Pam's Reviews > A Great and Terrible Beauty

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
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's review
Jun 06, 2011

really liked it
Read in June, 2011

16 year old Gemma Doyle doesn’t think it too large a birthday request to ask for passage to London. After all, her whole life has been spent in sweltering hot India with only her family and servants to occupy her time. She is sure that the letters and stories she receives from her grandmother, in the heart of the London social scene are far more exciting than anything she has yet experienced. Her mother is firm in her refusal, however, and swiftly puts an end to such talk.

When tragedy strikes, suddenly, Gemma gets her wish, though not at all the way she imagined. Thrust into the catty world of Spence’s finishing school, Gemma is alone on a new and strange sea, surrounded by forces she has no navigational feel for.

Stranger, though are the visions that have been creeping in to Gemma’s nightmares and daydreams. As the year progresses, Gemma finds herself in league with Spence’s elite set but this elite set soon finds itself locked in to the great and terrible thing that has been plaguing Gemma’s thoughts.

A story rich with mythology, of both east and west, A Great and Terrible Beauty is a wonderful trip into the imaginary. One of the most compelling aspects of the story lies in the exploration of fear in perceived strength and unexpected bravery when the human soul wants to cower and hide. Gemma and her confidants dare to break the mold as far as social constraints fall, choosing adventure over corsets.

The absence of head over heels romance in fair trade for myriad travels through the unknown is a welcome relief for me as far as this genre is concerned. I can handle a little bit of love but it is rarely, personally, palatable if overdone.

I’m well over halway through Bray’s second installment in the trilogy and I have to say that I’m just smitten. It’s definitely one of those that I want to finish in one gulp but know that I shouldn’t as I’ll be devastated when it’s all over.


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