February 20, 2012

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

my rating: 4.5/5 stars

SYNOPSIS: 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.

My ReviewOh, how I loved this book! Ms. Bray really helped set my standards for a good fantasy novel! I love anything to do with the Victorian era, so I couldn't pass this book up. After a friend has told me the series is in the process of becoming a movie I had to read it straight away. Thankfully, I was far from disappointed. 

Gemma Doyle was such a fun and refreshing character. She wasn't one of those whiny teenage girls who can't make a decision if their life depended on it. She was quite the opposite. A main theme throughout this book was oppression and poor treatment of women in the olden days, and Gemma fought her way through these ideas the entire book. Libba Bray really knows how to write wonderful, strong and empowered female characters. I love it! Another character I fell in love with was Kartik, the mysterious Indian boy from the Rashaka. The only reason why I rated this novel 4.5 stars was because there wasn't enough of him in this book! We got little snippets of him here and there, but every time he appeared in the story he was gone in a flash. I kept asking him, "No, Wait Kartik, come back!"  I was totally fan-girling over him and is devilishly good looks :) (I would also like to mention I loved the little fantasies Gemma had about Kartik. Very scandalous!) 

All I have to say is I cant wait to read the sequel. So many things about this book make me want more! The characters, the storyline, everything this book was nearly perfect, and I thank Libba Bray for writing such a wonderful story. 

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