My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A Victorian 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 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. A Great and Terrible Beauty is an impressive first book in what should prove to be a fascinating trilogy.***
Date Read: April 9, 2013
Rating: 3.5 Stars
I truly believe that this could have been better. Honestly, it was good. I was completely engrossed by the latter half of the book. But the problem is it's quite hard to get yourself into the book. First of all, Gemma Doyle is not one of the best protagonists around. Even her friends were hard to predict at first. Then, the intentions become a little more obvious and by the end, it got a bit confusing. And I do agree with the reviews I have read, about poor character development. Gemma Doyle from page one is not really far from the Gemma Doyle by the end of the book. Also, I don't know if it was just me, but I really found it hard to picture India and London in the year 1891. Yes, the petticoats, gloves, corsets and carriages are present. But from the way it was written, it wasn't 1900ish. Maybe a little, but it was not constant throughout the book. (Judgement is based from comparison with other books set in the Victorian period.)
I really did like A Great and Terrible Beauty. The mystery behind Spence, the magic, the realms and the Order... I liked them, too bad the story picked up at the later part of the book. Also, I was looking for Gemma's romantic interest, because who doesn't want some romance in their books? (Definitely not me). Let's just say the romantic side of A Great and Terrible Beauty was a little subdued. It was there, just bubbling to sprout, but not always present. Although it the love story went quiet, it was okay. I couldn't say I did not like it.
So, with that and the great title, I give A Great and Terrible Beauty 3.5 stars.
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