Friday, February 8, 2008
Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Summary (from Amazon): It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?
First line: "Please tell me that's not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening." I am staring into the hissing face of a cobra.
My thoughts: Another one I'd been meaning to read for ages - thanks Triple 8 Challenge! :) The spiritual world Gemma enters is The Order - it is her destiny to be the conduit between the Order and the spiritual world known as the Realms. But the evil Circe wants to use the dark powers of the Realm for destruction.
The book is lots of things - boarding school story, Gothic novel, and a fantasy. It succeeds as all of them, although some of the Order and Realms stuff was a bit . . . soupy. I'm not sure that I was ever really convinced of how the Order came to be and why Gemma was the missing link. But the story of the 4 girls becoming friends - Gemma, outcast Ann, beautiful Pippa and power-hungry Felicity - works well. None of the girls are particularly likeable (although I did enjoy Gemma's spirit) but you come to understand that each one is trapped by Victorian attitudes about what a lady should be. I think I'll probably read the other 2 books in the trilogy. Plus, it has a very neat cover!
While looking for a summary, I came across an IMDB entry for the title, so it looks like it's about to become a movie. Which I think will be great - I think the magical elements might translate better visually.
(As a side note, I think Libba Bray has a really cool name.)