Monday, January 7, 2008

A Great & Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray Book Review

A Great & Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
(Paperback, Delacorte)


Gemma Doyle has lived an unusual life in India until she has a vision of her mother being murdered. After the vision comes true, Gemma is sent to Spence Academy for Girls near London. In between learning how to curtsy and speak in French, Gemma has strange visions that speak of otherworldly magic. Add in shy Ann, fierce Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and the mysterious boy Kartik who followed her from India, and adventures abound.

I absolutely loved this book about Gemma. I loved the proper boarding school setting. I loved the magic of the realms. And I especially loved Gemma. Even though she is not always likable, it's fun to hear her voice her sarcastic thoughts and to see the reactions of the other school girls.

Interestingly, the other two titles in this series, Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing, derive their titles from famous poems. Although A Great and Terrible Beauty begins with the poem "Lady of Shallot", there is no line that mentions "a great and terrible beauty". I did a little research but can't come up with any historical significance for the title. Does anyone know of where it came from? If it's the author's original idea, it's definitely one of the best titles I've ever heard of.

My review of Rebel Angels
My review of The Sweet Far Thing


  1. The titles are brilliant, taken from poems or not. :)

  2. Have you read Sorcery and Cecilia? You might really enjoy it...a YA novel that mixes magic with 1800s social conventions. I know I loved it! (I review it at: There are two other books that feature the same characters, but it's not a trilogy in the sense of cliff-hanger endings.

  3. Sorcery and Cecilia sounds good, I'll have to try it. Thanks :)

  4. I think A Great and Terrible Beauty comes from a line in the book. "Oh, God, the great and terrible beauty of it all." Page 334.

    Gemma's sometimes-unlikeability is why I really like her character.

    Sorcery and Cecelia is one of my favorite books. :-D

  5. I agree with the Sorcery and Cecelia recs ^_^ (my review)

    A Great and Terrible Beauty is next in my pile to read, because the author tour brings Bray to my town soon, and I'd like to read it first. I don't know, I tried it before, but wasn't immediatly impressed. I think it deserves a second try though.

    Have you tried Luxe yet? It seems like similiar genre, but its also sitting on my shelves to be read.

  6. I'm jealous that you get to meet Libba Bray! Make sure to tell us all about it.

    I did read The Luxe and didn't care for it very much. AGATB is WAY better.

  7. I think she started with Lady of Shallot because as you read the poem that lady surounded by bueaty but she can't touch it; so it's Great and Terribled Bueaty also as Gamma meantioned the magical creatures.

    Nice review :) .


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