A Great and Terrible Beauty TRILOGY by Libba Bray book review

A Great and Terrible BeautyOh my God Kartik turned into a tree! (I shall grieve for him for the rest of my days!) -there’s a major spoiler for you!

Okay, maybe he did not actually turned into a tree but he sacrificed himself to be taken by the tree to save Gemma’s life. His fate had proved to be worse than death. Time will pass and he will remain in the tree, with Gemma far away in another world, living a normal life away from the realms. It is truly a bitter, bitter story and I feel for them. Both of them.

So let’s say that I was deeply distraught at the end of trilogy but it’s something different from the usual happy endings. Despite the very sad death or undead state of Kartik in the end, I did love how everything went before that. I’ll admit to you that I am truly a hopeless romantic and I loved how Kartik protected Gemma in a way that she wasn’t quite aware of. Yes the story also focused and explained all the powers of Gemma and the description of the realms were all very intricate but it was the message underneath the Victorian era slash fantasy world story that got to me. In the 1800’s (to 1900’s) women were always considered second to men. They were expected to act and think what the society dictated them to act and think. Yet Gemma with her friends Anne, Felicity, even Pippa and all the other women in the story proved otherwise. That women and men should be equal. That women like men have the right to their own decisions. Let me make our protagonist’s life an example: She flew back to her parents hometown in England (from Bombay India), after her mother’s death (suicide, not murder I’d like to say). After which she was enrolled in Spence, a finishing school for girls were they’d learn to curtsy, how to properly drink tea, how to properly talk to gentlemen and all that blah blah blah. In other words, they were thought to obey, not question and nothing more. There she learned those things among many others. Including gaining friends and learning her mother’s history (btw, her mom wasn’t who she really was). Her mother was actually a very powerful member of the Order, she was a priestess, er, witch – to which consisted of women only members. The Order however was protected by another powerful association which was a great league of men, the Rakshana but the Rakshana didn’t have powers like the Order did. The Rakshana were only trained in Physical combat unlike the Order who can make things happen just by thinking of it. Beyond that, what the Order protected was a place called the realms. It was a world where spirits and other creatures lurked. It’s a place where souls go to when they haven’t crossed over yet. – So that’s how the story began.

There are three books to the “secret life” of Gemma Doyle. The first one of course is “The Great and Terrible Beauty” – I so love the title Miss Bray! The second one is the “Rebel Angels” and the third one is the heartbreaking, heart mourning, Oh my god (how many times can I say it? And I literally said it out loud when I read the part) Kartik turned into a tree – “The Sweet Far Thing”. I was so sad and as shameless as it may sound, I felt that I did cry for days like Gemma did in the story when Kartik had gone into the tree. It’s very true that before we can see properly we must first shed our tears to clear the way but how come I still cannot accept the ending? I’m still terribly saddened by it. I even got to the point when I wanted to write a book four for it which would include Kartik being rescued out from the tree (*hint*hint Miss Bray). Well, until I realized that I’m writing another story and I have to finish it soon.

I’m not really that attracted to Indian men (no offense because when I was a child my mom used to scare me with stories that involved Indian men as being goons) but the story made me want to say that someday I will find my own Kartik. Someone who would be willing to sacrifice himself for me and turn into a tree so that I would remain to be a beautiful human. Wahahaha! That did not sound right.

Anyway, my favorite part of the story was in the third book when Gemma took Kartik to the Caves of Sighs and they saw each others dreams. Their dreams were identical, methinks. The dream consisted of an Indian wedding and their honeymoon. The wedding had a vivid description of how an Indian wedding should be. Not that I’ve really been in any Indian weddings but hey, it was beautiful. It made me want an Indian wedding for myself (now if only I could find a willing groom…).

Although the books consisted mostly of power and a love story plot at the side under the regime of the Victorian era, the books are recommended for thirteen and up, for the teenage crowd. It’s a great read for English Literature class and a different yield than the usual “Romeo and Juliet or Wuthering Heights” story. Sorry William Shakespeare and Emily Bronte but that’s just my opinion.

Ten out of ten stars for you Miss Libba Bray (I haven’t given ten stars to any review up until now, even when I did like the ending). By the way, the Preface for the first book, “A Great and Terrible Beauty” about the Lady of Shalott was great. It was what had me intrigued in the first place. I loved it. A salute to you!

Here is an excerpt from book three, The Sweet Far Thing:

Kartik takes a stick and digs in the soft, new soil. He’s making something but I cannot tell what it is yet. The clouds shift. Shafts of sunlight peek through, and now I can see what he has drawn. It is a symbol: two hands interlocked, surrounded by a perfect, unbroken circle. Love. The day is breaking free. It bathes everything in a fierce light. Kartik is fading from view.
No, I call. Come back.
I’m here, he says.
But I can’t see. It’s too bright.
You can’t hold back the light, Gemma. I’m here. Trust me.

Miss Libba Bray’s web address: http://www.libbabray.com

Akasha, wearing black and all miserable: “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll go back to my mourning for Kartik.”

~ by TM on August 5, 2009.

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