Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Synopsis (from Mindful Musings blog): Gemma, 16, 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 she 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 other-world 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.

My review: I must admit, this book is one I read grudgingly. I tend to shy away from books that are incredibly popular but poorly written (Twilight, Eragon) and so I only read it because my library had it. To my delight, it was very well written. I was immediately drawn into the world of Gemma and found her a likable character. Though she began as rather spoiled, she quickly became grew up in the face of tragedy.

I enjoyed the portrayal of strict Victorian England. It was written in a way that made it easy reading (especially for the teenage audience) while still capturing the strictures the society place on girls in that era. And I loved Katrick. What a great male lead, although he was not in the book quite enough.

While I liked the setting, characters and writing very well indeed, the plot, particularly the phantasmagoria, was lacking just enough credibility to make me a fan. (In other words, the author didn't quite make me believe in the other-worldly elements.)

It takes a lot for me to want to pick up a sequel, and while I enjoyed the book very much I do not think I will pick up the sequel...well, perhaps I will if I see it on the library's shelf!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, simply because it was refreshing to read a well-written book with likable characters!

Profanity: None
Drugs and Alcohol: The girls do drink a stolen bottle of wine
Sexuality: Tame
Violence: Minimal

I would love your thoughts on GOING BOVINE!