Target Audience: Teens/Young Adults
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Romance
There's something to be said about gothic victorian novels, especially when it's blended with a fantasy world and mythical magic.
Set first in India and then in England, A great and Terrible Beauty follows Gemma Doyle after her mother is murdered and she is sent to a boarding school to complete her education.
While there she meets some strange friends, discovers some sinister secrets and stumbles across a beautiful new world that gives her and her friends a chance of freedom that victorian England can't, but are they as safe as they appear?
One of the most beautiful things about this book was how fantasy and reality seemed to blend so well, and the idea of being to travel astrally into another world almost seems possible, even if the Realms do sound a bit terrifying in parts, most of it sounds like the perfect place to be.
With regards to Gemma, she was so brilliant to read about and i couldn't help (as a rather fierce equalitist) getting very angry on behalf with all the men in her life trying to make decisions for her. Reading about her rebel and making her own choices in life was inspiring, even if it is fiction, there is a lot to be learned from Gemma's attitude to life and the way she deals with everything.
Other taboo issues are also handled very tactfully. One of these was the arranged marriage that Pip was forced into against her will, with a man over twice her age, and whom she doesn't love. This eventually becomes a major factor in a devestating choice she makes near the end of the novel, which affected me deeply (yes, i'll admit i cried my eyes out reading this).
For those romance fans, there's even a touch of love, in the form of a rather nice Indian man called Kartik, who Gemma finds herself constantly drawn to, but as i found out as i read on, there's a lot more to him than meets the eye. But still, you can't deny the chemistry between the two characters, though it is very slow burning at first, but all in all, thats the kind of romance i like to read about!
To summarise, i found this book a very enjoyable adventure, and it was definately addictive enough to read the sequels. With both laughter, love, adventure and with some seriously heartbreaking scenes, this is a book all fans of historical/romance/fantasy books will love :-)
Libba Bray is a genius!