A Great and Terrible Beauty

Paperback | March 22, 2005

byLibba Bray

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It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?

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From the Publisher

It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, ...

From the Jacket

It's 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma's reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, ...

Libba Bray is the author of the New York Times bestselling Gemma Doyle trilogy, comprised of A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. She is also the author of Beauty Queens and Going Bovine, which won the Michael L. Printz Award. Libba lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, son, and two cats. Visit h...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 8.2 × 5.48 × 0.9 inPublished:March 22, 2005Publisher:Random House Children's BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385732317

ISBN - 13:9780385732314

Appropriate for ages: 13 - 17


Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too slow paced and drawn out for me In India, this book started out beautifully, just pure descriptive magic. I wish everyone just stayed their butts there. Side note: I am extremely partial to backdrops in France and/or India-so I may be a smidgeon biased. Gemma is witness to a horrific scene involving her mother-a scene, to her dismay, that she foresaw literally minutes before it occurred. She is then promptly shipped off to a boarding school in England. This is where the problems arose for me, and where the story began to grow a little stale. So much so, that I would put the book down for days on end, only to finally pick it up again and realize that ughh..maybe I shouldn't have. I think the change of scenery had a large impact on my loss of interest. England seemed so drab and void of the colour, smells, and culture that India provided in the beginning (though I have previously enjoyed stories based in England, this one was just dull to me). However, there WAS a bright light at the end of that gray tunnel. The story picked up considerably as Gemma formed a stronger bond with a few of her classmates. These secondary characters-Ann, Felicity and Pippa-also become increasingly more interesting as I became more informed of their lives, and the reasons for their reactions and interests. I think Libba Bray did a good job of making that transition easy and seamless for her readers: the fact that Gemma bumped heads with these girls initially, but then grew closer to them. I felt like it was done smartly, and not so quickly that it felt forced. The 2 redeeming things in this book for me were these: 1) The interaction between Gemma and Kartik. I waited with baited breathe for them to be in the same place at the same time, and I severely hope they have more scenes together in the next 2 books! and 2) The paranormal aspect. I think the intricacies and explanations were well thought out, and fun. I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out from here on out-I'm expecting a lot more of it in Rebel Angels. Overall, this book was extremely slow paced for me, and when it finally did pick up, the excitement was still a little too few and far between. The characters were pretty one dimensional, and I probably could have done without a few of them. I really, really wanted to like this series-I saw SO many positive reviews for it. Hopefully my feelings change for the other books.
Date published: 2012-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Takes you to a magical world. Growing up in the 1800s, women are expected to be beautiful, well mannered and ladylike arm candy for the men who wish to claim them as wives like prizes and trophies. They should speak when spoken to, curtsy, smile and nod while being prisoners of their corsets. Too bad sixteen year old Gemma Doyle is anything but, she’s rough around the edges with her own opinions and her poor manners. While walking around the markets of Bombay, India with the unbearable heat beating down on her, Gemma is longing to be in cool and green London, England where every young lady must be to increase her chances in the prim and proper Victorian society to become a suitable wife. After having a terrible vision of her Mother’s questionable death which ends up becoming tragically true, it seems that she finally gets her wish. Now on the next train to London to attend the Spence Academy for Young Ladies, this dream of Gemma’s is slowly turning into a nightmare. Not only is she trying to adjust to her new way of life at school with a bunch of catty girls that make her an outcast, she also has her visions to deal with and a mysterious and beautiful Indian boy, Kartik, that has followed her from India and warns her to stop her visions altogether – or else. To be one that doesn’t take kindly to orders, Gemma obviously doesn’t listen. In one of her forbidden visions, she is led by a little girl to the East Wing of Spence that was taken by a fire years ago and claimed the lives of three people. In the East Wing is where Gemma discovers the diary of Mary Dowd, which reveals secrets about her visions and a group of women who look after another world and its power called The Order. This other world is called The Realms, where everything is beautiful and anything is possible. Gemma and her unexpected friends come together to form an Order of their own and embark on a journey side by side, quickly learning that with something so beautiful comes with something very ugly. The girls learn some dark secrets and must resist temptation, restore order back in The Realms and come out of it unharmed to tell the tale. It’s an awesome story of young women in a different time period where they’re trapped but let their minds run free, searching for more than just being married off to the highest bidder. They want more things in life than just keeping a man happy. They want love, hope and adventure for their future. The characters are bitchy and sometimes naive but they slowly become best friends through their flaws and dreams. The magical world that Libba Bray paints for you is amazing. They touch upon it a little in the first installment but it really takes off in the rest of the series. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did. Next book is Rebel Angels.
Date published: 2011-06-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great Stuff Great series! I was hooked from the beginning. Sometimes its hard to understand what's going on and you may have to reread it but it was a great read.
Date published: 2011-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Stunning. Very enjoyable. The characters are real, exciting, and always on the go. Gemma is a very strong minded, and stubborn girl - who should learn to put her foot down more often. Her new found friends, who are bound by secrets, and the need to survive in a 'cut throat' school. A school were the young elite older girls really have a say in almost anything. Her friends push her to her limits and make her question what she came to the school for, and is she really prepared? Kartik - a devastatingly, in my opinion - handsome guy, tries to lead her in the right, or wrong path. They both are tempted and lead astray by different needs and in most cases - peole. Gemma is thrown into a world, and Kartik is her compass to into a beautiful would that her mother knew was terrible to behold.This really is a great and terrible beauty.
Date published: 2010-07-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from TWO SIDES EGH Good book, good idea. But the auther added some unecesary details....Which at some parts made me want to put the book down and do something else. AMAZING The way she thought up the other world, was amazing! And it inthralled me to read more
Date published: 2010-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magically Enthralling! I cannot do anything else but praise this book. It had the most fresh ways of magic and new seductive writing style that I've read yet! If your a fan of Harry Potter or the Twilight Saga, you might want to give this a chance! I couldn't put it down and was absolutely thrilled to find out that there were two more books in the series waiting to hold me captive!
Date published: 2009-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazing If there was one book that i can say was simply beautiful or completely different. It would be this one. It is an amazingly well written book and I think libba bray has the most amazing imagination to be able to wright something like this.
Date published: 2009-12-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Wouldn't draw me in to Book II. After witnessing (through second sight) the death of her Mother, and a mysterious stranger she met moments before, Gemma finds herself uprooted from everything she knows from her life in India to the very place she was begging her Mother to go the day she died. London. Here in Spense Academy, Gemma must deal with fitting in while coming to grips with the mysteries lying around her Mothers death and her new found ability. To complicate things more, she has been followed by Kartik, who is encouraging her to suppress her power should she open up the realms to a dark and menacing force. Caught between her new friends, Kartik, and her own misgivings about who she really is, Gemma must decide whether to pursue answers or take the word of a stranger and shut herself off from this power. A believer that any storyline has potential, I really wanted to be pulled into this book. I did not find the plot to be gripping and, worst of all, the character relationships to be compelling. I admit that the female characters were well developed and believable (considering the time period they lived in), and Bray is a talented in her writing style, I just felt that alone was not enough to draw me into the book. I would have preferred more time be taken with Kartik or even Miss Moore (one of the teachers). Perhaps this is meant to be developed in the sequels, but honestly, if I hadn't purchased them already this book would not have compelled me to continue on in the series. *** This being said, I am now half-way through Rebel Angels (Book II) and am enjoying it much more!!!! ***
Date published: 2009-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow I liked this very much! I'm about to start the next book, but I thought about writing a review on this :D. It was pretty good , I heard there would be some magic involved but I really at first didn't know what was going to happen. I started reading and I'm like wow? Some girl in the 1800's going to an English school, while I wanted something about Vampires?! I love Dramatic British films, but a book about it? I questioned myself on what kind of books I liked. But this indeed does have some magic in it. For those who love magic, but also a little British love... :D I recommand this book. It was great
Date published: 2009-09-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Gothic for the Younger Crowd I found this title on a book list entitled "Teen Books Adults Will Love". I have read other titles on the list, such as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. With other well known titles such as Harry Potter and Twilight, I figured I couldn't go wrong! I work with teenagers on a regular basis, so one thing I like to be able to relate to them on is the topic of books. Not all teens read, so it's nice to be able to compare a real life situation to a novel they may have read. Not to mention the description of this novel as a Gothic. After having studied Jane Eyre in my university English classes - I was intrigued. A Great and Terrible Beauty is the story of sixteen-year-old Gemma, told after the suspicious death of her mother in 1895, when she returns to England after many years in India to attend a finishing school where she becomes aware of her magical powers and ability to see into the spirit world. I found some of Libba Bray's descriptions of Gemma's visions a little confusing. It's difficult to write about magic and the supernatural, but it shouldn't be hard to read about. There were points where I wondered if the girls were within a vision, whether Gemma was dreaming in her bed, or whether these things were actually occurring. Bray some work into giving her audience details of the Order's past, but I was still left unsatisfied by her novel's conclusion. Did Bray end this way just so she could turn Gemma Doyle's story into a trilogy? I do think that Libba Bray did a wonderful job writing about life in 19th century England. This can sometimes be difficult for contemporary authors. They can create a very detailed setting that takes away from their storyline, or a storyline that gets lost somewhere between the past and the present. I felt that Bray created a story in the ideal 19th century world, complete with social life and customs. Even Gemma's boarding school was well described and a wonderful addition to the story. It added character to the girls friendship. Overall, I enjoyed the novel. It's nice to read books outside of your usual genre every once in awhile. Will I continue to read the rest of Libba Bray's trilogy? Probably not. However, I am happy that I gave A Great and Terrible Beauty a shot!
Date published: 2009-08-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting i loved it. it had action, suspence, mystery it was perfect. set in one of my favourite era's (victorian) and with magic! the charactors and amazing with real depth. i loved this book a must read
Date published: 2009-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing!!! A Great and Terrible Beauty the first installment in the Gemma Doyle Series is amazing. The story begins in India where we meet Gemma. Gemma is soon swept away to England to a finishing school for girls called Spence. It is here that she meets her friends and we find out what secret powers our heroine has. I found this book well planned, with a swift plot that made me not want to put the book down. I can't wait to read the second book in the series Rebel Angels.
Date published: 2009-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVED IT!! I loved this book. Once I started it I couldn't put it down. Libba Bray's writting in this book was amazing, the plot was interesting and full of twists and turns and the characters very well developed and all unique. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good fantisey, you will fall in love with it right from the beginning.
Date published: 2009-06-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Different I liked this book a lot. I didn't think it would be written as well as it was.It was different from what I had thought. It was beautifully mysterious.Some parts were boring but then the pace quickened and it became better. Not like any book I have ever read.Different in a good way.
Date published: 2009-06-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not a solid story... Going in, I was aware that this novel is geared towards young adults, and as such, I wasn't expecting it to have a particularly complex or sophisticated plot. A Great and Terrible Beauty failed to live up to even my meagre expectations however, as I found the storyline to be rudimentary, scattered, unconvincing and shallow. I never really cared for or felt I could relate to any of the characters - if anything, I found them to be quite unsympathetic and unlikeable! Aside from certain elements of adolescent subject matter, the unrefined story was more in line with something I might expect to enthrawl 7-8 year-olds. The purpose of the magical realm and the rules that governed its existence were never really made clear in a satisfying manner; there just didn't seem to be much of a logical backbone to support and explain the fantasy elements of the tale. All in all, I was left feeling thoroughly unimpressed.
Date published: 2009-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! Even after reading Twilight! This book left me wanting more. I am currently reading the second. It's not an overdose of fantasy - just a perfect amount (I am not an avid fantasy reader) - and it's got a hint of romance too! I love the main character, the author does a good job of building her up...truly witty. Even though the setting is in the 1800s, I can still relate to Gemma and her troubles. I've read the Twilight series and have been on the search to finding something similar, though this isn't really similar, it does put up a good fight to be on the same level. There were some nights I stayed up till 3am reading...something i did with Twilight as well. If you liked twilight, I think you'll like this too. Very worth the time and money :)
Date published: 2009-02-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mysterious fantasy... This book has all the elements of a wonderful dark fantasy. The characters all have well-defined and believable personalities, (with their own strengths and flaws), there is an engaging sense of danger and mystery, and the dream-like realms is a facinating place. And there is just the right hint of romance...not non-existent, but not all-consuming, either! The only thing I'd change is that the plot could be tightened up a bit.
Date published: 2008-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful story fill with magic! A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first book about Gemma Doyle, a young girl who looses her mother and finds out she has a special power... magical power. It's a beautiful adventure that starts then. Divided into three books, A Great and Terrible Beauty takes place in a private school for girls near London. Fill with mystery, drama and excitement, this book, once you finish it, will make you want to get the second book, "Rebel Angels", to continue with Gemma's adventure.
Date published: 2008-11-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great First Novel Taking place in London 1895, it follows the beginning of sixteen-year-old Gemma Doyle’s life at Spence Academy, a boarding school where proper young ladies are groomed to become the wives of rich men. However, Miss Doyle isn’t like other girls, and not just because she doesn’t have impeccable manners. She has mysterious visions that seem to have a habit of coming true. Visions of the future, a gothic mansion filled to the brim with young girls, a secret Order, four unlikely friends sneaking out under the cover of darkness, and a love interest to boot. How could this novel be anything but good? This tale does a great job at keeping you entertained. The story starts off quickly and maintains a steady pace throughout the entire novel. But, this balanced pace left the story feeling like it was building up to something amazing and ground-breaking for a long time, yet when the climax hit it wasn’t as spectacular as I was anticipating. Overall, this is a great first novel for Libba Bray. Recommended For: 11+
Date published: 2008-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome this is a great read and one of my favourite books! I read this a while ago and i loved it! i was hooked! i read the rest of the trilogy and i definitely recommend it for teen readers.
Date published: 2008-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Book! This book was such a good read! The characters seem very real despite the story line of magic. Gemma, the lead character, begins the book by dealing with a great loss, followed by the realization that she has special powers. After being sent to a Girls' academy she finds difficulty in confiding and becoming close with others after her tragic past. As the book continues, these very real issues continually emerge against the backdrop of magic creating a really powerful novel that is not just for younger readers.
Date published: 2008-07-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Meh. This book was okay, but not great. Definetly written for a younger audience, which is probably why I didn't enjoy it as much as others have. I felt that the book was very rushed: one second, Gemma hates those Spence girls, the next, she's their best friend. You can't expect me to spend chapters reading about how cruel and mean they are and then accept how Gemma opens up to them about the diary and her "powers". The whole plot about the Order is fairly originaI but for some reason I really couldn't take it seriously. And the only scenes I really looked forward to were the Kartik ones; there should have been more of those! Anyway, if you're 12-14 or so, you'll probably love this book. For anyone older, it might be a bit harder to enjoy.
Date published: 2008-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from shockingly surprised.... when i first bought this book at a garage sale i wasn't expected much....but i was wrong. it's such an addictive book that you can't put this book down! i love the story and the secret romance blooming between gemma and kartik :) amazing book! love it!!
Date published: 2008-01-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great new voice in Victorian lit Though the story is quite obviously written for young adults, the story flows at a near-perfect pace and is incredibly engaging. The book advertises as a "curl-up-under-the-covers" kind of novel, and I'm not sure it could be described any better than. Once I started, I found myself settling in to read the whole thing. Great novel and I look forward to following Gemma's plights in the following novel.
Date published: 2008-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tooo irresistible to read wow... this book is soo amazing.. At first I don't feel reading it.. On the first night i only read about 90 pages coz i don't feel reading it.. But when i try to reaad the next pat it is soo good and I can't put it down.. I might finish it today-my second day of reading it.. I might not sleep unless i finish this book... I'm speechless.. ehhe.. I reccomend this to everybody.. The first part might be boring.. WOW<#3 Love it!!!!
Date published: 2008-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great and Beautiful Book My mom basically forced me to read this book, but as soon as I got started, I was hooked! It was definetly not what I expected, what with the realms and everything. The forbidden romance between Gemma and Kartik was one of my favourite parts! Definetly in my Top 10 reads.
Date published: 2008-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Breathtakingly enticing Libba Bray brings to life every girl's dream of escaping the real world for fantasy. With undertones of witchcraft and classic English oppression, A Great and Terrible Beauty is a must-read teen novel.
Date published: 2007-12-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Reading list favorite I wasn't expecting much when I picked up this book, I honestly thought how good can it be, its for teens. My mistake, this book is amazing. I was hooked in right away. It is on so many reading lists for schools, I always recommend this first off any list. The book provides insight into life for young woman back in the day when they had no control over their lives. Four young woman attend a boarding school, they become fast friends even though they are each unique and different from eachother. There is a touch a magic, and so many ideas for a book report hidden away in this treasure. I grabbed up the second one and am awaiting the release of the third.
Date published: 2007-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Chilling adventure! I would read this book for the historical references-the suspense is an added bonus. A mystery with terrifying twists and turns, a must read for anyone who loves the supernatural.
Date published: 2007-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling tale This is a compelling tale that in its whirl wind of event brings you into a whole new world. Libba Bray warps fantasy and older times into one great novel. It's a very dark novel, a gripping tale, a tale of beauty, a tale of darkness, of horror. It's a magical world and the realms wait for no one, so read the book today!
Date published: 2007-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great and opposite of terrible book! I personaly have three favorite (and soon to be four) favorite books!! They are, a great and terrible beauty, rebel angels and the riddels of epsilon (soon to be 4 : sweet far thing!) The book was about a girl named Gemma Doyle. After a trgic accident in her family where she is sent to Spence and a hole new mystory unfolds! I recommend these books. When you are done Libba Bray's books you should read "The Riddles Of Epsilon"
Date published: 2007-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Completely Amazing This book was great. I could hardly put down the book. It was annoying that I had to wait for the next book to come out. The book itself is great and leaves you wanting more. I would suggest it to anyone who loves books that take place in a Victorian setting or books that keeps you in suspense almost the entire time. The book is about four girls who discover more about the world that not many people know about while discoverying more about themselves.
Date published: 2007-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Favorite Book Ever!!!!! This book was amazing!! It is a tale of adventure, friendship and romance. Libba Bray did an amazing job of building up the charactors personalities in such a suttle but clear way! I can't wait until Libba Bray's third book comes out! Also if you like this book you would love Rebels Angels!
Date published: 2007-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it!!!! Oh my gosh this book is amazing!! Full of realistic characters and great discription. A dark, magical, romantic, facinating story. The only thing I would change is making it never end. This a must have, along with the second book: Rebel Angels. Books like this make reading so very pleasurable. So get comfy and start reading, you won't regret it.
Date published: 2007-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Night Time This book describes, I beleive, the very essence of darkness. It shows what it means to not know, but to be brave. Secrets. Pain. Forbidden joy. This book will make the reader understand that the dark is not good, not evil, but shrouded in mystery that will bring light into the world. Or not. You never know. Gemma discovers that things are not always as they seem. She sees people take choices that hurt her and others. What is especially remarkable is how everyone who reads this book will identify with it. It may not be comfortable, but they will.
Date published: 2007-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply Spiffing! This book is FABULOUS! Gemma, a witty and wild 16 year old with strong ideas and vecious remarks is the heroine of the novel. After the mysterious murder of Gem's mother in India and the stange visions she seems to be having, poor Gem is certain she's going mad. After an expedition out into the woods, Gem thinks shes realized who she really is, much more powerful then she or anyone else would like or wish. The bold charecters of this darkly thrilling gothic add just the right flavour to the grand halls of Spence accedmy. Murder, romance, laughs and many other much darker secrets are all around, but niceties must always be observed. This book captures the darker, silent side of victorian society!
Date published: 2006-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from BUY IT, BUY IT, BUY IT!!! "A Great and Terrible Beauty" was an excellent book. Very thought provoking. I couldn't put it down. At first i thought it wasn't going to be that great because I chose this one book out of six others that I had been dying to read. But oh how wrong i was. Reading about the lives of Gemma and her friends, decisions that they had to make. Kind of like my own, made me really realize that no matter how many years or centries go by, the trials and tribulations of teens never really change. They may get harder, but are generally the same. This book was a real page turner. If Libba Bray were to ever write a sequel, I wouldn't hesitate to purchase it.
Date published: 2006-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from an amazing book i LOVED this book!!!my friend actually reccomended it to me and now i'd reccomend to any looking for a great book to read
Date published: 2006-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bray Stirs Up A Great and Terrible Beauty for Read Libba Bray's novel, 'A Great and Terrible Beauty' is the story of Gemma Doyle, a young female teetering on the threshold of womanhood in the Victorian era, where girls are groomed all their lives to be wives. Gemma, however, wants something more, and when she discovers her own bone-chilling supernatural abilities, she realizes everything she wants may not be out of reach. Bray expertly captures life for a young woman in the Victorian era, while weaving into her dark plot the completely familiar uncertainty of adolescence, the pressures of cliques and social hierarchies; and a message for her reader: each girl has a power of her own to discover and own - not hide behind what you are told you should be. ‘A Great and Terrible Beauty’ is both perfectly chilling and enlightening. Though Bray's novel is set realistically in the nineteenth century, she gives each character a feeling of modernity and depth exposing an inner-conflict in each girl completely relatable to modern day society. For example, Felicity's hunger for power and longing for approval from her parents, Pippa's dreams of true love and pressure to cast away those dreams in order to do what is considered honorable and right. Or Ann's desperate need to be accepted and noticed along with her desire to be more beautiful, but most of all loved. Lastly, Gemma struggles with feelings of guilt for a secret she cannot share lest she be labeled and shunned by her peers and family. Bray does not hesitate to highlight the fact that women with power are and have been generally feared throughout history. Through Miss Moore’s blunt explanation of this sad fact, Gemma’s subtle revelations, and Felicity’s demonstration of this power, this is definitely a prominent theme in the book. Overall, I would say Bray has created a work of genius. This book should be celebrated and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a creepy, magical, mysterious, heartfelt adventure.
Date published: 2006-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just one more page, Then i'll go to bed! This book is one that will keep you up all night, you just cant let go, in your head you'll be saying just one more page then I’ll go to bed, but once you turn that page you pulled in again to find that your saying the same thing until it's nearly morning or you're almost done the book, and you tell yourself you'll get a better start on reading it in the morning. "A Great and Terrible Beauty" is one of those books that keeps you drawn in, with the mysterious Kartik, (Gemma’s protector and possible crush), and Wondering What exactly happened to Marry Doyle and the East wing at Spence... When the Mystery is finally revealed will it be what you expected, or will it be a complete surprise? You'll have to find out!
Date published: 2006-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unforgetable When i first started to read this book i found it a little frightening, but the more i read the more enticing it was. It is one of those books you just can't put down it sucks you in and holds your attention. It's a great book for those who love magic, dark forces, and fears. However this is not only a scary book with spells in it, it also gives you an insite to the lives of girls and women in the victorian ages, a little history thrown in with this wonderful and unforgetable tale. This book has a little romance, some frights and delights, it was amazing and i can't wait to read the second one, Rebel Angels!!
Date published: 2006-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Young adults need books too! As a teacher I am constantly looking for books that are exciting to read for young adults. It sometimes is a hard job to do. There are tons of books for children and adults but until recently there was a gap for teenagers. We want the students to enjoy the classics but first they have learn to love to read and this books does that. It draws the reader in from the very first chapter. Teenagers girls will love this book. This book is smart and funny and one must go out and buy the sequel to find out what happens!
Date published: 2006-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brillant!! Well I have to say that this is one of my FAVOURITE books!! It just keeps you wanting more! It's a dark deep story, but with creative plot twists. It also has it's well deserved light and happy parts with Kartik, ahhhh.... and all the many jokes and things that go on between the order. The only book I've ever read faster than this one is a Harry Potter!! You hp fans know that it must be good, a single day, not even was all it took me!!If you thought this one was good wait till you read the next one.
Date published: 2006-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a beautifully written, though dark, tale This story takes place in a time when a girls husband was chosen for her, and true love was more then hard to find. Gemma, living in India for most if not all of her 16-year-old life, is shipped off to the Spence Academy in England to begin her lessons after her mother was killed. While there, she befriends 3 girls, and becomes wrapped up in one of the most bizarre tales ever imagined, all the while being followed by a mysterious boy, who might know exactly what happened to her mother in India. Full of plot twists and beautifully written words, this book is a must read for anyone at all interested in a different sort of world.
Date published: 2006-07-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great read for anyone looking for an adventure! This book was a good read for teens . It was different , amusing, and insightful. it explores the life of victorian women with wit and charm. Although this book wasn't incredibly fast pace, it was interesting enogh that it kept you wanting more. I've heard that the second book , rebel angels, is supposed to be even better.
Date published: 2006-06-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unbelievably Amazing This is an unbelievable book, that tought be about 'believing'. Haha. I loved it It so gothic and horryfying.. yet I constantly crave for more. I dream about this book regularly, in spite of its terror, and beauty. I love how it set in this finnishing school with secrets, like inscriptions in caves.. and the Order. I am looking forwars to reading Rebel Angels, the companion to this truly amazing book. If you are one who enjoy the mystery of history, indulge yourself in Spence, the school, of beauty grace and charm! Monika :)
Date published: 2006-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AMAZING! "A Great and Terrible Beauty" is a must read! It's amazing!
Date published: 2006-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG this is the best book ever. I read it in two days, and got the next book the very next day. It rocks. I definately reccomend it to anyone who likes to read, and believes in the supernatural and hidden powers.
Date published: 2006-06-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Awesome I would recommend reading this book because the sequel to it is awesome. To read Rebel Angels(the sequel) you must read this one first to understand everythign. It is a great pair of books to read! You will not want to put it down,so make sure you leave yourself alot of free tome to read it. Great read for the summer when your lying in your backyard trying to get some sun!
Date published: 2006-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow Oh my gosh! How to explain such a maginicent book. I'm 14 and love reading and I must say that this is one of my favourites. As a matter of fact I just bought the second one tonight!! This story really does captivate you unlike many books. It brings you close to the real Gemma Doyle, her troubles fears and dreams(even about Kartick) But I loved this book.
Date published: 2006-05-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great beauty of a book!! First off I would like to say that I am 30 yrs old and that I adore books. Although this book is rated "teen" I have to say this is one of the best books in its class (fantasy/supernatural) to date. Gemma is smart, strong & willful (qualities I admire in women) and nicely written. The underlying messages and social commentaries (many of which are unfortunatly still applicable today) are what really got me. Being a mother, I found certain parts more heartbreaking (poor Pippa), especially when you realize many of the situations concerning Victorian attitudes about how to raise girls were true. Truly a nice book for everyone especially young women. Bravo to Ms. Bray and I can't wait to read the sequels.
Date published: 2006-05-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Book This book was by far one of the best books I've ever read. The author captured the time era perfectly. It was very hard to put down. I would definatly read it again.
Date published: 2006-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Like nothing I could a Envisioned This is one of the few books I can now say I couldn’t put. I felt connected to the girls as if I was part of their Order. A Grate and Terrible Beauty is nothing you expect it to be. It is compelling, thought provoking, enchanting and dare I say it magical in every way imaginable and more importantly in ways unimaginable. Libba I tip my hat to you and your great accomplishment with this book.
Date published: 2006-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magnificant! this book taught me a different approach to life. i found that not all stories end in perfect happy endings and not all end the way you thought. i feel the Libba showed a brilliant way of connecting each of the girls to one another, even if they were very different. I LOVED THIS BOOK!
Date published: 2005-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Modern Girl in an Old World A Great and Terrible Beauty is an intoxicating mix of victorian culture and a modern teenager trying to be a young lady. Gemma Doyle is refreshingly normal with a great power in magic who just wants to fit in. She's not just normal though because she shows amazing creativity and has the urge to protect and include. Throw in that she's discoverring love for the first time, her fathers sick, the rest of her family dosen't care about her, and a strict boarding school and you have the recipe for amazing. This story could have takken place today, btu is made even more enchanting by the Victorean culture. Please take into consideration that i am a fifteen year old girl that loves romantic stories drizzled with magic. I would liek to say though that even so i am a very accomplished reader that enjoys almost all geners and yet this book has been read six times in one week. With how many books are in the world this is to much time to spend on one book and yet i can't help it.
Date published: 2005-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WONDERFUL omg,this book is great....everynight i go to sleepi stay up reading it....4.hours past my bedtime...im reading.Romance,history,boys,comedy,suspence,mystery and scary visions!this book is great and my favorite book.Read this ppl!!!its great!!!READ IT READ IT READ IT!!!!!!just one chapter...no one page....u'll be hooked on it.
Date published: 2005-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AMAZING!!!! My mom actually recommended this one, so I was a bit apprehensive, but I was surprised!!! It had adventure, comedy, history, tradgedy, magic, suspense, and romance, PLUS a brave and strong main female character! Basically EVERYTHING! Definitely one of my favourite books.... If you're a teen who likes romance, I sure do, fantasy or adventure it is a MUST READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Date published: 2005-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow This book seemed to catch my eye in a few book stores so I decided to buy it. From the beggining I was captured and it was all I could do to put the book down. The descriptions are amazing and you feel like you can see what they are seeing. Libba Bray is amazingly gifted. There are so many parts in the book where Gemma just captures your heart. This girl has something amazing inside her...........a real gift. And so does Libba Bray! I would recommend this book to anyone who is willing to have thier breath taken away!!!
Date published: 2005-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Read This book is truly a fascinating read. The plot and characters are both captivating and riveting. Gemma Doyle is a strong, bright and intriguing character. Highly recommended for anyone looking for an excellent read. Can't wait until the sequel, Rebel Angels, is released on August 23, 2005.
Date published: 2005-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fantastic! This was an amazing book! i read loads of books, and this one is one of my favorites!! Libba Bray is truly a great author! i love books with magic and this one has lots of that, i can't wait to read more of the adventures of Gemma in the next book, Rebel Angels! i hope it comes out soon!!!!!
Date published: 2005-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing This book was fantastic. Gemma is such a strong, courageous person. The plot is amazing and the characters are believable. This an amazing book and I can't wait for the second one. Read this book.
Date published: 2005-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Food for Thought! This book was amazing. It completely sucked me in! (i finished it in a day!) Gemma is a strong, and amazing character. I love her. She is so mysterious. The plot is fantastical, but is so believable. I love it. A Great Read!!!! You have to get it and explore the myteries of her world. Can't wait for the sequel Rebel Angels!
Date published: 2005-05-29

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Chapter One June 21, 1895Bombay, India"Please tell me that's not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening."I am staring into the hissing face of a cobra. A surpris-ingly pink tongue slithers in and out of a cruel mouth while an Indian man whose eyes are the blue of blindness inclines his head toward my mother and explains in Hindi that cobras make very good eating.My mother reaches out a white-gloved finger to stroke the snake's back. "What do you think, Gemma? Now that you're sixteen, will you be dining on cobra?"The slithery thing makes me shudder. "I think not, thank you."The old, blind Indian man smiles toothlessly and brings the cobra closer. It's enough to send me reeling back where I bump into a wooden stand filled with little statues of Indian deities. One of the statues, a woman who is all arms with a face bent on terror, falls to the ground. Kali, the destroyer. Lately, Mother has accused me of keeping her as my unofficial patron saint. Lately, Mother and I haven't been getting on very well. She claims it's because I've reached an impossible age. I state emphatically to anyone who will listen that it's all because she refuses to take me to London."I hear in London, you don't have to defang your meals first," I say. We're moving past the cobra man and into the throng of people crowding every inch of Bombay's frenzied marketplace. Mother doesn't answer but waves away an organ-grinder and his monkey. It's unbearably hot. Beneath my cotton dress and crinolines, sweat streaks down my body. The flies-my most ardent admirers-dart about my face. I swat at one of the little winged beasts, but it escapes and I can almost swear I hear it mocking me. My misery is reaching epidemic proportions.Overhead, the clouds are thick and dark, giving warning that this is monsoon season, when floods of rain could fall from the sky in a matter of minutes. In the dusty bazaar the turbaned men chatter and squawk and bargain, lifting brightly colored silks toward us with brown, sunbaked hands. Everywhere there are carts lined with straw baskets offering every sort of ware and edible-thin, coppery vases; wooden boxes carved into intricate flower designs; and mangos ripening in the heat."How much farther to Mrs. Talbot's new house? Couldn't we please take a carriage?" I ask with what I hope is a noticeable annoyance."It's a nice day for a walk. And I'll thank you to keep a civil tone."My annoyance has indeed been noted.Sarita, our long-suffering housekeeper, offers pomegranates in her leathery hand. "Memsahib, these are very nice. Perhaps we will take them to your father, yes?"If I were a good daughter, I'd bring some to my father, watch his blue eyes twinkle as he slices open the rich, red fruit, then eats the tiny seeds with a silver spoon just like a proper British gentleman."He'll only stain his white suit," I grumble. My mother starts to say something to me, thinks better of it, sighs-as usual. We used to go everywhere together, my mother and I-visiting ancient temples, exploring local customs, watching Hindu festivals, staying up late to see the streets bloom with candlelight. Now, she barely takes me on social calls. It's as if I'm a leper without a colony."He will stain his suit. He always does," I mumble in my defense, though no one is paying me a bit of attention except for the organ-grinder and his monkey. They're following my every step, hoping to amuse me for money. The high lace collar of my dress is soaked with perspiration. I long for the cool, lush green of England, which I've only read about in my grandmother's letters. Letters filled with gossip about tea dances and balls and who has scandalized whom half a world away, while I am stranded in boring, dusty India watching an organ-grinder's monkey do a juggling trick with dates, the same trick he's been performing for a year."Look at the monkey, memsahib. How adorable he is!" Sarita says this as if I were still three and clinging to the bottoms of her sari skirts. No one seems to understand that I am fully sixteen and want, no, need to be in London, where I can be close to the museums and the balls and men who are older than six and younger than sixty."Sarita, that monkey is a trained thief who will be begging for your wages in a moment," I say with a sigh. As if on cue, the furry urchin scrambles up and sits on my shoulder with his palm outstretched. "How would you like to end up in a birthday stew?" I tell him through clenched teeth. The monkey hisses. Mother grimaces at my ill manners and drops a coin in its owner's cup. The monkey grins triumphantly and leaps across my head before running away.A vendor holds out a carved mask with snarling teeth and elephant ears. Without a word, Mother places it over her face. "Find me if you can," she says. It's a game she's played with me since I could walk-a bit of hide-and-seek meant to make me smile. A child's game."I see only my mother," I say, bored. "Same teeth. Same ears."Mother gives the mask back to the vendor. I've hit her vanity, her weak point."And I see that turning sixteen is not very becoming tomy daughter," she says."Yes, I am sixteen. Sixteen. An age at which most decent girls have been sent for schooling in London." I give the word decent an extra push, hoping to appeal to some maternal sense of shame and propriety."This looks a bit on the green side, I think." She's peering intently at a mango. Her fruit inspection is all-consuming."No one tried to keep Tom imprisoned in Bombay," I say, invoking my brother's name as a last resort. "He's had four whole years there! And now he's starting at university.""It's different for men.""It's not fair. I'll never have a season. I'll end up a spinster with hundreds of cats who all drink milk from china bowls." I'm whining. It's unattractive, but I find I'm powerless to stop."I see," Mother says, finally. "Would you like to be paraded around the ballrooms of London society like some prize horse there to have its breeding capabilities evaluated? Would you still think London was so charming when you were the subject of cruel gossip for the slightest infraction of the rules? London's not as idyllic as your grandmother's letters make it out to be.""I wouldn't know. I've never seen it.""Gemma . . ." Mother's tone is all warning even as her smile is constant for the Indians. Mustn't let them think we British ladies are so petty as to indulge in arguments on the streets. We only discuss the weather, and when the weather is bad, we pretend not to notice.Sarita chuckles nervously. "How is it that memsahib is now a young lady? It seems only yesterday you were in the nursery. Oh, look, dates! Your favorite." She breaks into a gap-toothed smile that makes every deeply etched wrinkle in her face come alive. It's hot and I suddenly want to scream, to run away from everything and everyone I've ever known."Those dates are probably rotting on the inside. Just like India.""Gemma, that will be quite enough." Mother fixes me with her glass-green eyes. Penetrating and wise, people call them. I have the same large, upturned green eyes. The Indians say they are unsettling, disturbing. Like being watched by a ghost. Sarita smiles down at her feet, keeps her hands busy adjusting her brown sari. I feel a tinge of guilt for saying such a nasty thing about her home. Our home, though I don't really feel at home anywhere these days."Memsahib, you do not want to go to London. It is gray and cold and there is no ghee for bread. You wouldn't like it."A train screams into the depot down near the glittering bay. Bombay. Good bay, it means, though I can't think of anything good about it right now. A dark plume of smoke from the train stretches up, touching the heavy clouds. Mother watches it rise."Yes, cold and gray." She places a hand on her throat, fingers the necklace hanging there, a small silver medallion of an all-seeing eye atop a crescent moon. A gift from a villager, Mother said. Her good-luck charm. I've never seen her without it.Sarita puts a hand on Mother's arm. "Time to go, memsahib."Mother pulls her gaze away from the train, drops her hand from her necklace. "Yes. Come. We'll have a lovely time at Mrs. Talbot's. I'm sure she'll have lovely cakes just for your birthday-"A man in a white turban and thick black traveling cloak stumbles into her from behind, bumping her hard."A thousand pardons, honorable lady." He smiles, offers a deep bow to excuse his rudeness. When he does, he reveals a young man behind him wearing the same sort of strange cloak. For a moment, the young man and I lock eyes. He isn't much older than I am, probably seventeen if a day, with brown skin, a full mouth, and the longest eyelashes I have ever seen. I know I'm not supposed to find Indian men attractive, but I don't see many young men and I find I'm blushing in spite of myself. He breaks our gaze and cranes his neck to see over the hordes."You should be more careful," Sarita barks at the older man, threatening him with a blow from her arm. "You better not be a thief or you will be punished.""No, no, memsahib, only I am terribly clumsy." He drops his smile and with it the cheerful simpleton routine. He whispers low to my mother in perfectly accented English. "Circe is near."It makes no sense to me, just the ramblings of a very clever thief said to distract us. I start to say as much to my mother but the look of sheer panic on her face stops me cold. Her eyes are wild as she whips around and scans the crowded streets like she's looking for a lost child.From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

1. Despite visions and a special destiny, Gemma is not so unlike the other girls at Spence in her feelings of alienation and her yearning for acceptance. Gemma’s need to fit into her new school leads to her being locked in the chapel in the middle of the night. Would you have made the same choice? Have you ever done something you didn’t want to do, to get someone to like you? Have you ever taken advantage of someone who wanted you to like him or her?2. The Realms are a place where anything seems possible. Each of the four girls wants one thing above all else: Felicity desires power, Pippa seeks love, Ann wants beauty, and Gemma craves self-knowledge. Does any of the characters achieve her goal by the end of the story? Why or why not? What would you want?3. Gemma says of Felicity, “I don’t yet know what power feels like. But this is surely what it looks like, and I think I’m beginning to understand why those ancient women had to hide in caves. Why our parents and teachers and suitors want us to behave properly and predictably. It’s not that they want to protect us; it’s that they fear us” (p. 207). What kind of power is Gemma talking about? What is it that she thinks the parents and teachers and suitors fear?4. Women. Power. These two words conjure many images and emotions, and they appear throughout A Great and Terrible Beauty. What connections does Libba Bray draw between the two words? How does she characterize the Victorians’ view of powerful women? How do you think powerful women are viewed today?5. Bray paints the Victorian age as a time when appearances must be kept up at all times. Appearances matter more than reality, and anything interesting is kept a secret. For example, Gemma’s family hides the nature of Virginia Doyle’s death to avoid scandal. Likewise, in the Realms, appearances are deceiving. Gemma, Ann, Pippa, and Felicity believe their dreams are coming true–but is that really the case? What do you think the author meant by drawing a parallel between reality and paradise? Is it ever really possible to escape or change reality?6. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly said, “Bray brilliantly depicts a caste system, in which girls are taught to abandon individuality in favor of a man’s wishes, as a deeper and darker horror than most things that go bump in the night.” Do you think Gemma has achieved a certain freedom by the end of the novel? Are her supernatural powers responsible for bringing about this freedom? Do you think she would have been such a rebel if it hadn’t been for her magic?7. In Diary of an Author on AGreatandTerribleBeauty.com, Libba Bray says, “Why do we do this to our girls? Why do we spend a lifetime whittling them down into bite-sized nuggets, something easily digested that will upset no stomach? Why can’t we allow them to ask for what they want?” Does the novel answer that question? If so, how? Do you believe that conditions for women have improved over the past hundred years?8. The girls of Spence have a great deal of adult supervision, but there is a glaring absence of parental love. What role does this absence play in Gemma’s and her friends’ lives and the choices they make? Do you think Pippa would have made a different choice had her parents behaved differently? How would Gemma’s and Felicity’s lives be changed if their fathers were available–in Gemma’s case mentally, and in Felicity’s case physically? What about Ann?9. It’s a dream, only a dream,” Gemma thinks of her sexually charged encounter with Kartik (p. 219). Why do you think Gemma stops the fantasy when she does? Why do you think the author chose to make this scene a dream rather than a reality? Do you believe this makes Gemma’s experience any less “real” to her?10. The Realms’ answer to Gemma’s desire for self-knowledge is Virginia Doyle. Why do you think Gemma must understand her mother in order to understand herself? Gemma concludes, “I’m going to have to let her go to accept the mother I’m only just discovering” (p. 394). How are the two mothers Gemma refers to different? Why does Gemma have to forgive her mother first if she is to understand her?