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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Book Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Book 1 in Gemma Doyle Trilogy

Hardcover, 403 pages
Simon & Schuster Children's Books
December 9, 2003
goodreads button

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fantasy

Source: Personal Collection
"A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel. 
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."
I just re-read this book again, which is something that I don't normally do. I did this for a couple reasons:

1.) I want to read the 3rd book in the series and it has been awhile since I read the first two and 2.) I hope to be going to a book signing event with the author next week.

To give you an idea of what the book is about it is set in Victorian England. The bulk of the story takes place at a boarding school with the main character, Gemma, and her friends, Pippa, Felicity, and Ann. They begin to explore a mystery that surrounds their school. Gemma is special, she has visions; these visions and powers create a lot of fun and adventures for the girls, but may not be entirely what they seem.

I would say this book is for the older teen set, but many of any age would find it enjoyable. It is not magic like Harry Potter, but I would call it more ethereal. A little bit of fantasy set in a believable historical setting. I love the imagery that the author, Libba Bray, paints and the characters that she creates. It is a quick read and very enjoyable.

Also, I love the cover of this book in particular, but of the whole series in general!

If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

Or, if you loved the book, check out this virtual tour of Spence Academy!

Other reviews of A Great and Terrible Beauty:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Libba Bray:

rebel angels

Rebel Angels (Book 2 in Gemma Doyle Trilogy)

the sweet far thing

The Sweet Far Thing (Book 3 in Gemma Doyle Trilogy)

going bovine

Going Bovine [My Review]

beauty queens

Beauty Queens [My Review]


Find Libba Bray: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook |Instagram


Copyright © 2009 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Sounds like a good book. Might have to add this to my wish list!



  2. I read this series and liked as well. Hope meeting Miss Bray was a fun experience.

    Your puppy is adorable and this blog is very cute. Nice job! I'm sure we will see lots of each other in the bloggerville.
    Have you joind the Jean Plaidy reading group? This month's selection is Indiscretions of the Queen. THis is my first month for that.


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