Skip to main content

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray


One drowsy afternoon, at a dusky library overlooking the sea in a distant island, my seeking eyes landed on this book stuck in the furthermost corner. There are times when the moment of first acquaintance between two fictional characters is as interesting as the one between a reader and a book.

Libba Bray's debut novel, the first in Gemma Doyle Trilogy, takes us to the turn of the nineteenth century boarding school for girls with its cliques and daring pranks, school mysteries and a lost diary. Almost it tethers on the typical coming-of-age-set-in-a-boarding-school cliche (running to the woods under the moonlight, dancing in circles, napping on a floating boat in the middle of a lake, entwined flowers on hair, etc) nevertheless with a smear of fantasy, it becomes something dangerously richer, lusciously darker and a fine setting to play up a young woman's riotous whims and the exploration of one's self; the light and the dark.

I must say the pacing of the story is solid and kept me intrigued. The sinister mystery surrounding our heroine's mystical power furthered the thrilling aspect of it. It has a great imagery, like a screenplay playing out on your head, but with lurking shadows hovering. Some scenes take you back in nostalgia of which the book's prose evokes often. The magical realms feel like a state of otherworldly intoxication which preys upon the delights, greed and longings of those who wants to gain it, like a dream metaphor for human's earthy emotions and their ever changing nature.

Gemma, our heroine who narrates here, is quite flawed though she totally fills the shoes of her age; willful, mysterious, daring, almost awkward and without much grace. I am at least thankful that Bray's portrayal of her toed the line between the annoying and the admirably strong. She is likable as it is without the writer forcing it on readers. I am trying to overlook that at some point during the suspense, the characters fail at being themselves and things get a bit predictable but the book still managed not to drown, coming into a full circle somewhat in the end.

What remained to me was the unraveling and study of the contrast in things, in one's self, that most of life's choices are almost tinged with light and dark, like a chiaroscuro. And always, as in any magical world, there is always something for something, a sacrifice for a sacrifice. To me, it is a coming of age novel and more.

Book Summary:

A Victoria boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other worldly fantasy -- jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.

Sixteen-year old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the otherworld realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order.

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty
Author: Libba Bray
Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Historical
Published: 2003
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Rating: ♨♨♨ 1/2 ( 3 1/2 cups - Imagining scenes on this book is like straight out of that Jordan Scott's film, Cracks, with a dash of magical high going on. Quite piercing to read and enthralling on its darkly idyllic imagery.)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Release Day: Bohemian by Kathryn Nolan

RATING/REVIEW: ☕☕☕☕ (4 cups of soothing, slow burn romance!)
Bohemian is a modern day love story about two very different people whose common love for the written word brings them together and in the end may drive them apart.  Lucia and Calvin never would have met in the same place except for the presence of The Mad Ones, an old fashioned bookstore found in the beautiful area of Big Sur.  Lucia is a supermodel, at the age of 26 what use to thrill her has been leaving her bored almost.  When a scheduled shoot in an old fashioned bookstore suddenly fans the flames of her love of reading she starts yearning for more.  Calvin inherited The Mad Ones from his beloved grandfather.  His grandfather's love of reading and his lifestyle has always brought joy to a young Calvin but he never really subscribed to that way of life.  When he meets Lucia he might have been starstruck for a bit.  What does a geeky nerd like him have in common with a beautiful woman like her.  When he finds out they …

Blog Tour: Ride With Me by Ashley Hastings: Review plus Giveaway!

RIDE WITH ME by Ashley HastingsPublication Date: April 5, 2018 Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating/Review: ☕☕☕ 1/2 (3.5 cups of funny and sweet but sexy romance) Ride with Me pairs up a sexy cop and a sweet nerdy but adorable grad student who spend their time getting to know each other through a ridealong.  But first they had the most unique meet cute involving car chases!  Who can beat that?!  Lucy and Grayson may not appear to be compatible but in Ride with Me they definitely hit the right notes together. Sweet, short and funny, Ride with Me is a lighthearted read that would put a smile in any romance readers face.

BUY NOW!Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Jq6nsq(#FREE with #KindleUnlimited) Paperback: https://amzn.to/2EpsefW


SYNOPSIS:A bad boy cop and a straight-laced student are about to go on the ride of their lives… He’s the law, but she’s the one making the rules. Graduate student Lucy wants order and predictability in her life. She always has a list to consult and a plan to execute. Poli…

Review Post: Fool Me Once by Catherine Bybee

Rating/Review: ☕☕☕☕ 1/2 (4.5 cups, this romantic suspense will give new meaning to The First Wives Club)
You never know what you really would be getting when reading a Catherine Bybee book.  On the outside, each book can definitely hold its own as a great contemporary romance novel.  Read a little bit further, you get well-defined, multilayered characters and a romantic suspense in the making. Pretty soon you will be amazed on the intricate storyline balanced well with the main characters developing romance.  Fool Me Once is definitely a Catherine Bybee book.  The first in her new series, First Wives,  Fool Me Once is also a spinoff from her popular Weekday Bride series.  And yet again, Ms. Bybee delivers in her great characters, well thought out plot and melding her two series together without one overpowering the other.
The story starts out as the head of Alliance and their legal go to person, Lori try to help one of their client who unexpectedly lost her husband.  To get her away …