A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

“ I will tell you how we unlocked the Pandora’s box ourselves, tasted freedom, strained our souls with blood and choice…”

After her mother is murdered, Gemma Doyle finds herself at a typical Victorian prep school for young ladies. What aren’t typical are the visions that she’s been having since her mother’s passing – glimpses of the future and other realms. Encouraged by her fiends and with the guide of a mysterious diary of a young girl who also experienced visions, Gemma dives deeper into her powers, bringing her friends and herself experiences she never could imagine. Drunk on magical power and fearful of life beyond the school, Gemma and her friends are unable to see the danger that is hunting them, wanting to destroy and conquer.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is a fantastic example of genre-blending where the Victorian Age is the stage for the paranormal. I thought the story was very creative and I liked the combination of both the historical fiction and the paranormal/fantasy. There were some gaps in the story, and things that I was a little confused about, but I think this was in large part due to the fact that it is the first book in a series. I think the real value of this book is the characters. The readers will greatly enjoy Gemma as she is quite funny and a little rebellious. Bray also does an amazing job of creating supporting characters that were dynamic in their own right and yet completely added to Gemma’s story. I thought her expressions of these girls’ fears and desires were beautifully articulate and something that transcends the time period in which it was set. Overall, I think this book has a little something for everyone and would therefore appeal to a wide audience.

You might enjoy A Great and Terrible Beauty if you like books with: a historical setting but has a main character that is easy to identify with, forbidden romance, magical elements that are more scary than whimsical, fast paced plot

Other books by Libba Bray: Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing, Going Bovine

If you liked A Great and Terrible Beauty you might also enjoy:  Betraying Season by Marissa Doyle, Bewitching Season by Marrisa Doyle, Blue Blood Series by Melissa De La Cruz, Angel by Cliff McNish

Additional Info:  The two other books in the series are available and are called Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing. A Great and Terrible Beauty is also a winner of the 2004 ALA Best Books for Young Adults Award

Non-Fiction:  Want to know more about the lives of Women in Victorian England, try Women of Victorian England by Clarice Swisher

Author’s website found here.

Official Gemma Doyle Trilogy website found here.

Rating:W3/4   C4/4   P2.5/4   O4/4   PP4/4   CR3.5/4

Grade:  JS


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