Thursday, 4 July 2013

A Great And Terrible Beauty

It's 1895 and, after the death of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England.  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 being followed by a mysterious young man, sent to warn her to close her mind against the visions.

It's at Spence that Gemma's powers to attract the supernatural unfolds, as she becomes entangled with the school's most powerful girls and discovers her mother's connection to a shadowy, timeless group called The Order.  Her destiny awaits...if only Gemma can believe it.

I'll admit that I expected more from Libba Bray, perhaps a little too much.  I loved her most recent book, The Diviners, because it had a sense of place, and this was down to Bray's inclusion of many a minor detail of the period in which her book was set.  Although A Great and Terrible Beauty revolves around a Victorian boarding school in England, I couldn't find much that signalled this and thus never felt fully immersed in the story. 

While the plot was okay, it was nothing surprising or different.  This goes for Bray's characters, too.  Generic personalities from cookie cutter boarding school fiction are all here: The uptight headmistress, the queen bee who's family neglects her, her beautiful sidekick and the plain orphan outcast.  Gemma is about the only one who momentarily breaks her cliché of new-girl outcast narrator, often with some astute observations of what it was to be a girl in Victorian times. 

Overall, it's not that there isn't potential for the series to grow and change into something better, it's just A Great and Terrible Beauty doesn't exactly entice me to read the next book in the trilogy.  The best way I can recommend this book is as light holiday read. 


  1. Yeah, this is why I haven't started this one yet - I loved The Diviners and Beauty Queens and I was worried this one wouldn't quite live up to those. It's such a popular series that I'm sure I'll get around to it one day, but ehhh. I'd rather wait for the next Diviners book!

    1. Agreed, when is the next Diviners book coming out? I feel I have already waited long enough! To tide me over, I just bought Beauty Queens, as the library don't stock it, is it as good/better than the Diviners?