REVIEW: A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty:

Our main character of this series is a girl named Gemma Doyle. Gemma has grown up majority of her life living in India. On her sixteenth birthday, Gemma and her mother go into the Bombay market when they encounter a man and his younger brother. The man whispers something to her mother of what nature she is not sure of but it was about a woman named Circe. Her mother panics and tells Gemma to go home straight away. Angry at her mother for easily dismissing her, Gemma runs away but later has a vision of her mother committing suicide while searching for her. She later finds out that her vision was true and that this was to be the first of many. Following her mother’s death wish, she and her father go back to England where she will attend Spence Academy for Young Ladies, a boarding/finishing school for girls. When she first arrives, she finds herself to be an outcast only having joined the school at what would be her last year. But one night, she finds Felicity, the most popular girl in school, kissing one of the gypsy boys that live near campus. They agree on a truce and actually start to become friends, along with Ann, Gemma’s roommate and Pippa, Felicity’s best friend.

But whilst at the school, her visions get worse. Along comes the young boy that she had met in the market. He warns her of the visions and that she must close her mind to them or something horrible will occur. We later learn that he and his brother, who died protecting her mother, were both members of a secret society known as the Rakshana. The Rakshana protect the realms.

During a vision, she is led into a cave where she finds the diary of a young Mary Dowd. She finds that it was written 25 years ago and which would have made Mary, 16 years old. She finds that Mary Dowd attended Spence academy the same as her and that Mary’s friends and Mary experienced the type of visions that Gemma is having now. Through the diary, Gemma finds out about the order, which is an ancient group filled with women who are sorcerers much like the Rakshana. She is determined to the her visions and the Order together. Members of the Order could open a door between the human world and into other realms. She realises this and goes to tell her friends.

Once in the realms, she finds that her mother is there. She looks alive and well but she warns Gemma that if she takes the magic out of the realms then Circe will find her. In the realms, the girls are having a magical time and they find that they can achieve their hearts truest desires. Felicity wishes for power, Pippa for True love, Ann for beauty and Gemma for self-knowledge. Gemma eventually confronts her mother about the realms and the Order. Her mother reveals that she used to go by another name, Mary Dowd. She was the Mary Dowd that the diary belonged to. And her friend Sarah Rees Toome is Circe, the sorceress who is hunting Gemma.

After finding this out, Gemma is furious at her mother for not telling her the truth but realises the only way her mother will be able to move on, is if she forgives her. So the gang return to the realms and find that something is not right. The creature that killed her mother appears and Pippa and the rest of them separate as Pippa is frightened. But Gemma leaves her in the realm because she does not know where she is. Gemma takes Ann and Felicity back to Spence leaving Pippa trapped underwater. They see Pippa having a seizure due to the epilepsy and run and get help. Gemma goes back into the realms to persuade Pippa to leave but she does not want to. So she stays in the realms with her true love. Gemma defeats the creature but once she returns to our world, she finds that Pippa is already dead.

This book is one mystery after another. Libba Bray knows how to write an exceptional story. She builds this world from the ground up that has you enthralled from the very beginning. Having read Bray’s Diviner series, I knew coming into this how phenomenal her writing could be but this was better than what I could have expected. Libba Bray makes this series easy to read and easy to follow. I did have difficulties with the first diviner book but her writing flows better in this book also. It seems as if she knew exactly what these characters wanted to say to her and she just wrote it down like a biography. Honestly, I could not have expected anything better than this from a first book.

4 out of 5 stars.

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