I'm glad it reappeared!

This book is very character driven, and as a person who is character driven, I really enjoyed the characters.  Gemma is a good realistic version of a 16-year-old girl, she's sweet and intelligent, but can be selfish and bratty.  The growth of the characters was compelling. I couldn't stand Felicity and Pippa in the beginning of the novel but as the story progressed we see a bit more of who they are as people and I warmed up to them.

The supernatural element of this story is very cleverly executed.  To be honest, I didn't actually know that there was a supernatural element when I began reading it and I wasn't sure if I'd like it in the context.  However, it was seamlessly incorporated into the story and the sensory details added to the mood making the paranormal more natural.

My biggest issue with this story was the pacing.  I will admit that there was sections of the story that seemed a bit slow, but it never stayed slow for long.  Every time I started to feel a bit sluggish, something happened that peaked my interest again. It's one of those books that is slow and steady and then it explodes with action.  There a certain point where you just get sucked in until the end and it's definitely worth it.

Believe it or not, this is my first Libba Bray novel.  I can't believe it took me so longer to read something by an author I've heard about for maybe six or seven years.  This book is a great start to the Gemma Doyle Trilogy.  I am thrilled I don't have to wait for the sequels.

Stars: 4/5


"An interesting combination of fantasy, light horror, and historical fiction, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure...Recommend this to fantasy fans who also like Sherlock Holmes or Mary Russell."
     --School Library Journal

"There's no doubt the mystical elements, along with a touch of forbidden romance, will draw a large, enthusiastic audience, who will come away wanting more about stubborn, willful Gemma and the strange world whose doors she can open at will."

"Gripping and suspenseful.  Colourful...compelling."
     --Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A Gothic novel touched by modern conceptions of adolescence, shivery with both passion and terror."
     --Kirkus Reviews

This is An Eclectic Reader 2013 Challenge book!

No comments:

Post a Comment