Review: ‘A Great and Terrible Beauty’ by Libba Bray

Review: ‘A Great and Terrible Beauty’ by Libba BrayA Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Series: Gemma Doyle #1
Published by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing on December 9th, 2003
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 403
Format: Hardcover
Source: bought online
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.

About Libba Bray

Libba Bray is the New York Times bestselling author of The Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing); the Michael L. Printz Award-winningGoing Bovine; Beauty Queens, an L.A. Times Book Prize finalist; and The Diviners series. She is originally from Texas but makes her home in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, son, and two sociopathic cats.  You can find her at…oh, wait. You already did. Nevermind—you are agenius!

Chapters/IndigoThe Book DepositoryAmazon CanadaGood Reads



Whoa, I read this in one sitting. There was just something about the mystery behind Mary and Sarah that had me flipping the pages. I love the boarding school setting and the realms and the magic that was involved. But most of it didn’t keep to the plot, and even though it was mostly build-up to the end, I found it to be rather enjoyable.


The characters are all so on point, they’re just simply teenagers living in Victorian England and I love seeing how their futures were already mapped out for them. Finding a husband is the ultimate goal and it astounds me that a family will give away their daughter just to pay off their own debts. It’s terrible! But that was the way of the world back then and it was refreshing to read. I loved the friendships that were formed and how there was hardly no romance. A girl doesn’t need a man to be happy, after all.


Libby’s writing is very descriptive and tedious, and if you don’t like that, then you’ll have problems reading this.


reading progress






  1. Serena

    May 14, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    This book sounds good. It’s been on my reading list for a while.

    • giselle

      May 15, 2015 at 2:29 PM

      Hope you like it Serena!

  2. Sophia Rose

    May 14, 2015 at 8:47 AM

    This actually sounds appealing to me with the history, magic and boarding school life. I’ll have to check it out. Nice review, Giselle!

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