Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty

28 07 2007

I’ve just finished reading Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty. I don’t tend to go with things with a fantasy or supernatural or other-worldly story to them (except for Harry that is), but I enjoyed this novel and wouldn’t mind reading the next and perhaps even the third in the series when it is published.

I think what held me throughout the novel was the heroine, Gemma, and her relationships with the other girls. Though the supernatural element plays a large role in the novel, it is also very much about the interactions between girls and the complexity of bonds at that age and the era in which the story is set adds an element to this since Bray is dealing with a time period where girls and women did not have a great deal of choice. How the girls struggle with and try and assert themselves – be it in magical terms or not – is one of the more interesting themes Bray deals. I felt the Victorian coming-of-age boarding school story worked quite well with the supernatural elements, and held by interest more than just the magically or supernatural aspect of the story would have on its own.

There is also a great deal about choice and the play between dark and little which was effective, but I couldn’t help being reminded of Harry Potter in these section. There is also a theme of forgiveness and the importance of forgiving others and also forgiving yourself. In some cases, both the talk about goodness and evil and about forgiveness could seem a bit melodramatic, but I didn’t find that to be the case in Bray’s writing. There was a directness that served the plot, characters and themes well.

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