A+ characters, C+ plot: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray [REVIEW]

3682A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Series: Gemma Doyle #1
First published in December 2003
Tags: Young Adult, Historial Fiction, Fantasy

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Source: Library
Rating:  photo three stars_zpsohkkn6ww.png

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.


I’d heard a lot of good things about this, but it didn’t quite reach me even though it was good. 

So this is a young adult series from before YA was cool, i.e. before Twilight. Nice. It’s set in the Victorian era (although it’s probably not the most historically accurate book ever) in an all girl’s school. The atmosphere is kind of gothic, which I enjoyed. 

We meet Gemma, who grew up in India but after her mother’s death (which she foresaw in a mysterious vision) is sent to England to go to school. There she meets three girls; Felicity, Pippa, and the outcast Anne, and together they stumble into a world of magic and powers. 

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Could have been better: And I Darken by Kiersten White (ARC review)

and i darken reviewAnd I Darken by Kiersten White
Series: The Conqueror’s Saga #1
My edition was published in June 2016 by Penguin Random House UK
Tags: Young AdultHistorical Fiction

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Source: ARC 

Rating: and i darken review

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.


But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

I received a free ARC ebook copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I was so disappointed in this book. The premise sounded fantastic. What this is is basically a re-imagination of the life of prince Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula. He’s believed to have inspired Bram Stoker’s character Dracula. In And I Darken, Vlad is a girl called Lada. So I was intrigued. A young adult book about a female Vlad the Impaler??? Count me the hell in.

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