This is a great book for those who like their YA on the paranormal-side, sans vampire love triangles, with the slightest touch of romance.
For the mostThis is a great book for those who like their YA on the paranormal-side, sans vampire love triangles, with the slightest touch of romance.
For the most part, the novel takes place in Victorian England at an all-girls finishing school. If the words Victorian England usually frighten you away from books, have no fear: the girls of Spence Academy ring truer as modern-day characters than Victorian characters any day.
For those purists who titter with excitement at the words Victorian England: approach with caution, these characters could infuriate you (see Reviews).
And for those spec-fic/paranormal lovers who insist on good world-building? Forget it. This world was built, I imagine, by an author flying by the seat of her pantaloons. But, its okay... I love Libba Bray and her nonsense pantaloons!
Gemma starts the book with a bratty (not to mention somewhat racist) sensibility, but she loses her mother and her imperialist sense-of-entitlement quite early on in the book, and quickly forms into an intelligent, witty character with a good heart - albeit one who is incapable of recognizing foreshadowing (you, reader, will always be a few steps ahead of darling Gemma).
The girls at school are very much like Victorian Mean-Girls, and just when I honestly can't see the appeal of winning them over - they turn into characters with multifacted personalities. Eventually, they become likeable.
You'll notice that I've only given this book 3-stars. That's because
1) I liked it (and that's what a 3-star rating stands for, dammit) 2) All the things I did not like about the series take their fall in my rating of the first book.
See, A Great And Terrible Beauty is the first in a trilogy about Gemma Doyle and her "magical powers." The other books in the series, Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing, get higher ratings from me. And one of the reasons is that all of the things that annoyed me about Bray's anachronistic characterization ((view spoiler)[a girl who cuts herself?!?!?! O-come on! If that's not a 20th Century Teenage Epidemic, what is? (hide spoiler)]), her shoddy world-building, or her "I'm-equating-whiteness-with-beauty" physical descriptions, either paled away in the second and third installments or stopped bothering me.
Otherwise, I think that this is an engaging and exciting read about the power of friendship. It is an F-you in the face of the ladies-in-corsets Victorian agenda. I mean, this book has plenty of girls rolling around in the dirt and drinking booze in a cave, or girls being vexed and distraught by the choices they never even get to the chance to make...
Since Libba Bray is writing 110 or so years after the period, she injects some commentary into the mix, but does so without being didactic or uptight.
I frequently troll the rec-boards seeking people who are fans of "paranormal romance" who have not yet read this book. I recommend it to all the ladies out there reading Twilight and Twilight knock-offs, hoping they can see a world where magic exists, where girls have almost no rights of their own, but claim them anyway.
And especially, I want them to read a book where the sexy love-interest waits patiently in the background while the main character takes care of all the other shit she has to do... like saving The Realms....more