A Great and Terrible Beauty

A Great and Terrible Beauty  - Libba Bray I don't think it's possible for me to do this book justice in a review, but I'll try anyway.

This is such a wonderfully enthralling book. I have read this book either 3 or 4 times now, and I never tire of the story. It almost immediately sucks me in, painting vivid pictures of the scenes in my imagination. I find I can hardly put the book down once I begin reading because I have to know what will happen next.

In short, this is the story of one special young woman and her three close friends, fighting against what is expected of them in the late 19th century English society. They're struggling to take charge of their own lives and destinies. They experience magic in a place called "the realms" where anything is possible, and they desperately want and try to take the magic with them back into their normal lives to take control of their own lives. But, with the power comes the struggle to not abuse it and to keep their intentions good and pure, lest they be corrupted a dark force that wants the power for itself.

This story is one of my all-time favorites, and I highly recommend it for fans of historical fantasy. I first read it about 10 years ago, and I still haven't encountered anything else quite like it. Libba Bray has crafted a beautiful story of friendship, magic, and the trials of young women in Victorian England. This book is rich with sassy characters, humor, and hope that we can (even under unfavorable circumstances) break the mold and follow our own paths in life, making our own choices. A Great and Terrible Beauty is easily one of the most quotable books I have ever read, and I have a huge stash of sticky notes to prove it.

The fantasy elements in this story are a bit mild. It's definitely there, of course, but it doesn't take up very much of the book. This story was definitely more focused on introducing us to the characters, their every day lives, a bit of backtory, and otherwise "setting the stage." However, the parts concerning The Realms were intriguing and refreshing, and very well written. I always feel as though I'm there with Felcity, Gemma, Pippa, and Ann, enjoying the magic with them.

I love Gemma so much, even when she isn't being particularly nice. I think she's funny and intelligent, stubborn and brave, and mostly just trying to make the best of her situation. In this book, Felicity is wonderful and horrible. I've always had a love/hate thing for her because she can be smart and amusing, but she can also be quite cruel. I tend to feel a bit sorry for Ann because of her circumstances, but there are times when I really like her. Usually I think of her as being the most sheep-like of the main characters, though, and that makes me dislike her. I understand why she would be that way (she wants people to want her and care for her), but it's a little sad to see her just going along with what she thinks will make others like her more. Pippa...Poor, poor Pippa. Honestly, she's probably the most annoying of the foursome, but I feel terrible for her and love her anyway. She's had a rough life, and being such a romantic at heart has not helped her at all. I wish she had more of a fighting spirit.

I can't even find words to describe how much I adore this book (and the entire trilogy), and I recommend it any chance I get.