Spoiler-Free Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty

May I suggest that you read? And often. Believe me, it’s nice to have something to talk about other than the weather and the Queen’s health.

Author: Libba Bray

Gemma Doyle hates India. She longs to go to a fine London boarding school like all the other royal officer’s daughters have. but when a sudden family death gives Gemma her wish, She wishes everything could be as it was before. Haunted by guilty dreams Gemma soon finds there are more to her strange visions than mere fancy. And Gemma’s new schoolmates soon get wrapped up in her great, terrible, beautiful new powers.

I was prepared to write this book off as another eye-rolling “evil patriarchy is suppressing the magic vagina powers” teen novel… yeah that’s actually a trope is YA fantasy these days. All the signs were there:

The novel opens on Gemma’s 16th birthday. Gemma is sent to Boarding School by a family that doesn’t understand her. She meets the school’s Alpha, Felicity, who treats Gemma like a bug to be crushed. but before long they are all sneaking whiskey talking about boys- well most of them are talking about boys, I’m convinced Felicity was talking about a girl– Gemma loses control of her powers and they all feel it. I was so sure, Gemma was going to unlock her friend’s magic vagina powers and they would all save the earth together… but no. That doesn’t happen.

Imagine the manor in Jane Eyre was really haunted. Imagine Carmilla set in a boarding school. Magic exists and it is beautiful, but it is a great an terrible beauty.

I do recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and fantasy. I fully enjoyed this book. It starts out as a magical coming of age story, but then it gets dark. Really dark! I must confess, it gets bonus points from me for bringing up Lady of Shalott, my favorite Tennyson poem, and if know it, it’s all the foreshadowing you need.

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