Friday, April 2, 2010

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Genre: Young adult (historical/fantasy)
Publisher, Year: Random House, 2003
Other Works: Rebel Angels, The Restless Dead
Flags: Teen angst, tenuous references
Rating: B+, or Mostly Good
Challenge: Library, Countdown
Premise: A teenage girl discovers she has magic powers. She and her friends find that although these powers are great and exciting, there is also an unfortunate side effect--a dangerous creature out to capture that power.

Another pick for the Countdown Challenge, I'd been meaning to pick up something by Libba Bray for awhile, having heard great things about her. I have to say that I enjoyed the read, but I was not blown away.

Gemma desperately wants to go to London. When her mother tragically dies, she gets her chance, and her life is suddenly and forever altered. Then, she notices an odd change taking place--as magic touches her life in the form of visions. Now she's on a hunt to get down to the bottom of these mysterious happenings, all while trying to fit in at her new rigidly Victorian private school. +/-

I enjoyed Bray's writing style. She weaves together a wonderful tapestry of color and sound. The ambiance in this book is very haunting--read with a flashlight under the covers. I also enjoyed the cast of characters for the most part: Kartik, the protective and darkly handsome foreigner; Gemma and her fiery red hair; Brigid, the quirky, loose-lipped maid. Bray also does an excellent job recreating a believable, yet mysterious, Victorian private school--complete with strict headmaster and corsets that pinch.

However, I didn't feel like I could become completely invested in the story. I found the fantastical world a bit beyond my suspension of disbelief. I could not get carried away in it the way I would have wanted. I never did quite understand what it was exactly that was after the girls, although I knew the creature's name. And I could not get a handle on whether Gemma's family were for or against her. That brings me to the interesting little gaggle of girls who Gemma calls her "friends" in the book. Major flashbacks of Rachel McAdams's "Mean Girls" attitude in this book. Although Gemma's three friends--Felicity, Pippa, and Ann--are pitiable, I could not find it my heart to sympathize. Felicity most of all, with her strange outbursts and wild accusations. But I suppose it's really not far off from what teenage girls do in school to one another--the pecking order becoming apparent. All the same, I still found it tiresome.

Minus the faults, I do think Ms. Bray is quite a talent. I did enjoy her brand of language and style. It would be remiss not to seek out another of her novels and give her a second chance.

No comments: