Wednesday, February 3

Libba Bray: A Great and Terrible Beauty

On the death of her mother, a young girl is sent from the life she knows in India to the English boarding school her mother attended as a child. Her reception there isn’t warm and settling in isn’t made any easier by the need to hide her ‘visions’ which tend to come true.
When she covers for the school’s social leader the two become friends and she finds herself part of a secret society accessing supernatural powers. All is well to start, suddenly she sees a future other than the one Victorian society dictates for her and her friends, but the magic has a dark side and she soon discovers it is her destiny to rebalance this magical world.
This book is set in 1895 and the anachronistic first line almost had me putting it down but I’m glad I didn’t. Other than the occasional linguistic time slips (when the characters have a tendency to sound like modern 16 year olds) the story depicts life in this age nicely.
The social structure of the school and the attitude of its ruling student elite were very well portrayed. There is strong undercurrent of frustration at predetermined futures, repressed sexuality, the stress of secrets kept in order for the individuals to appear as society expects them to and fear of the consequences of being found out.
While I spotted the main twist well in advance it didn’t decrease my enjoyment of the book so much as pull me in that little bit more. And I’m not sure if my anticipation of certain events was a function of pure paranoia on my part or an ability to see what the character’s naivety hid from them (it is, after all, a long time since I was a member of the young adult target audience).
This story could stand alone but it is the first of a trilogy and I will most definitely be reading the rest.-Lynn.

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