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.