A Great and Terrible Beauty

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Before I get into this week’s blog post, I want to apologize for being a day late on posting. Sometimes life just happens and you want to go and live it. Next time I post, I shall be on time with the usual Friday posting day.

So, like I promised in my last post, this one is going to be about a book that is not as heavy with the life talk and more fun. I first read this book during my freshman year of high school, and I fell in love with the trilogy so much that I bought all three of the books and continue to read them to this day. I’m going to discuss the first book in the trilogy (because you can’t talk about a series without starting from the beginning). So, without further ado, my book of the week is A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray.

Set in the late 1800s, the story is centered on a young sixteen year old girl name Gemma Doyle. Her whole world is turned upside down when her mother is murdered by a mysterious shadow in a packed market in India. Confused and dazed, Gemma is sent to England to study at The Spence Academy for Young Ladies, one of the most prestigious schools for young women. When she first arrives, Gemma is cast aside for being different: she is not good at any of the typical skills young ladies are expected to know, she is adventurous, and she always asks a lot of questions. However, after an exchange of a few scandalous secrets, she is pulled into a friendship with two of the most popular girls in school, Felicity and Pippa, as well as her roommate Ann, an orphan sent to Spence to train to be a housemaid for her cousins. While trying to navigate the politics of Spence, Gemma struggles to understand exactly what happened to her mother. She begins to have visons, vivid dreams of places and people she has never met discussing something called the Order and a place called The Realms. With the help and encouragement of her friends, Gemma discovers that she has a power inside of her to open the Realms – where she finds her mother. A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first installment of Gemma’s journey to understand who she really is and why she has the power she does.

Trying to explain everything that happens in this book would take way longer than a single paragraph. The plot is incredibly intricate, with many concurrent stories and backstories that all intertwine to create the current life of Gemma and her friends. This is one of my favorite things about this book and the series in general. Libba Bray is able to discuss multiple people and stories and somehow involve all of those stories into one main one. I think this is one of the many successes of the book. All of the characters’ are incredibly well written, and all of their stories are explained to their fullest extent while still being relevant to the main story of Gemma and the Realms. Keep in mind, since this is a trilogy, there are some unanswered questions and stories at the end of this book that will not be answered until the last book. However, I do believe Bray does a fantastic job in writing A Great and Terrible Beauty so that it can stand on its own memorably while still contributing to the genius that is the trilogy.

One of the other big successes of this book is the writing style. Bray goes into a fair amount of detail and depth when talking about the places and people in her book, which I as a reader greatly enjoy. I love being immersed in a story, and all of the description and heart Bray puts into her book makes it feel more like an experience and less like just reading a book. I guarantee she will suck you in from the moment you finish reading the first chapter and hang on for the ride until the last word of this book. Her descriptive writing and edge-of-your-seat suspense mixed with some Gothic era history makes for a thrilling ride with Gemma. You will want to find out what happens to her story guaranteed by the end of reading this book.

I am going to give this book an 8 out of 10 stars. I truly loved and enjoyed reading this book. It is a fun, exciting, refreshing break from a lot of the other typical young adult novels out there, which is one of the reasons why I like it. It encourages girls to break the mold of what everyone else is doing and be exactly who you are, even if who you are isn’t like everyone else. I love that. However, I am partial to books that actually have deep life lessons (as you probably already know). Those kinds of books are the ones that, in my internal ranking, are higher than this book. However, if you are looking for something different, something to spice up the young adult section of your book shelf, this is the book and trilogy to do so with.

If you have read this book or the trilogy before, let me know in the comments what you thought!

Best,

Tina

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A Great and Terrible Beauty

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