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A Great and Terrible Beauty

by Libba Bray

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Gemma Doyle (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,957354732 (3.8)376
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.
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» See also 376 mentions

English (349)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (355)
Showing 1-5 of 349 (next | show all)
After the first two CDs, I was ready to quit, but I didn't have anything else to listen to, so I kept going. It does get better as it goes along, but it never really sank its teeth into me. Overall, I'd say it was decent, but not great, in all aspects, including the audio book narrator.

I never really understood what it meant to bring the magic of the Realms into the real world. I was truly surprised by a couple of twists, but I also didn't totally get how they worked. And Gemma's lust for Kartik made me uncomfortable (and I read lots of romance novels). It just felt kind of icky in the context of a teen fantasy because it was pretty graphic.

I don't think I'll continue reading this series. And I feel bad about that time I recommended this to a girl who was bummed about the really long wait for the [b:Hunger Games|2767052|The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, #1)|Suzanne Collins|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1267255754s/2767052.jpg|2792775] at the library. I gave her this and Graceling, having read neither, but under the impression that they were both good. We'll see about Graceling next! ( )
  LibrarianDest | Jan 3, 2024 |
I really really wanted to like this book. It was recommended on a thread of good YA and I do love good YA.

However, this is not good YA.

The writing was stilted (others have remarked on the anachronistic tone but that was maybe intentional so I'll just say I agree it felt out of place).

It was incredibly colonial and racist (and unlike the misogyny it never seemed to try to address the racism and colonialism of the time period).

It *did* try to address the misogyny but failed in my opinion (it seemed very un self aware about misogyny in its descriptions of Anne in particular, but there were other bits that made me pause).

The self harm angle could have been interesting if it had been handled at all well (according to the book people cut when they don't like their lives but when they have something joyful to do they stop immediately).

Non of the characters had, well, character. There was the protagonist, who, um, didn't like her mum but missed her terribly, I guess that was her thing? And then Felicity who was kinda smart, liked power, and had parents who didn't have time for her. And Pippa who was pretty and whose parents were poor and so wanted to marry her off (and couldn't find anyone rich who was even vaguely the same age as her...). And then Anne, the fat and ugly scholarship orphan. It maybe says a lot about the writing that I feel like I know more about these girls' parents and their motivations than I do the girls themselves.

I genuinely don't have anything good to say about the book except that I did end up staying late to finish it so by the end it clearly did make me want to finish. That's why it gets 2 stars rather than 1 (I've changed my mind about that a few times already though...). ( )
  Er00 | Dec 23, 2023 |
Gave up after a few chapters. I was hoping for a work of cozy faux-Victorian literature, but the voice and protagonist felt anachronistic and did not grab me. Probably a better fit for someone looking for a paranormal adventure.
  raschneid | Dec 19, 2023 |
I would actually recommend listening to the audio book of this title. The reader is the best I've ever heard. Plus, the story is haunting and beautiful. A great YA mystery. ( )
  nogomu | Oct 19, 2023 |
4/4.5 stars. I'm not usually one for YA fiction but Libba Bray is very good at writing it. Very interesting take on the power (and illusion) of beauty. Poignant juxtaposition of female puberty/coming of age alongside the development of literal magical ability. Yay for strong, smart female characters! All in all, quite good. Don't know why, in the world of YA chick lit, books like Twilight (gag) garner so much attention while ones like this don't. ( )
  veewren | Jul 12, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 349 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bray, Libbaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bailey, JosephineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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

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."
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.
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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.

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