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A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
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A Great and Terrible Beauty (edition 2003)

by Libba Bray

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7,710320437 (3.81)351
Member:0Diana0
Title:A Great and Terrible Beauty
Authors:Libba Bray
Info:Delacorte Books for Young Readers (2003), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 403 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

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» See also 351 mentions

English (315)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (320)
Showing 1-5 of 315 (next | show all)
I love secondhand books. As thrilling as it can be to score a book you've been looking for at the used bookstore, there's also a chance to browse through the shelves and see what catches your eye that you might be willing to take on flyer on for $2. Which is how I picked up Libba Bray's A Great And Terrible Beauty. The cover art is striking, and the back promised a mix of the supernatural, girls boarding school drama, and a touch of gothic horror. While none of those things is a Must Read for me in and of itself, the combination sounded intriguing. And so, two American dollars later, I had my copy in my hot little hands. The book follows 16 year-old Gemma, who has been living in India with her parents for virtually her entire life and wants desperately to go live in England. But when she has a mystical vision of her mother's gruesome death, which comes true, she finds her wish granted in the worst possible way. To England she goes, sent straight off to boarding school at gloomy Spence Academy. She doesn't quite fit in with the other girls...until she catches queen bee Felicity in a compromising position and bribes her way into the inner circle. Gemma's power grows, and there's a secret diary that the girls read and use to find their way into a whole other world...where, of course, danger lurks.

Some experiments work out well. Some don't. This was a miss for me. It's the first of a trilogy, and it's usually been my experience that the first entry in a series is the best one in terms of a standalone story. Not so here...the entire idea of the realms and The Order and the Rakshana feels like Bray herself doesn't really understand how it all works and where she's trying to go with it, but figures she can get to it in the sequels. Same with Gemma and her friends...they're still sketches, their characters are very thin. I think YA can be a great genre, and some of the YA books I've read are still among my favorites. But I think it's often the home of some lazy writing and mistaking stereotypes and/or tropes for actual characters, and this book falls into the proverbial chaff rather than the proverbial wheat for me.
  ghneumann | Aug 29, 2016 |
Turns out I lied - I just reread this. I didn't enjoy it as much as previously but it was still a lot of fun.

***
God I LOVED this but I would never read it again because I have a strong suspicion I wouldn't like it nearly so much. High drama, big magicks, awesome girls, and scary evil. Recommended for the 10-15 crowd. ( )
  thebookmagpie | Aug 7, 2016 |
Big Big fan of this book and the entire trilogy. ( )
  lotoflivinglefttodo | Jul 21, 2016 |
The setting and characters are the real stars of this novel. The plot is interesting but it was the world of these Victorian girls that kept me turning the pages.

It begins in June 1895 in Bombay, India. Gemma, the heroine of the story is turning 16 and cannot understand why her parents will not take her to London, England. In Victorian culture, women have a short period of time in which to catch a man who will support them for the rest of their lives. Emma wants to join English society and participate in balls, shopping, and dining out. While she does get her wish to go to England, it is through disastrous events that change her life forever.

The dynamics of an English boarding school and the division between the social classes is fascinating. These girls live a life most modern teenagers could never imagine filled with restrictions and expectations of their every move and word. Yet, the jealousies and cruelties are no different than those practiced in high school today.

The plot centers around a magical realm and powers that draw Gemma and her friends into dark intrigue. The ending was not as satisfying as I had hoped it would be. The revelation of Gemma’s mother’s past destroyed my compassion for her. Pippa’s decision, while understandable, seemed childish and suicidal. The threat from Kartik’s people seemed to go nowhere and was unresolved while the romance between him and Gemma was disappointing.

Libba’s writing style is vivid and enjoyable. This is her first book and I would definitely read more of her work. ( )
  Bonnie_Ferrante | Jul 10, 2016 |
I picked this up at the library because it had a pretty cover and it was on CD. Hey, I need something to listen to at work.
So far, it's not really impressing me, but I guess that's what I get for judging a book by its cover. :/

ETA: It's finally over. Thank goodness. ( )
  imahorcrux | Jun 22, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Libba Brayprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bailey, JosephineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot...

...

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.

...

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance--
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

--from "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Dedication
For Barry and Josh
First words
June 21, 1895
Bombay, India

"Please tell me that's not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening."
Quotations
But forgiveness... I'll hold on to that fragile slice of hope and keep it close, remembering that in each of us lie good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret, cruelty and sacrifice.
I'm sorry, Gemma. But we can't live in the light all of the time. You have to take whatever light you can hold into the dark with you.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Publisher's editors
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385732317, Paperback)

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.

Gemma, 16, 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 wi! th 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. (Ages 12 up) –Patty Campbell

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

After the suspicious death of her mother in 1895, sixteen-year-old Gemma returns to England, after many years in India, to attend a finishing school where she becomes aware of her magical powers and ability to see into the spirit world.

(summary from another edition)

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