Saturday, February 04, 2006

We will be discussing Libba Bray's novel A Great and Terrible Beauty at our book club meeting on Tuesday. I read it some time ago, soon after it came out, and the details are a bit unclear. I didn't want to reread it for our discussion, so I decided to read the sequel, Rebel Angels, instead.
Bray's novels are Victorian fantasies, the story of Gemma Doyle. Raised in India, Gemma is sent to England to boarding school after witnessing her mother's murder. At Spence, she finds a mysterious diary; hears legends of the Order, a group of powerful women with magical ability; and discovers her own ability to transport herself and her friends to the Realms, the magical home of the Order and the source of the magic. But all is not right in the Realms, and Gemma and her friends must discover the identity of the journal's author and the truth behind a tragedy that occurred at Spence years before.
By the end of the first novel, Gemma has solved the mystery, but she has also set the magic free for all those in the Realms to use, and she must bind it so it cannot be misused. To do so, she must find the Temple and begin rebuilding the Order.
Victorian propriety, secret societies and magic weave together to form very intricate tales, and rereading the first novel before reading the second would have been a good idea. Rebel Angels contains a brief summary of A Great and Terrible Beauty, but it contains few details, and I would probably have appreciated it more if I remembered more of the first. When the third book is released, I should take the time to reread the first two. However, I'm reluctant to take the time to do this - Rebel Angels is a long novel, nearly 550 pages, and it is slow at times. The action takes place over only a few days, when the girls are home from school on Christmas holiday, but some scenes seem unnecessary, and some foreshadowing is rather heavy handed. I found myself involved in the book when I picked it up, but not compelled to pick it up often. Some plot lines seemed unnecessary, unless, of course, their relevance is revealed in the final volume. I'm anxious to know what happens to Gemma next - although Rebel Angels included a few hints, and I would recommend these books, despite their flaws. The unique premise of the story is what prompted me to choose it as a title for our book club, and I'm looking forward to Tuesday's discussion.

Currently Reading: 24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley (I'm slipping it to the top of the pile so I can return it to the library on Monday for inclusion in a Valentine's Day book display)
On my nightstand: (still) A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb


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