When I started reading the inside jacket of A Great and Terrible Beauty I thought, “Oh this is going to be like The Little Princess.” We’ve got a Victorian girl raised in India who starts attending an English boarding school full of hateful people. The protagonist, Gemma Doyle, is sixteen so maybe it was going to be The Not So Little Princess.
I was wrong.
This book is more of a dark paranormal Victorian gothic novel. There is nothing sweet about it. But, it is charming.
Gemma gets her birthday wish of returning to England fulfilled in a rather rude manner. Her mother dies. To make it worse, at the moment it happens, Gemma has a vision of her mother killing herself instead of succumbing to the dark force that tried to use her.
Happy Birthday Gemma!
So Gemma ends up at the stuffy Spence Academy for Girls with a dowdy roommate and a clique full of mean girls to contend with. The visions keep coming, a handsome young man from India warns her to control them and she blackmails her way into the popular crowd.
It’s the friendship with the other damaged girls that get this story rolling forward. Once Gemma learns to use her visions to transport herself and her three friends to an alternative world, they all work to become who they want to be outside of the confines of England of the day. Sort of, Girl Power when girls had no power.
I really enjoyed the book and Libba Bray’s writing style. The story was very visual. Engaging. It kept me thinking about the girls long after I closed the cover.
You can find out more about A Great And Terrible Beauty, the remaining two books in the “Gemma Doyle Trilogy” or Libba Bray’s other writing at her website: libbabray.com
Be warned…she’s got a sense of humor.