It's 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma's reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she's been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence's most powerful girls--and their foray into the spiritual world--lead to?
In the opening scene of Bray's riveting debut novel set in Victorian times, narrator Gemma Doyle walks the streets of Bombay, India, with her mother on her 16th birthday. By the end of the second chapter, her mother, who has told Gemma to return home, is dead, and Gemma has envisioned just how it happened, involving a "dark shape" that makes a "slithering sound." Next, readers find her on a train bound for Victoria Station, en route to Britain's Spence Academy. Gemma's visions intensify while at school, where she is led to a nearby cave and discovers a diary of a woman who had similar experiences. She soon learns of an age-old Order of sorceresses who can open doors between worlds-and of a tragedy two decades prior that is beginning to cast its shadow over her. Meanwhile, the girls of Spence are preparing for their "season," when they will be trotted out before wealthy bachelors in hopes of securing a good marriage. Bray brilliantly depicts a caste system, in which girls are taught to abandon individuality in favor of their man's wishes, as a deeper and darker horror than most things that go bump in the night. While aimed at female readers, it will be just as delectable to boys brave enough to be seen carrying a book sporting a corset-clad girl on the cover. The pace is swift, the finale gripping. A delicious, elegant gothic. Ages 12-up. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-3 of the 3 most recent reviews
1 . A Great and Terrible Beauty
Posted October 07, 2010 by Dawn Skrepak , Estherville, IowaI was recommended this book by my speech teacher, at first I thought, "This doesn't sound that great." But after reading the first couple chapters I was hooked. I am so glad that I didn't pass this one up.
I have read all three books in the series at least 10 times, haha. And I now have all three on my reader.
Definitely NOT a book to pass up!!!
2 . Top Favorites
Posted April 27, 2010 by Melena , GRThis book is full of a magic that we have never heard of- but then after crave so much. With love and lust and the challenges of friendship. All put in the middle of an era where corsets threatened your body and your manners would place you in society.
3 . A Great and Terrific Book
Posted July 01, 2009 by A Book A Day.... , IndianaThis Book is the Next BEST Thing since TWILIGHT! The author writes beautifully and makes you crave the characters in her book. She captures the elegance of the era and paints a perfect picture of how a young girl would think, act, and present herself during this time period. A Great and Terrible Beauty tells an addicting story of a girl named Gemma Doyle in the Victorian Age. You will fall in love with Gemma and her friends! I have had the book one day and am on page 300 out of 400! I am looking forward to the next book in the series! (3 total)
From the Inside flap of the book:
Gemma isn't like other girls. Girls with impeccable manners, who speak when spoken to, who remember their station, who dance with grace, and who wil lie back and think of England when it's required of them. No, Sixteen-year-old Gemma is an island unto herself, sent to the Spence Academy in London after tragedy strikes her family in India. Lonely, guilt ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma finds her reception a chilly one. She's not completely alone, though....she's been followed by a mysterious young man sent to warn her to close her mind against the visions.
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
December 09, 2003
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Excerpt from A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
I am staring into the hissing face of a cobra. A surprisingly pink tongue slithers in and out of a cruel mouth while an Indian man whose eyes are the blue of blindness inclines his head toward my mother and explains in Hindi that cobras make very good eating.
My mother reaches out a white-gloved finger to stroke the snake's back. "What do you think, Gemma? Now that you're sixteen, will you be dining on cobra?"
The slithery thing makes me shudder. "I think not, thank you."
The old, blind Indian man smiles toothlessly and brings the cobra closer. It's enough to send me reeling back where I bump into a wooden stand filled with little statues of Indian deities. One of the statues, a woman who is all arms with a face bent on terror, falls to the ground. Kali, the destroyer. Lately, Mother has accused me of keeping her as my unofficial patron saint. Lately, Mother and I haven't been getting on very well. She claims it's because I've reached an impossible age. I state emphatically to anyone who will listen that it's all because she refuses to take me to London.
"I hear in London, you don't have to defang your meals first," I say. We're moving past the cobra man and into the throng of people crowding every inch of Bombay's frenzied marketplace. Mother doesn't answer but waves away an organ-grinder and his monkey. It's unbearably hot. Beneath my cotton dress and crinolines, sweat streaks down my body. The flies -- my most ardent admirers -- dart about my face. I swat at one of the little winged beasts, but it escapes and I can almost swear I hear it mocking me. My misery is reaching epidemic proportions.
Overhead, the clouds are thick and dark, giving warning that this is monsoon season, when floods of rain could fall from the sky in a matter of minutes. In the dusty bazaar the turbaned men chatter and squawk and bargain, lifting brightly colored silks toward us with brown, sunbaked hands. Everywhere there are carts lined with straw baskets offering every sort of ware and edible -- thin, coppery vases; wooden boxes carved into intricate flower designs; and mangos ripening in the heat.
"How much farther to Mrs. Talbot's new house? Couldn't we please take a carriage?" I ask with what I hope is a noticeable annoyance.
"It's a nice day for a walk. And I'll thank you to keep a civil tone."
My annoyance has indeed been noted.
Sarita, our long-suffering housekeeper, offers pomegranates in her leathery hand. "Memsahib, these are very nice. Perhaps we will take them to your father, yes?"
If I were a good daughter, I'd bring some to my father, watch his blue eyes twinkle as he slices open the rich, red fruit, then eats the tiny seeds with a silver spoon just like a proper British gentleman.