Book Review: A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba BrayThis book had been on my wishlist for a long time. It was ideal for a challenge I was doing, so I got it from the library recently.

What I somehow didn’t realise is that this is a YA book. Nothing wrong with that, but I expected quite a different book.

A Great And Terrible Beauty: What it is about

Sixteen-year old Gemma Doyle sees her mother die in a vision while she is walking the streets of a town in India. When she arrives at the scene, she realises it really happened as she saw it.

Two months later, Gemma is in England where she is sent to boarding school. At first she is one of the most unpopular girls in her year, but after a while she becomes more accepted. With her new friends she forms a secret club and when she gets a vision again, they join her getting to an alternate world where the dead are alive and anything they want is possible.

But it’s not safe, creatures from the dream world could enter the real world and cause severe harm.

Gemma has to decide whether to risk this while having a good time in the dream world, or to give up this world and live in reality only.

A Great And Terrible Beauty: What I thought

A good story, although I didn’t find the alternate world idea very interesting.

What I did like was Gemma at boarding school and how she dealt with her bullies. In other words, I liked the real-life part of the story, but the dream world wasn’t at all attractive to me.

I didn’t really care about the creatures that could enter the real life either. Maybe they weren’t fierce enough, or the threat wasn’t strong enough, I’m not sure, but I wasn’t particularly worried about them.

In all, this was a quick and fun read. The book is the first in the Gemma Doyle trilogy but I think just one was enough for me.

Or are the others better? Have you read them?

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I got this book: from the library

I read this in: Dutch (Een verschrikkelijke schoonheid), the original language is English

Number of pages: 384

First published: 2005

Genre: fantasy, Young Adult

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

18 Responses to Book Review: A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

  1. It’s great to see that you’ve embarked upon this series, Judith 🙂 I was hesitant about reading the books at first, because I tend to avoid what seems like romance-centric YA, but this trilogy was a pleasant surprise with a lot of depth. I think you might enjoy the overall premise, including the supernatural aspect, a bit more as you continue to read on. As with most collections, the authoress really seems to strengthen her voice and storytelling style as the series progresses. I look forward to your thoughts on the other two, if you do get round to reading them!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Shivanne, now you make me wonder whether I should indeed read the other books. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the first book, but if you promise the second is better… maybe I will!

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Tes says:

    Somehow this story sounds very intriguing for me 🙂 I really love this kind of stories… but if you gave it only 3.5 stars, I don’t know if it’s gonna be good.

  3. Hmm. This sounds very tame, actually. My daughter really loves fantasy, though, so maybe it would be a good book for her!

  4. Erika says:

    One of the things about this series for me was there was just too much going on. First it’s in the Victorian era, then in the boarding school and then the alternate world. It takes a while to get used to and picture each one of them. I liked book #1 and #2 about as much as you did (I gave 4/5 to each) but the last was just too long and irritating. I had to skip a lot of stuff to get through it..

    • Leeswammes says:

      That’s a pity, Erika. At least you did enjoy the first two books. I had the same with the Hunger Games series. The third book I didn’t like at all, but the other two are great. 🙂

  5. It sounds so interesting up until the point where creatures from the dream world could enter the real world. I was all into it and thinking of checking out til then. I’m so jealous that you can read it in dutch. The only other languages I speak and read are gibberish, pig latin, rambling and sarcasm. ;-/

    • Leeswammes says:

      Lena, you make me smile! I like those other languages that you know! With a language like Dutch, you don’t get very far in the world (and as the country is only small, the outside world is more important to us) so we all have to learn at least some English.

  6. Marg says:

    For me, this was the best book in the trilogy.

  7. I have heard mixed thoughts on the next two books…. some say they loved this one, but the next one was not as good and I heard the third is long. If they landed on my door step, I probably would give the second read a try… otherwise this is probably not a series I would go out and buy.

  8. I share your opinion about the alternate world, Judith. I really enjoyed the story tough, but especially the parts in the boarding school.
    I have read it in Dutch a few months ago, before I start blogging and I’m trying to convince Ellen to read it.
    We’re going to the library today, so maybe… 🙂

  9. I am sorry that the fantasy aspect of this book didn’t really work for you. I am definitely intrigued. I love books set at boarding schools but I am afraid the paranormal aspect wouldn’t really be a good fit for me either.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Lola, in this case, I thought the fantasy world was not real enough, not scary enough. I really enjoyed The White Devilwhich is also at boarding school with a ghost or two but much more convincing.

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