Series Review: Gemma Doyle by Libby Bray

Series: Gemma Doyle Trilogy; Great and Terrible Beauty Series
Author: Libby Bray
# of Books: 3 (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historic, Romance, Fantasy, Suspense
Heat Rating: cool


I picked up this book based on the recommendations of the girls that shared the same spare period-class as me in high school. They loved this series and when they were describing it to me it seemed right up my alley. Victorian setting–check. Suspenseful plot–check. Romance–check. A series that had all the books released and in our high school library–double check. And so, I picked up A Great and Terrible Beauty and dove in.

While it took me a while to get accustomed to a “Victorian” setting, I easily jumped into the story and its plot. The first book especially was so refreshing for me to read. It was like nothing I had ever read and I enjoyed Gemma’s adventure to her new boarding school. Sure, there are a few “cliché” things for the time but the fantasy aspects of the plot were what really captured my attention. Add to it an interesting romantic lead for Gemma and I was hooked.

Hot off the heels of A Great and Terrible Beauty, I picked up Rebel Angels. For some reason I just really loved it–while my friends did not like it as much as me. I think it had mostly to do with the introduction of a second love interest for Gemma who I seemed to really like and no one else did. And if you asked me now why I felt that way, I won’t be able to answer. I honestly can’t remember what happened plot-wise but I liked the darker feel this book had to it and the revealing of the mystery.

I borrowed a copy of A Far Sweet Thing from a friend and it took me a few weeks to return it–unfinished. I just couldn’t get into the story for the life of me. I found it hard to keep the fantasy aspects all in check and I was getting frustrated with the characters. Talk about the prime example for annoying, selfish, whinny little teen girls. They were the poster children for annoying female leads. I also didn’t like the direction the plot and the rest of the story were going in. My friends told me what happened in the rest of the book and I think it’s a good thing I quit reading because I wouldn’t have enjoyed how everything went down. Wikipedia filled in some of the other blanks as well and I am still of the opinion I wouldn’t have liked the ending if I had finished it.


I probably will never finish the series by reading the last book. I’ve definitely moved past that type of Young Adult novel in my current reading preferences (this book is probably the reason why when I think back on it) and I would get even more frustrated with the whole thing now. It was a strong series–at the start–and it is definitely unique; but I’m not going out of my way to recommend it to anyone when someone asks me a good trilogy series to read.

Rating: 3.5/5 (and it’s really only that high because I enjoyed the first two books)

Similar Reads: The Luxe by Anna Godbersen (The Luxe #1) and Evermore by Alyson Noel (Immortals #1)

Synopsis for A Great and Terrible Beauty (from Goodreads):
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.

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