A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

On Gemma Doyle’s 16th birthday, after having an argument with her mother about leaving India and going to a school in London, Gemma takes off alone in an angry huff.  Suddenly she can not move her feet and a weird sensation covers her as she has a vision of her mother dying.  When she returns from her walk, she discovers that her mother is indeed… dead.

Two months later Gemma is enrolled in a London boarding school for girls.  She is still dealing with the strange visions and feeling grief and guilt over her mother.  As time goes on, Gemma learns to not only control the visions, but also discovers a realm where she has powers and where she rediscovers her mother who directs her through what apparently is some sort of hereditary magic. 

As Gemma makes friends (Felicity, Ann, and Pippa) at the school, she lets them in on her new found powers and together the girls explore the realm, not realizing the dangers that lurk within, or the clues given in Gemma’s visions.

Segue:  You know how you may pick a dessert from a dessert tray thinking it is one thing, but upon biting into it you discover it is something else entirely, and even better than expected?  Well, that’s how I felt about this audio. 

At first synopsis, I thought for sure this was an historical fiction read.  Which… it was.  But, it is also is adventure, mystery, paranormal, a dab of horror, a splash or romance, and dare I say I think I may have experienced just a pinch of steam punk? 

A Great and Terrible Beauty is narrated by Josephine Bailey and I would say that in the places that I felt a little lost in what was happening in this stuffed full of genre book, it was Josephine’s clear and incredible voice control that held me captive. 

While the start of this novel read is kicking and full of action that made me say “Wha?”, the middle seamed to be filled with just a lot of … stuff.  Filling really – about the school, about Gemma…. it just lost the power that it had in the beginning, and maybe it was just too strong an entrance to possibly hold that level of excitement… I dont know…

My favorite part of the book was the friendship of the four girls.  As in most books that center around a friendship, the girls have diverse personalities, and I like that.  I did enjoy how they came together as quite an unlikely quartette, and well… you will see if you check this one out.

While I did mention the middle fizzle, if you hang on the ending takes you souring again into the “WHOA!” zone and actually had me smiling form the effects of just good writing.  Definitely worth a go (and the occasional “whoa!”)

If you do decide to venture into this one on audio be sure to listen to the authors notes at the end.  Libba Bray has a pretty funny message about how this book came to be and details of how she came to this story.

Amazon Rating

Goodreads review

The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading Map has been updated to include A Great and Terrible Beauty

I borrowed this audio from our local library

23 thoughts on “A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

  1. Yes, I’ve recently read a book that seemed to drag in the middle…but then picked up afterwards. This one does sound very captivating. Thanks for sharing.

    I like how you describe the various genres you’ve “bitten into” in this one.

  2. I read this one a year or two back but never ended up writing my review for it. I do remember liking it although I didn’t love it and I never went on to read the 2nd book in the series. I would like to at some point because I’m curious as to what happens next. Glad to hear that you ended up enjoying this one 🙂

  3. When I read this a few years ago I was hardly reading young adult books, so I was shocked that I enjoyed this one quite so much. I ended up loving the trilogy!

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