Series: Gemma Doyle #1
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Romance
Published: December 9th 2003 by Simon and Schuster
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A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.
Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. (See more)
Anyhow, I'm actually so glad I read this. Even so, my thoughts are a bit mixed, which pretty much explains all the mixed reviews this book has received. On one hand, it was an addictive read. On the other hand, it lacked anything all too interesting.
A Great and Terrible Beauty is not without flaws. Normally, this accounts for less than three stars but I enjoyed this book too much for that.
It was only recently I discovered my love for Victorian-era books and noticed that the writing style plays a major role in such stories. The rich text, attention to details, and the descriptive nature of the writing could make a huge difference on its own. This was probably the biggest reason why I sped through the book like a roadrunner even when things seemed dull. It's definitely not a writing style that works for everyone - but it worked for me, very well.
Another reason why I enjoyed it so much would be that it was both historical and chick-lit. These two elements mixed together and gave quite a pleasant result that I could never have expected. The Fantasy elements gave it an even more vibrant color.
But that is where my quibbles start. I wish the story had more action sequences involved. It doesn't matter if it was intended or not, I feel like it would have been much better with a little action thrown here and there. For the most part, Gemma is taking her three friends into the realms and they do things that don't feel necessary for the plot to progress, but are too childish for girls who use such power.
Their friendship also seemed very unreal, and pretty much fake like they were putting on masks and faking it while actually loathing each other. This is easily proved when the girls are quick to turn on each other for things that have no proper explanations. I just didn't see how they suddenly become the best of friends.
What I did like was Kartik. Alright, before you denounce or anything, wait - This is probably coming out of the blue, but I did adore Kartik. It was shame he didn't play a big role in the story, and only appeared a few times (Mostly when the four girls are naked or half-dressed because y'know). I felt sad for Kartik because he was discriminated due to the fact that he was an Indian. Explained though, because it's the 19th century we're talking about here. Anyhow, he was that X-factor of the story.
Overall, this is an extremely addictive story, given that I never once felt bold or inclined to stop reading, even when the plot turned dull black. Much credit is given to the writing style.
Do I recommend it? Not exactly. But this is the kind of book I'd suggest you read if you're very curious about it.
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