Friday, August 24, 2012

Book Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: December 9, 2003
Edition: Hardcover (403 pages)
Cover Review: I'm not a big fan of the cover. It doesn't really represent the story at all. I did find myself repeatedly coming to the cover for reference of what a corset looks like.
Series: Gemma Doyle, Book 1
Main Character: Gemma Doyle

"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."
After I read Revolution, I knew I needed to read more historical fiction. I decided to read this one. I loved Libba Bray's Beauty Queens, and I've heard great things about this series. I think it's great too!

We follow Gemma after her mother killed herself. Gemma has always wanted to go to school in London. Her mother always told her no. Since her mother died, Gemma is allowed to go the school since the rest of her family lives in Europe. Gemma and her friends at school all find that they can perform magic. Gemma can bring everyone to another little world where anything is possible. The girls meet up at midnight every night in order to go to this mystical world. At one point, everything starts to go wrong. Gemma must do anything she can in order to fix it and make it right.

There were many mysteries in this book and I absolutely loved it. I kept wondering, "Who is Mary Dowd?" Of course, we find that out. I really enjoyed the parts where the girls read from Mary Dowd's diary. I liked learning more about her. There's also this guy named Kartik. At the moment, I still don't know what his deal is. I know what group he was a part of but I don't know why he really kept following Gemma.

I can't wait to read the sequel and see what mess Gemma gets stuck in next time!

I definitely recommend this for fans of historical fiction, Libba Bray or gothic novels.


Have you read this novel? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. This book is actually sitting on my side table right now so I'm glad to here that it was a great read!

  2. It sort of blows my mind that this book was released almost 10 years I feel really old haha. I love historical fiction, and I think this book was probably one of the first I read. In fact, I think it's safe to say that Libba Bray got me into the genre. Unfortunately, I wasn't a huge fan of Beauty Queens. Great review :)

  3. I know I own (or owned at one point) this book and I think I read it but I wasn't ready for it. Now as a more mature lover of historical fiction, I bet this book would be great for me. Hope you like the rest of the series as well!

  4. I loved this series!!! SO MUCH!!! Libra Bray really is a great author and his is definitely awesome historical fiction. Great review! And as a warning the last book is totally heartbreaking!!

  5. This was such an amazing book! I loved your review! You definitely gave the book justice :) xo.

  6. Yes this book sounds like it would be similar to Lord of the Flies but Bray took it in a different direction full of humor and feminism! I read Going Bovine and didn’t like it that much either – I still need to read A Great and Terrible Beauty, thanks for the recommendation and for reading and commenting!

    Charmaine Smith (For more on All-Inclusive Sitka Alaska Fishing Charters - click here)


Hello there! (: Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I read each and every one!