Overall A Great and Terrible Beauty was good and I read it during a flight to Miami, so a solid three hours.
The novel is set in the Victorian age which is the first thing that separates it from current YA books. The beginning was exciting and different, starting out with a bang, and I was pulled into Gemma Doyle’s life as she leaves India following the murder of her mother to attend an elite boarding school in London. Plagued with visions of a mysterious beast stalking her, Gemma discovers that she holds the key to reopening the Realms and bringing back magic into this world, albeit with a price. She finds the diary of Mary Dowd, and with the help of three unlikely friends, sets out on a journey to discover Mary’s terrible secret, and the power that she herself holds.
I found that Gemma as a character held me on and off, and I’m not sure that was due to Libba Bray’s apt portrayal of a teenager (one minute you like them, the next you want to lock them in a box). At times I felt myself thinking how petulant she was which probably didn’t help with the connection aspect, although I did like the other girls, particularly Felicity and Pippa. That said, my favorite thing about this group of girls was Libba Bray’s message that they were all flawed, i.e., no one is perfect. I think it’s an important message that young girls/boys need to understand in any time. I loved the world of the Realms that Libba Bray created – that was very cool, and I was particularly intrigued by Gemma’s relationship with her mother.
Libba Bray is an excellent writer. She’s lyrical and descriptive, and everything flowed really well from a language perspective. The story is exciting and interesting. Overall, it was a decent read with some really cool ideas. I’d rate A Great and Terrible Beauty 4 of 5 stars.