Monday, April 8, 2013

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty
By Libba Bray
Published by Random House Children’s Books, 2005
432 pages (hardcover)

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? (from

I liked it, I didn’t love it. I mean, it was good and mysterious and fantastical, but I think I was expecting something a bit… more.
One of my biggest frustrations was the (lack of) world-building. The culture and quirks of the 1890s was not explained well and I think that was a lost opportunity. Victorian England can be such an enchanting period with which to work and I felt confused and let down in parts. Additionally, I would have liked more vivid descriptions of the alternate realm. It was described as such a lovely and addicting place to be, but I didn’t catch that in the details.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading A Great and Terrible Beauty. The characters leapt off the page and there were plenty of cliff-hangers to keep me turning the pages. There are two books after this one and it will be interesting to see what the characters choose to do (and not do) in their worlds.

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