My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gemma Doyle isn't like other girls. Girls with impeccable manners, who speak when spoken to, who remember their station, who dance with grace, and who will lie back and think of England when it's required of them.I cannot but feel a bitter-sweet relationship to Libra Bray’s ‘A Great and Terrible Beauty.’ For the first several chapters I thought it was quite terrible, but then as I finished the novel I realized there was a bit of beauty after all.
No, sixteen-year-old Gemma is an island unto herself, sent to the Spence Academy in London after tragedy strikes her family in India. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma finds her reception a chilly one. She's not completely alone, though... she's been followed by a mysterious young man, sent to warn her to close her mind against the visions.
Set in the late nineteenth century, Miss Gemma Doyle is sent to an English finishing school after the death of her mother in India. There she befriends and creates enemies that seem to be one in the same person. At the same time she is revealed and ancient power that has been her own her entire life, and exercises its use during the fast paced plot.
My biggest complaint with Miss Bray’s work is her characters. With a lovely writing style and enjoyable plot, the characters fall short of being likable. Although they improve going into the second half of the novel, I still could not help but feel not an ounce of pity for many of them. That feeling of complete disregard, at least I think, should be better directed towards the side-characters or the meaningless antagonists. Instead I found myself having to work through a general distaste of characters that I was supposed to be enjoying and declaring wonderful girls.
The pacing was very quick, although a bit too quick in some spots, but made the book enjoyable nonetheless. As I read further, the plot thickened, as they say, the characters became less snobbish and annoying, and I actually began to enjoy the novel. So much so that the book was bumped up as far as rating goes for me.
All the girls change, thank goodness, there’s a lot of plot twists and developments that made for a quite enjoyable read. At the very end there was even an emotional tug that made the novel even that much more worth the read.
I am well aware there are two other books in this series, and I am confident in my desire to read them. This was a YA novel that almost didn’t make the cut, as I’m a very picky reader when it comes to YA fiction, but eventually it did.
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