The Gemma Doyle Series

Titles: A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, Sweet Far Thing

Author: Libba Bray

Publisher: Delacorte Press; Copyright: 2003, 2006, 2007

Pages: 403, 560, 832

For Ages: 12 and up

Rating: ***, ****, *** ½

 

 It’s 1895 and 16-year-old British Gemma Doyle hates that her mother won’t let her go to London for the Fall season. Gemma’s dying to grow up and can’t understand why mother seems content to keep Gemma “safe” and stuck in Bombay, India. “I hate you!” is the last thing she says to her before the two are separated and Gemma has a vision of the murder of her mother, a murder that really happens across town.

 

Gemma’s finally got her wish, she’s in England at Spence Academy for Young Women preparing for the London season, and all she wants is to have her mother back and be rid of the power of visions she seems to have. As Gemma finds her way through the complicated social network of Spence girls, she comes to terms with her power and what really happened to her mother. A Great and Terrible Beauty is an excellent tale of Victorian historical fiction combined with girl-power mysticism that seems to finish without the ending it promises. 

 

It turns out the second book, Rebel Angels, is that awesome 560-page ending. I’m not going to say anymore about Rebel Angels or I’m afraid I’ll spoil the plot for you.

 

I would have been happy if the series ended with Rebel Angels. Instead, Libba Bray reopens the ending of that book and explores just what exactly happened. Sweet Far Thing crept along at first for me, setting up obstacles in front of its heroines. I kept reading because I love Bray’s writing style and enjoyed the more romantic parts of Gemma’s new budding relationship. Then halfway through the story I was totally sucked in again and couldn’t put the book down until the very last page.

6 thoughts on “The Gemma Doyle Series

  1. It turns out the second book, Rebel Angels, is that awesome 560-page ending.

    Oh, I’m glad to hear that! I finished Great and Terrible Beauty and was like… uh, okay. That’s it? So, I’m gonna go out and pick up the next one.

    I enjoyed G&T a lot; I had a little trouble at the beginning because it was written in present tense, but eventually, it turned “invisible.”

    • I finished Great and Terrible Beauty and was like… uh, okay. That’s it?

      That was my reaction too.

      I had a little trouble at the beginning because it was written in present tense, but eventually, it turned “invisible.”

      Present tense seems like a trend in YA so I’ve gotten used to it. In fact, I even find myself writing stories in it sometimes now. But yeah, it threw me off at first too.

      • I’ve written fic in present tense. For me, it can work very well in short stories (around 1000 words). But in longer-form stuff, it doesn’t feel right.

        Maybe because present tense feels much more immediate, which I equate with short. And past tense is more, “Sit down. Let me tell you what happened…”

      • I can definitely see it working nicely for short stories. I think young adult fiction tends to be short enough (usually) and right in the moment enough that it usually works pretty well too.

        The main thing that made the present tense stand out, at first, in A Great and Terrible Beauty is that the story is historical fiction.

      • Clearly, our definitions of “short enough” are wildly different. :^D

        Regardless of length, though, an author writing in present tense has to work reeeeeally hard to avoid sounding affected. Particularly when you need that “step back” to pull off something more elaborate than simple exposition.

        (I guess I’m just a crotchety traditionalist.)

      • Clearly, our definitions of “short enough” are wildly different. :^D

        Heh. That’s possible.

        While the fantasy type YA is long, a lot of the more realistic fiction YA is under 150 pages. Not short, granted, but not really long either. And a lot of it tends to be very present based. I agree you with that there are a lot of potential pitfalls with using present tense though.

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