The concluding volume in the trilogy begun in A Great and Terrible Beauty is a huge work of massive ambition, an undertaking that involves the plaiting and tying off a dozen plot threads--impending war in the realms and heroine Gemma Doyle's control of its magic being the central thread but, perhaps, not the most interesting. In chronicling Gemma's first year at Spence Academy, Bray has, over three books, widened her canvas from finishing school to fin-de-sicle London, weaving in the defining movements of the era--labor strikes over factory conditions, suffrage, the "radical" Impressionists just across the Channel, even fashion trends like bloomers for women daring enough to ride bicycles. Gemma is both buffeted and bolstered by her exposure to these developments, and readers experience how they shape her burgeoning understanding of who she is and who she may become. Some of Gemma's struggle is about power. As exalted as she is within the realms for her role as High Priestess of the secret society, her "otherness" marks her as unsuitable for proper Victorian circles. Gemma chafes not only at the physical constraints of a corset but at the myriad restrictions placed on women. Her quest is to break free, but at what cost? Bray poses these vital questions without sacrificing the gothic undertones of the previous volumes--the body count is high, and the deaths, gruesome. That creepiness is balanced by the fully realized company of players, including the insufferable headmistress, Mrs. Nightwing, the acid-tongued Felicity Worthington, hunky heartthrob Kartik and, of course, Gemma herself, a heroine readily embraced. Ages 14-up. (Dec.)[Page 57]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 9 Up--Set in Victorian England, Libba Bray's novel (Delacorte, 2007) is a complex, multilayered finale to her Gemma Doyle Trilogy. Daughter of an aristocrat, Gemma struggles to fend off those who want the extraordinary magical powers she inherited from her late mother. She's also trying to understand the denizens of the Realms, a mystical nether world beneath the Earth. At the same time, Gemma is uncertain about her relationship with her love interest, the gypsy Kartik. All this happens amid the debutante season that's the focus of her Spence School classmates. This novel is packed with realistic characters and otherworldly nymphs, centaurs, and a gorgon. Gemma copes with her grieving, laudanum-addicted father, the societal constraints imposed by her pretentious grandmother, and her brother's connection to a secret power-hungry club. After a dangerous confrontation with the dark forces, Gemma takes her life in a bold new direction. Combining passionate emotion and eerie mystery, narrator Josephine Bailey creates distinctive voices for the diverse cast of human and mythological beings. Both heterosexuality and homosexuality are discreetly presented in the context of this mystery-fantasy with its romantic, historical fiction setting. This unique combination of genres and a strong female protagonist are sure to attract adolescent girls. Libraries that already own the first two volumes will definitely want to complete this intriguing saga.--Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT[Page 59]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Gr 9 Up-- This hefty tome is the final installment in this popular historical fantasy trilogy starring plucky Victorian schoolgirl Gemma Doyle. Having unloosed the magic of the realms beyond her world in A Great and Terrible Beauty (2003) and bound it to herself as priestess in Rebel Angels (2005, both Delacorte), Gemma is now faced with deciding whether to fight or ally with the many creatures of the realms who want access to the magic. She also must decide whether the mysterious members of the Order and of the Rakshana who dog her steps are to be trusted, or whether they simply seek to compound their power by taking the magic for themselves. The realms themselves seem to be changing, growing darker and more dangerous by the day--a change echoed by Gemma's friend Pippa, who seems to be turning into something not wholly human as she grows more entrenched in the realms. With the addition of a fairly chaste romance with lust object and erstwhile enemy Kartik and all the real-world drama that accompanies Gemma's troubled family life and upcoming social debut, the novel is somewhat overstuffed and overlong, crammed full of perhaps too many characters, plotlines, and breathless intrigue. As in previous installments, some of the protofeminist musings placed in the mouths of Gemma and her friends ring a bit false. However, the novel's fast-paced and exciting ending and Bray's lyrical descriptions of the decaying realms are sure to enchant readers who loved Gemma's previous exploits.--Meredith Robbins, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School, New York City[Page 114]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.