Recommend A... is a weekly meme hosted by Chick Loves Lit where a book is recommended every week following a prompt. This week's is Recommend A...First Book In A Series.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Publisher: Simon and Shuster
Release Date: December 9, 2003
A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.
Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. A Great and Terrible Beauty is an impressive first book in what should prove to be a fascinating trilogy.
I loved this series and this book started off the series wonderfully. Gemma is a fiery young woman who proves herself time and again. The other main leads, Pippa and Felicity, are somehow just as endearing. They really grow on you until you love them just as much. This book offers a taste of a dark, fantasy world explored by young women who are trying to find some adventure when destined to become compliant wives. With such strong female characters and a dark, otherworldly realm, this book and the entire series have become a favorite of mine.