Thursday, October 11, 2012

REVIEW: A Great & Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1)
Author: Libba Bray
Genre: YA Paranormal/Fantasy Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: December 9/2003
Acquired: Purchased Used
Goodreads: ADD

It’s 1895, and after the suicide 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’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?


In India, this book started out beautifully, just pure descriptive magic. I wish everyone just stayed their butts there. Side note: I am extremely partial to backdrops in France and/or India-so I may be a smidgeon biased. Gemma is witness to a horrific scene involving her mother, a scene that, to her dismay, she foresaw literally minutes before it occurred. She is then promptly shipped off to a boarding school in England.

This is where the problems arose for me, and where the story began to grow a little stale. So much so, that I would put the book down for days on end, only to finally pick it up again and realize that ughh, maybe I shouldn't have. I think the change of scenery had a large impact on my loss of interest. England seemed so drab and void of the colour, smells, and culture that India provided in the beginning (though I have previously enjoyed stories based in England, this one was just dull to me).

However, there was a bright light at the end of that gray tunnel. The story picked up considerably as Gemma formed a stronger bond with a few of her classmates. The secondary characters-Ann, Felicity, and Pippa-also become increasingly more interesting as I became more informed of their lives, and the reasons for their reactions and interests. I think Libba Bray did a good job of making that transition easy and seamless for her readers: the fact that Gemma bumped heads with these girls initially, but then grew closer to them. I felt like it was done smartly, and not so quickly that it felt forced.

The 2 redeeming things in this book for me were these:
1) The interaction between Gemma and Kartik. I waited with baited breath for them to be in the same place at the same time, and I severely hope they have more scenes together in the next 2 books!
2)  The paranormal aspect. I think the intricacies and explanations were well thought-out and fun. I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out from here-I'm expecting a lot more of it in Rebel Angels.

Overall, this book was extremely slow-paced for me, and when it finally did pick up, the excitement was still a little too few and far between. The characters were pretty one dimensional, and I probably could have done without a few of them. I really, really wanted to like this series-I saw SO many positive reviews for it. Hopefully, my feelings change with the other books.

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