December 15, 2013
Book Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, #1)
published in 2003
a forgiving 2.5-3 stars
Goodreads / Amazon / Author's Website
A Great and Terrible Beauty, is like what the title suggests, both great and terrible. But for me, it tilted towards terrible.
It's the Victorian Era, and the only place where Gemma Doyle wants to be is in England. Instead, Gemma's stuck under the sweltering heat of India, her dreams of going abroad quickly evaporating under the torrid sun. But one eery vision of the future later, tragedy strikes her family and Gemma is sent packing to the Spence Academy in London, under the worst possible circumstances. At Spence, Gemma's visions seem to occur more often, and Spence's gothic styled building intensifies the supernatural feel. Now, Gemma must question all she's every known. Or what she thought she had known.
I thought the book started off great. The characters had vivid, colorful personalities, and the setting felt very three-dimensional. Gemma had quite a distinct character, one that made her feel alive, vibrant. She always had a strong opinion, and her solid narration made me, the reader, feel involved in the story.
Unfortunately, the story started to unravel as Gemma started to discover her supernatural talents. Suddenly, several new, important plot lines appeared, yet they held a weak presence throughout the book. The story started to feel drab, as the characters' emotions were never amplified; they just feel flat. And scenes containing very dramatic elements felt like smooth poetry, I mean for a supernatural book, everything just felt a little too natural.
One of the only factors that kept me from abandoning this book was the writing. Libba Bray's prose is lavishly fluent, and her choice for words is really quite brilliant. There is something in her writing that takes her story to another dimension. So although a lot of components in this book disappointed me, the words sure did not.
A Great and Terrible Beauty would be a great book for someone who enjoys a luxurious prose and a unique story. Unfortunately, those two elements were not sufficient for me in liking this book. There were just too many little bits and pieces of the story that were left hanging, with nowhere to go. This book was a whole story that felt empty inside.