Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Great and Terrible Beauty

Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty is a young-adult-novel-slash-Victorian-romance-slash-magical-fantasy; it wants to be many things, but I’m not convinced it succeeds in any.

Great and Terrible is the first in Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy. Gemma discovers she has magical powers on her sixteenth birthday. Tragedy strikes, though, and she finds herself shipped off to a finishing school. Defying all logic, Gemma does everything she can to ingratiate herself with the school’s “mean girls.” She trusts them with her secret and even invites them into her magical world.

Gemma and her cohorts are extremely flawed characters and often unlikable. And, as is my routine complaint, the females in this novel make such illogical decisions that I want to shake sense into them. Despite its Victorian setting, the book also broaches such contemporary hot topics as cutting, sexual identity, and drug abuse.

I enjoy the novel—except for the magical bits, which is definitely a problem since the magical elements make up a majority of the book. The story would not have been the same without this aspect, but I find these elements often convoluted and confusing.

Despite my feelings of misgiving, I am intrigued by this first novel and plan to read the next in the trilogy. Unfortunately, the series is apparently quite popular since I am 20th in my library’s queue.

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