©2003 Libba Bray; (P)2004 Random House, Inc. Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group
"A delicious, elegant gothic." (Publishers Weekly)
Libba Bray gives us a strong, determined heroine in this gothic fantasy/mystery. Gemma seldom shrinks from bullies, a challenge, or her own desires, and this is refreshing, especially so in a young woman in an 1895 setting. Quite a nice departure from most angst-ridden teens. Not all of Gemma's friends are likeable, but she does the best with what she has.
What I found lacking was a sense of place and flow. Characters drive this novel, but the settings deserved more detail, and action often takes leaps that leave gaps in the imagination, making it hard to follow, especially towards the end. Younger readers may appreciate the fast flow but it can be frustrating to an adult.
Josephine Bailey as narrator sparkles. If only all readers were so talented! Her voices are singular and easy to recognize, despite Felicity's voice slipping into a Gilligan's Island Mrs. Howell in the beginning. Overall she's a joy to listen to.
Ms. Bray's portrayal of Victorian society and its expectations on girls is both honest and rebellious and strikes a modern chord that in too many instances still plays today. This novel does much to underline this without detracting from the story whatsoever, showing the personal implications for each girl rather than preaching.
Four stars for being an easy listen, good historical depiction, strong characters, and appropriate for the intended audience.
A somewhat predictable gothic/fantasy book. Gemma receives her wish to leave India for England when her mother is mysteriously killed on Gemma's 16th birthday. Gemma is shipped off to boarding school in England. There she must gain the acceptance of her schoolmates, solve the mystery of mother's death, and learn to deal with her "powers". An interesting look into social mores of the Victorian era.
Certainly not the best written book I have listened to, but the narrator was what made this such an enjoyable listen. She did a delightful job of capturing the personality of the characters, and managed to make each sound distinctly different. She kept my attention more than the story line did!
Libba Bray's first in the Jemma Doyle series, A Great and Terrible Beauty is a journey well worth taking. I would never recommend this book to a guy, but for the rest of us, we've all felt like Jemma sometimes. That's the beauty of the book- yes, it's set in Victorian England and, yes, part of it takes place in a magical otherworld called the Realms, but still, Jemma and all her struggles and friends and enemies and frienemies feel real. This book concludes its narrative, but still leaves open a number of questions so that the sequel is very desirable. Even if it hadn't left open the major snare that gets you into the next book, you'd still want to go on. The world created, the characters introduced, and the relationships just starting to burgen in this book are developed more in the following ones. Well worth the read even if you aren't going on to the next, but with such a great author brilliant narrator, and compelling story, why wouldn't you. I'm still hoping for a fourth book.
Just a book fool.
This book was long, disconnected, and really freaking DULL! I didn't like the characters therefore I didn't give a flying flip what happened to them. I don't recommend the audio version of this and not because the narrator was bad (she was quite good) but because you should get it from the library so you can abandon it after it bores you to death.
With all that said I have friends that gave this book 4 stars so please read at your own risk.
I know some people would not enjoy this book because it's mostly not what they 've been expecting. At first, I was sort of dissapointed, even feel bored, but then things started to get real exciting in the end. To read this book, you have to have patience and maturity, and you'll find it valuable. Really great book, great narration too.
I just discovered that this is a book classified for young adults, which may explain why an actual adult found the story dull and derivative. Gemma Doyle, a 16 year old living in India, is sent to boarding school in England after the untimely death of her mother. There she wins over her snobby classmates when she discovers she has secret powers which enable her to transport her friends to the "Realms," a supernatural world. Unfortunately, when Gemma takes the magic of the Realms back to the real world, trouble ensues. Lots of better choices if you like this type of novel. The narrator does an adequate job.
This book may be classified as Young Adult fiction but don?t let that stop you. It?s an intriguing, well-crafted story that will monopolize the time of anyone who enjoys the Victorian era, magic, life lessons, and complex characters. The author has perfectly captured the essence of sixteen-year-old girls, but there are no stereotypes here. The narrator manages to give each of the girls a distinctive voice ? and there are quite a few of them. I would recommend the book on the narrator?s performance alone.
Plot: Gemma Doyle is at the age where she wants nothing more than to get away from her controlling mother. They used to get along famously, but now it seems that they can never see eye to eye. As a young woman approaching 16, she wants to leave the hot climate of India and get a proper English education to prepare her for society. That is, until her mother is brutally murdered before her eyes. The result of this tragic death is that she gets what she wants and is ushered to London to attend Spence boarding school. As all good mysteries go, she learns that the school has a hidden secret that affects her more personally that she would like.
I'm slowly learning that Libba Bray simply cannot do cookie cutter. A Great and Terrible Beauty is a unique tale that expertly weaves beguiling characters and a spooky Victorian setting. The pacing of A Great and Terrible Beauty is much like The Diviners. It is slow, but I was never bored. Libba Bray's primary focus is her characters which is always a selling point for me as a reader.
The overall mystery is something that Gemma pieces together little by little until we have our grand "a-ha" moment. It was never obvious, but there is a clear trail of bread crumbs that Libba Bray leaves for both the reader and Gemma to discover on their own.
Characters: From the beginning, Gemma Doyle proves herself to be your typical teenager. She's a downright brat and has a strained relationship with her mother. It isn't until she's forced onto the shores of London that she grows. She even has a moment where she questions what it's like to be a woman and timidly explores the ideas of sex and natural attraction. I appreciated her strong will and refusal to become nothing more than a passive wife.
The other young women at Spence as equally intriguing, as their friendship with Gemma is not 100% "I-like-you,-you-like-me-let's-be-friends." They each have weaknesses that Bray has no qualms with highlighting.
World Building: Libba Bray is the queen of dark and beautiful things. Her portrayal of Bombay, India brought to mind a bustling shopping center and humidity. On the other hand, London was described as gray and almost stifling. I felt transported to this Victorian world that felt both organic fantastical.
Audiobook Performance: At first I was worried about Ms. Josephine Baker's performance. The novel starts off in India so of course, the natives have heavily-accented English. Baker tries her best to deliver her lines with a believable accent, but all I could do was cringe. Her English accents were far better, and I was soon wrapped up in Baker's performance.
Short N Sweet: A Great and Terrible Beauty is the mature YA novel that readers have been waiting for! Full of whimsy, complicated friendships, and a surprise ending, A Great and Terrible Beauty will have you itching to buy the whole trilogy!
This book transports the reader to a dreamy world, full of intrigue and danger. Despite the fact that the main character is a maudlin teenage girl, with special powers, I feel like this is definitely a character most every girl can relate to on some level.
The narrator is excellent, and would probably find her voice relaxing if she was reading a grocery list.
There is no such thing as too many books.
I've enjoyed the writings of Ms. Bray and I'm looking forward to continuing on this saga.
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