Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty

Author: Libba Bray
Publish date: 2003
Source: Library
"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." (Goodreads)

I've been meaning to read Libba Bray for a while now, and thought this might be a good starting point. I've always thought Beauty Queens and Going Bovine just looked kind of...odd. Should I read them? Anyway, I read A Great and Terrible Beauty and am still conflicted about my feelings.

The thing I liked the most: the setting. I wasn't crazy about the beginning in India, as it all felt rushed and confusing to me, but I loved Spence Academy and the boarding school setting. And finding out that part of the school was closed off due to a fire? Love it! Boarding schools in historical fiction are the best settings, am I right?

Setting aside, I did not like this book as much as I thought. I wasn't expecting it to take the direction it did with the fantasy elements and I also had a hard time connecting with the characters, the relationship between Gemma, Ann, Felicity, and Pippa included. I'm not sure if I'll continue the series. Thoughts?

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