inc. A Great and Terrible Beauty; Rebel Angels; and The Sweet Far Thing
by Libba Bray
Basic Summary: This lovely trifecta of books is about (you guessed it) Gemma Doyle. Set in the 1800s, the books start in India, where Gemma witnesses her mom’s murder. While she’s knocked unconcious. Which probably isn’t a very good sign when it comes to sanity in the 1800s. Because of this, she doesn’t tell anyone about what she “saw” and instead, returns home to England where she will attend finishing school at Spence Academy. She quickly develops a penchant for causing disorder and makes enemies faster than she makes friends. But Gemma tries to adjust as best as possible to please her family. There’s a few small problems. An Indian boy is stalking her and those pesky visions aren’t stopping. The trilogy follows Gemma as she attempts to piece together what the heck is going on AND make a decent debut into society.
Bit ‘O Backstory: Full disclosure here. I started to read this series when Rebel Angels first came out. I FLEW through the first two books. Then it was Forever until The Sweet Far Thing came out (not to be confused with Forever and a Day, which is how long it took for a new Harry Potter book to be published). When it did come out, I knew I needed to reread the first two to really understand and appreciate the final book. But that was roughly 1,800 pages and I just didn’t have the time. Fast forward nearly two years later and I decided enough was enough and I reread the whole series. Hence why the review is of all three together. Because when you read them consecutively, it’s like reading one large book.
Kell’s Chatty Review: First and foremost, Libba Bray is a lyrical goddess. The writing in these books – I tell you. The thing quote books are made of. Anywhoo. As mentioned above, I devoured these books. And I devoured them again when I reread them. The characters are so full of flaws and depth that it’s absolutely ridiculous. The plot – to be honest – can be a little confusing, with certain aspects hard to grasp. But the crazy twists and turns just keep everything moving right along. SO fantastic.
And most importantly, the ending was well orchastrated. Which in a trilogy and after reading 1,800 pages, is pretty important.
Is it worth the read: It’s a lot of commitment, but if you like the style of Austen and Bronte, I think these ones will appeal to you. There’s something very old-fashioned about how the story is written and developed. Aside from being a lovely fantasy book, there is fantastic, old-fashioned romance and some true-to-life friendship that is so artfully written.
Can I just wait for the movie? I’m not sure if these are being adapted for the screen. I wouldn’t be surprised. But I think I’d be a little upset if they were. If done well, they could be gorgeous. If done half-heartedly, my heart would break.
What this book taught me about life: There are some many good value points in this trilogy. Feminism. Friendship. Love. Family. Trust. Loyalties. Too many too choose.
Oh. And don’t get addicted to opium.
What I most want to do after reading this book: Research secret societies. Or somehow get myself transported to the time frame this takes place in.
What area of the Realms I would most like to visit: I think everyone would like to see the garden. However, I would love to see the Cave of Sighs. Really, though, I think I’d just like to hang out with Gorgon.
Favorite Passage: This quote came from The Sweet Far Thing (aka final book). Mostly because I was so enthralled with the first two, I didn’t think about quotes while reading them. Basically, I suck. But to be honest, I could probably pick a favorite passage off of almost every single page in this trilogy. These was just one of the many that really stood out (and didn’t give away too much)
“I’m like everyone else in this stupid, bloody, amazing world. I’m flawed. Impossibly so. But hopeful. I’m still me.” (The Sweet Far Thing, page 770)
Re-Readability Rating: 2.
2?!?!?!?!? After all that mumbo-jumbo about how amazing it is?: I have to remind you that this series is 1,800 pages long. And that the books flow quickly from one to the other. I think it will be difficult to reread these as often as I would like.