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Book Review of A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, Bk 1)

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, Bk 1)
reviewed on + 69 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 18

'Tis Victorian times, and our 16 year old protagonist, Gemma, is being unhappily dragged through the streets of India by her mother. Bray does a delightful job of capturing the love/hate moments a daughter goes through as Gemma makes horrid remarks, then wishes she could take them back, then wishes they'd come true. Everything seems to center around the fact that Gemma is sure her true place is in London and her mother wants to make her life boring and miserable. (The job of all mothers of teenage daughters.)

The two are separated and Gemma suddenly finds herself overcome with a strange power and "sees" her mother attacked and killed by a mysterious darkness. The death is kept quiet for respectability's sake, and Gemma finds herself in a setting worse than anything she could have ever imagined: Spence, a boarding school in England that turns out young women perfect for marriage. (In other words, young ladies who don't speak, don't think, and have no ideas or emotions of their own. *shudder*)

Gemma must find her way in this restrictive setting, deal with the powerful and dangerous inner clique at the school, grieve for her mother's death, and figure out her role in it. Oh, and she seems to have magic and be the key to a portal that may open up a dark magic that will destroy everyone and everything.

I really enjoyed this book because it was a great mix of typical adolescent feelings of having no power and not knowing who you are, the setting of a Victorian boarding school, a few shots of romance, magic and power, and glimpses of evil that we all have within.

Maybe there's a few cliches and archetypal characters and setting, but it made for a quick read. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Rebel Angels.

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