Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Great and Terrible Beauty- Libba Bray

I first picked up this book because of the cover. I mean, she's got a freaking awesome corset.
I read the back, looked at the cover, and said to myself; "hey self, you'll like this book!  i guarantee it!"
And when my self guarantees things to myself, it is usually right.
This is Libba Bray's first novel.  And it's excellent.  The first in a trilogy of novels about this cool Victoria chick who has some special power and an unusual group of girlfriends, A Great and Terrible Beauty makes you want more. 
Gemma Doyle leaves India and gets put in a boarding school in England, but no, this is not Sara Crewe's boarding school.  There is a guy she likes, but he's Indian, which in Victorian England is a no-no.  She makes friends with a few girls, one who is really pretty, one who is a strong leader, and one who is just a nice poor girl with a few hidden talents.  And together, they find a special realm that most people cannot go to.
Throughout the book, their time in the special realms and their time in the actual world conflict with each other.  In the realms, they can do whatever they want.  In the actual world . . . not so much.  They may be in a swotty boarding school, but there are plenty of limitations on what can and cannot be done.  Which makes being a teenage girl a lot harder. Getting mixed up in this witchcraft-like Order doesn't ALWAYS make things easier.  Having visions, trying to keep them at bay, trying not to look like some sort of freak, and also dealing with her friends' issues (such as being told to marry an old man or else), is quite a lot for a sixteen year old girl.
It's hard to say what exactly made this book so good.  I mean, people have written about Victorian girls who don't want to do what they're supposed to and they've written about young people finding special places no one else can find.  But somehow, Bray makes this book fascinating and impossible to put down and completely original.  Good thing there are two more in the series (and yes, I read those and loved them too).

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