I had forgotten how much I loved this trilogy, and thanks to a read a long on Tumblr (with the tag agatbreadalong), I am revisiting these wonderful books.
In the sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty, Libba Bray continues exploring Victorian society’s constraints on women, this time going beyond the confines of boarding school and into London for the Christmas holidays. There was a greater emphasis on romance in this book, as well as an almost love triangle between Gemma, Kartik and a new character, Simon Middleton ( I say almost, because Simon does not know that he has competition). Bray does an skillful job of introducing dark themes, such as child molesting and drugs, into an old-fashioned setting, and weaving together a story that will make you feel like you are holding your breath the entire time, waiting to see what will happen next.
My only issue with the books are the friendship between the three girls, and only because at times I flash back to my childhood to when I had a friend very much like Felicity. It’s a destructive relationship, based on Felicity getting what she wants, Ann always siding with the strongest in an argument, and Gemma acting under pressure from her friends, sometimes against her better judgement. Despite all this, however, they do seem to grow closer as the series moves on. Gemma learns more about herself and her power while the books march on. Honestly, I liked this even more than A Great and Terrible Beauty, because the world of Victorian England was more fleshed out, and held me on the edge of my seat for a good portion of the novel. I love Gemma, despite all her flaws (and lets be honest, we all have a few flaws).
I can’t wait to move on to The Sweet Far Thing next, to see how Gemma’s journey will end (because I honestly can’t remember to much of the trilogy; it’s like reading it for the first time all over again).
Synopsis: Ah, Christmas! Gemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy, spending time with her friends in the city, attending ritzy balls, and on a somber note, tending to her ailing father. As she prepares to ring in the New Year, 1896, a handsome young man, Lord Denby, has set his sights on Gemma, or so it seems. Yet amidst the distractions of London, Gemma’s visions intensify–visions of three girls dressed in white, to whom something horrific has happened, something only the realms can explain. . . .
The lure is strong, and before long, Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are turning flowers into butterflies in the enchanted world of the realms that Gemma alone can bring them to. To the girls’ great joy, their beloved Pippa is there as well, eager to complete their circle of friendship.
But all is not well in the realms–or out. The mysterious Kartik has reappeared, telling Gemma she must find the Temple and bind the magic, else great disaster will befall her. Gemma’s willing to do his intrusive bidding, despite the dangers it brings, for it means she will meet up with her mother’s greatest friend–and now her foe, Circe. Until Circe is destroyed, Gemma cannot live out her destiny. But finding Circe proves a most perilous task.
[Description from Goodreads]