REVIEW: The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
The Sweet Far Thing:
After the events of the last book where Gemma bound the magic to herself, she can no longer open the realms. Ann and Felicity want to carry on using magic throughout their lives and are putting pressure on Gemma to go back into the realms. But once Mrs Nightwing announces that the east wing is to be rebuilt, Gemma, Ann and Felicity find a back door into the realms that can be used in the East Wing. They can all enter the realms by touching a stone, which was unearthed during the reconstruction. When in the realms, they find Pippa has adopted a group of girls that were saved from the winterlands. She encourages them to act like proper ladies just like she was taught at Spence. They pretty much worship the ground that she walks on because she treats them with such kindness.
Pippa takes Gemma to the side and asks her to help her cross over from the realms but finds that she cannot pass through because she has been in the realms too long. This causes Pippa to get angry and causes a kind of depression. She wants to be gone from this world but cannot anymore, This is when Gemma feels sorry for her and starts to gift her the magic so that she can get through the sadness.
Kartik has been gone for three months after helping Gemma escape from the Rakshana. He returns and tells Gemma that they cannot know each other anymore. She is left heartbroken but continues to long for him. He eventually helps her arrange a meeting with the Rakshana. The Rakshana are pursuing Tom, her brother, to be a member of the elite group. Unfortunately for Tom, he does not know the true reason why they want him but Gemma does and tries to get them to call it off but this does not work and they realise that she does indeed have the magic despite her earlier deception.
Gemma, though warned of her visions, finally has them again. She begins to see clues left by a girl in a lavender dress. Her name was Wilhelmina Wyatt. They find out that she had attended Spence and that her aunt was Mrs Eugenia Spence, and that she could see into the darkness. She was a member of the order for a while but chose to leave it knowing that she wouldn’t trust them again. Because of these clues left by Wilhelmina, they believe that the tree of all souls actually exists in the winterlands, and not myth has it has been believed before. All of the girls, including Pippa’s girl gang, go to find the Tree. They endeavour into the winterlands and find the tree. The tree invites all of the girls to touch it and entrances them. Gemma however, has a talk with Eugenia Spence who informs her about Wilhelmina and that she had a dagger, which posed a threat to the winterland creatures and tasks her to find it.
Through a series of events, we learn that the tree is truly evil and that the tree had corrupted the true essence of Eugenia Spence. When the east wing was set on fire and Eugenia Spence shut the door on the realms, she was taken into the realms by the winterlands creatures. It was then that they had focused on her fears and bound her to the tree of all souls and that was what slowly corrupted her essence. It was Spence that had sent word about rebuilding the east wing of Spence and that Nightwing and McCleethy were to follow her instructions. This was so that the winterlands creatures could enter our world and destroy it as they had once did with Sarah Rees Toome and Mary Dowd.
Once they all realise this, they go to the winterlands to destroy it. At this point in time, the realms are in havoc. The creatures of the realms have been killed by that of the winterlands and they make an alliance with other creatures of the realms to destroy the tree. Pippa is past the point of redemption. She tries to take Gemma as a sacrifice to the tree as now it has given her own magic. But the fake Miss McCleethy, also known as Sariah Foster, takes her place and she is killed by Pippa. Felicity is heart broken by this as it is revealed that they loved each other in a romantic way rather than just friendship and Gemma suggests that it was her love that kept her from being corrupted by the realm for so long but it was going to happen eventually.
All of the creatures of the realms go against that of the winterlands. They want Gemma to spill her blood to the tree, which would give them the power of the realms. They fight and fight and countless are lost. The tree tries to take Gemma and she finds Circe in the tree. Circe who had previously taken the dagger from her, gives it to her but her blood was spilt and she dies. Both Circe and Gemma die and are transported into the after life. As they are apart of the realms, they are given the chance to go into the after life like paradise or remain in the world and continue their mission. Gemma although tempted, does not want it just yet and wants to go back to defeat the winterlands. Whilst Circe must remain in the bleak afterlife but when Gemma says can Circe take her place and Gemma returns to the world, the afterworld agrees and sends her back. Gemma successfully defeats the tree but Kartik sacrifices himself to the tree to help save her.
The realms are all okay and the creatures work to repair the damage. Since Kartik died in the realms, he remains there. He confesses his love to Gemma and she dreams of him often. Felicity is off to Paris for a life that will be different maybe she can find a female lover there? Instead of going to work for her cousins, Ann is taken in by a theatre and is given a supporting role in a new musical, the Merry Maidens. Mr Doyle returns to India despite battling addiction and depression and hopes that he can find peace there despite losing his wife. And Gemma, decides to attend University in America and leaves the realms in the hands of its creatures and binds the magic to the creatures so that they can share an equal say in how the realms is treated. Kartik awaits her in the realms.
This series is phenomenal. It was a brilliant ending to the series, which consists of magic and wonder. Kartik and Gemma finally admit their true feelings for each other! Although, I would not have paired them together myself, I can see why people would ship them in general. I am happy that Gemma did chose herself after the death of him though because she deserved a happiness that the rules of aristocratic England would not have given her. She wanted her own freedom and to not be controlled by anybody. After all this is what the Rakshana and The Order wanted to do to her. They fought for the magic that was rightfully the realms but when she obtained it, they wanted her rather than Gemma choosing on her own what to do with it. It was to do with power and this is what Gemma wanted back. She wanted the power to decide her own destiny rather than having it decided for her. This is what all the younger girls wanted within the series. Ann had the worst circumstances with her only being at Spence for her to eventually become a governess for her aunt’s children and she wants out of it. She wants the power to decide her own destiny. Felicity was being controlled by her inheritance and if she didn’t debut, she would not eventually get it. If she married, her husband would get the money and she didn’t want that either. She wants the power to decide her own destiny. Pippa, in the first book didn’t want to marry because she wanted to find true love, she died trying to find it and as such the realms corrupted her. She wants the power to decide her own destiny. This book is about the power that women held during this time and getting it back for themselves. This book is ultimately a feminist story about love and power with a bit of magical whimsy in it also. I am so happy about the way this story ended but I wish we could explore more within this world. Libba Bray has done wonders with this story and her writing creates a world of mystic and bewilderment that keeps you enthralled at every word.
Overall 4 out of 5 stars.