Friday, February 8, 2008

Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
3.5 stars

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.)


Jeane said...

I've been really interested in reading this book myself. Thanks for the review!

Laura said...

I agree with you about the order and the realms. I love these books (the third one just came in on hold for me), but I love them for the boarding school/carriages/not reaching beyond your station parts, but I'm kind of eh on the realms and stuff. Oh, well.

Anonymous said...

Great review. I read this book and had a hard time with the order and realms stuff also. I didn't read the rest of the trilogy because I just lost interest.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Thanks! I'm glad I'm not the only one who found it a bit murky. I might try the second one, but it's not at the top of my list.

Anonymous said...

For anyone who lost interest in the rest of the series I would definitely recommend picking up the other two and reading them.
Trust me, they ARE worth your time.
I am in love with every aspect of this series.
And yes they are making AGATB into a movie and it's coming out sometime 2009.
I love you Kartik =D

liza said...

I fell in love with this story. I became so used to the characters and couldnt face the fact that the story will end. The ending of the 3rd book made me cry-I just couldn't accept it and I would LOVE a 4th book to end the triology( and hopefully Kartik will be brought back:))