The Friday 56, #26: A Great and Terrible Beauty

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join in every Friday, the rules are simple.

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

 

“Outside, the mist has thickened into a gray soup that settles around our legs. Down the hill lies the hazy outline of the enormous school, broken by thin slivers of lights from the various windows. Only one wing remains completely dark. I figure it to be the East Wing, the one destroyed by the fire. It sits, curled and quiet as the gargoyles on the roof, as if waiting. For what I don’t know.

A Great and Powerful Beauty by Libba Bray is one of those books that I had heard about for years but never got around to picking it up until recently. I’m really glad I gave this book a chance after so many years. I already read it’s sequel and the third book in the Gemma Doyle trilogy is currently sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me.

From my review:

“Gemma Doyle’s world shatters when her mother is taken from her prematurely. Haunted by the premonition of her mother’s death, Gemma cannot quite explain the events that led up to the tragedy or the strange words uttered by a stranger to her mother before she was killed. Still in a state of grief Gemma is shipped to Spence Academy, a finishing school for girls. But Gemma cannot seem to outrun the frightening visions that have followed her. The cryptic Kartik warns Gemma that these visions of hers are dangerous and she must learn to control them. When a mysterious diary falls into her possession, Gemma discovers the significance of her visions and the power inside her that someone else desires.” Read my full review here.

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Title: Rebel Angels
Author: Libba Bray
Series: Gemma Doyle, #2

Though Gemma was able to thwart Circe’s plans in A Great and Terrible Beauty, she inadvertently set free the power of the realms. In so doing, it has becomes possible for anyone to use its power. Now Gemma and her friends must find the mysterious Temple and bind the magic before Circe finds a way in. But Circe is not the only one who desires this power, the Rakshana want to control it as well and will use Kartik to fool Gemma into turning over the power to them. Inside the realms, more enemies than friends emerge and what was once a sanctuary has now become a battleground for the girls.

“Felicity’s whispering something to me but I can’t hear the words. The whisper itself has a horrible din, like the dry wings and scratching legs of a thousand insects. My eyelids flutter. A roaring fills my ears, and I am falling hard and fast through a tunnel of light and sound. Time stretches out like a band. I am caught in the grip of a vision. But this is like no vision I’ve ever had. It is much more powerful.”

Gemma, Ann, and Felicity are once again in the midst of a dangerous game. The difference between these three is this: though Gemma finds possessing the power of the realms to be frightening, the other two only see what they can obtain from it. I think Felicity has a much more complicated need for power than Ann, and in this way I felt Felicity’s character is more fully realized. I also felt that she and Gemma grew more as characters than the insecure Ann, in whom I am still waiting to see more fight. The tension between Gemma and Felicity continues and is further strained by the family secrets they try to keep from one another.

Libba Bray’s second novel in her Gemma Doyle trilogy focuses more on the land found in the realms. In Rebel Angels we meet the strange and sometimes dark inhabitants of this magical place. There are also the sad spirits now trapped here who are unable to cross over, including the girls’ friend Pippa. Pippa may be the most dangerous of all these creatures, for she embodies all the beauty of Pippa and the guilt Gemma feels for having left her, but behind her eyes Pippa is different and not entirely the girl they remember.

Though the battle for power may take place in the realms, the girls are still fighting battles in the real world. Ann continues to struggle with the anonymity of being an orphan, Felicity is consistently trying to get her mother’s attention, and Gemma, as she is being courted by the beguiling Simon Middleton, begins to glimpse a normal life but it may cost her who she really is in order to obtain it. It soon becomes clear that there is no fantasy to be had in the real world. Though the power of the realms the girls are able to carry back with them has the ability to change things, it is only temporary, an illusion and in the end no magic can remedy reality’s problems.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty
Author: Libba Bray
Series: Gemma Doyle, #1

Gemma Doyle’s world shatters when her mother is taken from her prematurely. Haunted by the premonition of her mother’s death, Gemma cannot quite explain the events that led up to the tragedy or the strange words uttered by a stranger to her mother before she was killed. Still in a state of grief Gemma is shipped to Spence Academy, a finishing school for girls. But Gemma cannot seem to outrun the frightening visions that have followed her. The cryptic Kartik warns Gemma that these visions of hers are dangerous and she must learn to control them. When a mysterious diary falls into her possession, Gemma discovers the significance of her visions and the power inside her that someone else desires.

“What frightens you?

…Is it the dark? A fleeting memory of a bedtime story, ghosts and goblins and witches hiding in the shadows? Is it the way the wind picks up just before the storm, the hint of wet in the air that makes you want to scurry home to the safety of your fire?

Or is it something deeper, something much more frightening, a monster deep inside…”

When I first started reading A Great and Terrible Beauty and met the girls of Spence Academy, I was afraid that I was going to read another book about a new girl trying and failing to fit in with a bunch of catty, spoiled brats. But Gemma and the three girls she meets, though the start of their friendship is a little rocky, eventually find comfort in each other as each struggles with the expectations of their families and society. The story takes place at the end of the 19th century, so it is very interesting to read about these young ladies who have very little say in how their lives will turn out. Each tries desperately to retain some sort of control which is why each is so willing to take risks. I rather like the tentative relationship that develops between these four girls. They play off each other’s insecurities and remain individuals rather than merging into the same person.

The girls play a dangerous game, entering into another realm where their deepest desires come true. My first thought was the movie The Craft in which each of the girls gets what they want and everything seemed perfect until their power becomes too much. I’m interested to see how the events of this book alter the relationship between the girls and please I need to know more about Kartik! I also appreciated that Bray took the potential romance between Gemma and Kartik slowly, seeing that this is a trilogy. A girl enjoys a slow-burn every now and then. Libba Bray’s first book in her Gemma Doyle trilogy ends on a rather melancholy note, where the girls are forced to see things soberly and lessons are learned in the most difficult way. I’ve already picked up the sequel and am ready to get started on another adventure.

Rating:4/5

★★★★