Released: December , 2003
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.
Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. A Great and Terrible Beauty is an impressive first book in what should prove to be a fascinating trilogy.
This is the book. I repeat, this is the book and there shall never be another like it with mystery, intrigue, hatred, adventure, love and loss all wrapped up into one.
Libba Bray is a genius and her knowledge of the Victorian era is astounding and dripping off every page yet not in an overwhelming way. Her characters, even in the oddest of times, seem real with real emotions.
This is a rare quality to find in books nowadays! It is easy to tell that a lot of time was spent creating this book - time well spent.
The plot twists are clever and hard to predict but once you get them, you'll exclaim about how you should have known. This book is a page-turner in every sense of the word. I give it five stars and if I could I would give it more!