A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

After her mother’s suicide in India, sixteen-year-old Gemma Doyle is sent to the Spence Academy in Victorian London. There, she feels lonely and out of place, and she tries to make sense of the visions that have been haunting her since her mother’s death. Furthermore, Gemma tries to understand why she is followed by a mysterious and attractive young man who warns her against her visions.

As an incident occurs at Spence, Gemma is immediately accepted into the circle of the school’s most powerful girls and she is glad to finally have found some friends. But when the girls begin to play with supernatural powers, they put themselves in danger. Moreover, they discover that Gemma’s mother was involved with a dubious group called the Order. As the sixteen-year-old tries to find out more about this shady and dangerous group and about the true cause of her mother’s death, she discovers some shocking and frightful things, but she also learns a lot about herself and the destiny that awaits her.

Packed with 400 pages of suspense, gothic and supernatural elements, passion and jealousy, A Great and Terrible Beauty is a fascinating and intriguing novel that captivated me from the beginning. This is the first book of the Gemma Doyle trilogy and it tells the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who is unconventional and insecure and who tries to understand who she really is and what’s happening to her. At times, she is spoiled and likes to rebel because she doesn’t like society’s rules and thus, she refuses to submit to them. She doesn’t have impeccable manners and she doesn’t always think before she speaks. Still, she is a very likeable character, especially since she is so flawed. Her friends are also great characters and they have their own problems. These problems are very typical for the Victorian age, as women at that time had to fulfil a certain role, a role that didn’t allow them any freedom and independence. And that’s why I liked this book so much, because it touched upon these themes. Although A Great and Terrible Beauty is set in the Victorian period, the novel still felt very modern to me because it deals with things that are present in today’s society – the girls have to cope with rivalry, jealousy, trust, acceptance and self-knowledge – things that teenage girls have to face every day. And I think that’s what makes this novel so attractive to young adults, because it deals with matters that they understand and can relate to, since they go through the same things.

A Great and Terrible Beauty was an engrossing read that left me longing for more and I am desperate to read the sequels, as I want to know how Gemma’s story will continue. The last sentences of this book definitely make you curious about the next two books:

“I’m running because I can, because I must. Because I want to see how far I can go before I have to stop.”

I want to find out more about Gemma’s destiny, about the Order and about the realms and I hope the sequels will satisfy my thirst!

Note: I would like to thank Casey Lloyd from Random House for sending me a copy of this engaging book!



7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lua
    May 31, 2010 @ 06:50:49

    “I’m running because I can, because I must. Because I want to see how far I can go before I have to stop.” I loved this line!
    “the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who is unconventional and insecure and who tries to understand who she really is and what’s happening to her.” This is so relatable- we’ve all been there where we had no idea who we were and what was going on about the world and desperately try and make sense of everything.
    The story sounds very mysterious with the visions, suicides and supernatural powers and I love a good trilogy… 🙂 Thank you for the great review Andreea.


  2. Sandy
    May 31, 2010 @ 11:18:38

    I absolutely LOVE gothic books like this! I’m always looking out for them. Something to replicate Rebecca, you know? I’m excited about this one.


  3. Amy
    May 31, 2010 @ 13:04:52

    So glad you liked this one, I love the series, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the series as much as book 1!


  4. Hannah
    May 31, 2010 @ 14:45:41

    I’ve had this on my shelf for two years but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet– and it’s exactly my type of book. Thanks for the review!


  5. vivienne
    May 31, 2010 @ 17:55:53

    Wow – and this book and the second one have sat on my shelves unnoticed for ages! I shall definitely move it up the pile after your review.


  6. Nymeth
    Jun 01, 2010 @ 07:56:35

    I’m glad you enjoyed this so much, Andreea! I had mixed feelings about it, but I do think that Libba Bray is a talented author, so I’d like to read her again.


  7. Darlene
    Jun 06, 2010 @ 17:26:45

    Great review! I loved this book and the whole series. I found the next two books in the series even better than the first so you’re in for a treat.


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