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Publisher's Summary

It's 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma's reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she's been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence's most powerful girls, and their foray into the spiritual world, lead to?
©2003 Libba Bray; (P)2004 Random House, Inc. Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group

Critic Reviews

"A delicious, elegant gothic." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Beverly
  • Horn Lake, MS, USA
  • 02-04-06

More Details, please!

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.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Nicki
  • Tracy, CA, USA
  • 11-18-04

A Great Narrator, an Acceptable Book

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!

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jennifer
  • austin, TX, United States
  • 02-20-09

A Great and Wonderful Book

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.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Perfectly voiced!

One of my favorite books as a teenager and still over 10 years later. Narrator is AMAZINGLY PERFECT! Easily the best audio book I've ever listened to after already reading it myself! Bravo!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Certainly Great Reading!!

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.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Bee
  • United States
  • 08-30-12


Any additional comments?

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.

6 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Victorian page-turner

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.

5 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • zw
  • 02-19-18

loved it

Listened with my 15 year old daughter. We both couldn't wait to keep listening! Recommend especially to girls 13 to 17.

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Best book I've read in years!

The story is exciting and the characters are lovable. It has adventure, mystery, romance, humor, everything a bookworm needs from a novel. You'll want to read this over and over again.

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I love this book series.

I love these books. Thank you Audible for making it possible to read and crochet.