A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Gemma Doyle possesses great power that she knows nothing about. After witnessing her mother’s dramatic suicide via an out of body experience, Gemma is shipped off to an all-girls finishing school so that she can be educated and trained to be a gentle sophisticated wife. It is there that she meets Ann, Felicity and Pippa; the three girls who become her closest friends and who help in her own exploration of her wonderfully, frightening gift.
Libba Bray did a great job at developing her characters in A Great and Terrible Beauty. The relationship between the four girls is so familiar and true to that age that you feel like they are your friends too, because in reality you either were someone just like them, or knew someone who was. It is these girls and their relationship that made me love this book. Each girl is broken in her own way; Gemma has lost both of her parents, her mother to her mysterious suicide, her father to addiction. Ann is an orphan with no wealth or hope of marrying, Felicity’s mother ran off on her father to be with a painter in France, and her father sent her to finishing school never to return or visit. Pippa has a serious illness that marks her as faulty, thus giving her parents the drive to marry her off quickly to the highest bidder before it’s too late; no matter how Pippa feels or who the person is. It is through these character flaws and challenges that the girls grow and become unique individuals. This is the story I love.
The story about the girls dabbling in a power they do not understand was a bit weak, in my opinion. It is interesting enough to keep you entertained and wondering ‘what next?’ After drawing the information and exploration of the power and realms out for several hundred pages, the ending felt very anti-climatic and rushed. I realize there are more books to be read, more story to be told; but I was disappointed with the development and ending of this storyline. I was also disappointed in Kartik’s role in this book. He did help the girls a couple of times, but his part in the whole book was much more minor than I had hoped. He mostly just went around saying, “I am Rakshana,” and making empty threats. The elaborate dreams of Gemma are interesting enough, but even if there was nothing in their relationship in their book, I had hoped for more of his involvement elsewhere.