Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty
Series: Book one of the Gemma Doyle trilogy
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published Date: December 9, 2003
Genre: Fiction/Literature, Young Adult/Teen, Historical Fiction, Paranormal/Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
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.
I had very high hopes, I am somewhat disappointed in my reaction to this first book in Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy. Honestly, the four star rating has a lot to do with my tendency to give first books in a series a break and my love for the author (I adored The Diviners! You can read my review here).
When reading a series, often the first book is made up entirely of getting to know the characters and the plot line. Sometimes it takes until the second book to really get a feel for the story. I am hoping this is merely the case for this story! Though, I do like the main character, Gemma Doyle, I found her also very wishy washy in her affirmations. She will often think one thing and say or do something else entirely. I felt like practically every decision she made she knew would lead her down a bad road, and yet she continued to make them. The rest of the characters in this book had very little to them. In fact I can’t say I liked any of them. The story read a lot like a supernatural version of Mean Girls, and that was a large portion of the book.
As I discovered the secret and how it relates to Gemma and those around her, the story got a little more interesting. I still wish that there was more depth to the interactions, and in the story line. I still plan to read the sequel and hope that I get more intrigued. I could do with a little more spooky as well.