In this magnificent and mystical follow-up to A Great and Terrible Beauty, Gemma Doyle faces her biggest challenge yet, as she returns to the magical realms on a quest to find the Temple and bind the magic she released in her last adventure. Featuring complex and compelling characters and an intricately woven plot, this riveting fantasy is steeped in Victorian sensibility -- and filled with history, mystery, and spellbinding romance.
"Although Bray's follow-up to A Great and Terrible Beauty feels a bit like a bridge between the launch and the next installment in her series," said PW, "fans of the author's first novel will nonetheless remain enthralled." Ages 12-up. (Dec.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
In this, the author's companion to A Great and Terrible Beauty, the reader joins three girls, Gemma, Felicity, and Ann, at the Spence Academy for Young Ladies as the Christmas holiday season approaches. It immediately becomes apparent that these are not average young ladies of the late 1890s in England. While they might fit the mold of the prim and proper private-school girls, you quickly realize that they are carrying a hidden, dark secret. The girls travel to London for the Christmas holidays, where they are embroiled in the social events of the season, their families, and travel into the world of magic. Talk of "the Realm" and "the Order," "the Eastern Star" and "the Rakshana" fills their conversations. Gemma, knowing that her mother died as a result of her own work for the Order, has visions of three young ladies in white who call to her to follow them into the Realm. Along with Felicity and Ann, she is able to visit the realm to search for the Temple, that is "rumored to be the source of all power in the realms", where they believe they will "bind the magic" to re-establish the Order as the ruler of the realms. Danger lurks in every corner because they do not know who they can trust, in both the real world and the world of magic. The Rakshana, a new teacher at their school, Kartik, a young man from India, whose brother died along with Gemma's mother when the "Runes of the Oracle" were destroyed, are all there to help or hinder the search. Filled with darkness and fear, the story also tells of friendship and love, reliance and rebellion. Every family has its secrets and those in this story are no different, but also very different. This novel has enough mystery and excitementto thrill the most critical readers. 2005, Delacorte Press, Ages 12 up.
Children's Literature - Mary Jo Edwards
In book II of Bray's trilogy, which takes place two months after the events in book I, sixteen-year-old Gemma and her Spence Academy friends Felicity and Ann travel to London to celebrate Christmas. Kartik, a Rakshana novitiate, is back. His mission is to persuade Gemma to locate the Temple and bind the magic in the realms, and then kill her. Gemma's foe, Circe, is also trying to assume control of the power by finding the Temple. Meanwhile, Gemma's feelings are torn between Kartik and an aristocrat named Simon Middleton. Gemma also deals with her father's addiction and Felicity's history of incest. Gemma finally discovers Circe's identity and a battle for the magical power ensues. Set in 1895 England, this tale is aptly narrated by British voice actor Josephine Bailey. Fans of the fantasy genre will enjoy this suspenseful unabridged audio book. Although it is lengthyfourteen hours on twelve compact discsthis title will hold the young adult listener's attention. The story is fast-paced with a few exceptions. Even though Bray's story occurs in 1895, today's adolescents will relate to its issuesdating, molestation, addiction, self-doubt, inner strength, and friendship. Before listening to this recording, it is beneficial, but not imperative, to read the print version or listen to the audio version of book I. Look for the release of book III in the fall of 2007.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-The sequel (Delacorte, 2005) to Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty (Delacorte, 2003; Listening Library, 2004) takes up 17-year-old Gemma Doyle's adventures above ground, in Victorian London, and below in the magical Realms, just days after the first book ended. Narrator Josephine Bailey remains consistent and inspired in the range of accents and tones she provides for Gemma, her posh friend Felicity, their whiney classmate Ann, the mysterious and sensual Indian youth Kartik, and the newly introduced characters that include a suspicious new teacher and a patient at London's famous Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam). Those unfamiliar with the prequel to the current adventures may find themselves a bit lost at the outset, but the flurry of immediate events will soon catch them up as Gemma works feverishly to understand how she can bind the magic running loose in the Realms, whether Kartik is her ally or her deadly opponent, and if her father's moodiness is an expression of the continuing grief at her mother's death or an opiate habit. Added to these Gothic matters is the fact that Gemma must come to terms with her feelings for the young man who pays her court during the Christmas holidays she's spending away from finishing school and in her grandmother's house. Bray realizes the time period not only in her skillfully embedded descriptions of sounds, textures, and smells, but also by evoking the social framework within which Gemma must move, at least while above ground. The Realms, on the other hand, include both other worldly beauty and ghastliness, befitting of hallucinations. Gemma proves her strength and her charity in both arenas.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
What beastly luck. When Victorian schoolgirl Gemma Doyle smashed the magical realms' runes two months ago (A Great and Terrible Beauty, 2003), she thought she was destroying evil. Instead, she unbound the magic and made it available to any malevolent force. In London for the Christmas holidays, Gemma must bind the power before disaster falls-but bind for whom? The all-female Order, which allowed corruption to enter the realms in the first place? The male secret society of the Rakshana, which wants Gemma dead? Betrayal is in the air, and the backstabbing distrust of London, where any girl or woman might be the evil Circe in disguise, is a far cry from the budding homoeroticism of Gemma's earlier adventure. To make matters worse, Gemma's father has become an opium eater, her erstwhile lover Kartik might be planning her death and her only clues to Circe's identity come from a Bedlamite. While the characters and setting lack the lush richness and depth that made the first volume appealing, Gemma's shivery adventures, lacking easy answers, make for an exciting mystical quest. (Fantasy. YA)
Read an Excerpt
Spence Academy for Young Ladies
The very mention of the holiday conjures such precious, sentimental memories for most: a tall evergreen tree hung with tinsel and glass; gaily wrapped presents strewn about; a roaring fire and glasses filled with cheer; carolers grouped round the door, their jaunty hats catching the snow as it falls; a nice fat goose resting upon a platter, surrounded by apples. And of course, fig pudding for dessert.
Right. Jolly good. I should like to see that very much.
These images of Christmas cheer are miles away from where I sit now, at the Spence Academy for Young Ladies, forced to construct a drummer boy ornament using only tinfoil, cotton, and a small bit of string, as if performing some diabolical experiment in cadaver regeneration. Mary Shelley's monster could not be half so frightening as this ridiculous thing. The figure will not remind a soul of Christmas happiness. More likely, it will reduce children to tears.
"This is impossible," I grumble. I elicit no pity from any quarter. Even Felicity and Ann, my two dearest friends, which is to say my only friends here, will not come to my aid. Ann is determined to turn wet sugar and small bits of kindling into an exact replica of the Christ child in a manger. She seems to take no notice of anything beyond her own two hands. For her part, Felicity turns her cool gray eyes to me as if to say, Suffer. I am.
No, instead, it is the beastly Cecily Temple who answers me. Dear, dear Cecily, or as I affectionately refer to her in the privacy of my mind, She Who Inflicts Misery Simply by Breathing.
"I cannot fathom what is giving you such trouble, Miss Doyle. Really, it is the simplest thing in the world. Look, I've done four already." She holds out her four perfect tinfoil boys for inspection. There is a round of oohing and aahing over their beautifully shaped arms, the tiny woolen scarves--knit by Cecily's capable hands, but of course--and those delicate licorice smiles that make them seem overjoyed to be hanging by the neck from a Christmas tree.
Two weeks until Christmas and my mood blackens by the hour. The tinfoil boy seems to be begging me to shoot him. Compelled by a force larger than myself, I cannot seem to keep from placing the crippled ornament boy on the side table and performing a little show. I move the ugly thing, forcing him to drag his useless leg like Mr. Dickens's treacly Tiny Tim.
"God bless us, every one," I warble in a pathetic, high-pitched voice.
This is greeted by horrified silence. Every eye is averted. Even Felicity, who is not known as the soul of decorum, seems cowed. Behind me, there is the familiar sound of a throat being cleared in grand disapproval. I turn to see Mrs. Nightwing, Spence's frosty headmistress, staring down at me as if I were a leper. Blast.
"Miss Doyle, do you suppose that to be humorous? Making light of the very real pain of London's unfortunates?"
"I--I . . . why . . ."
Mrs. Nightwing peers at me over her spectacles. Her graying pouf of hair is like a nimbus warning of the storm to come.
"Perhaps, Miss Doyle, if you were to spend time in service to the poor, wrapping bandages as I once did in my own youth during the Crimean War, you would acquire a healthy and much-needed dose of sympathy."
"Y-yes, Mrs. Nightwing. I don't know how I could have been so unkind," I blabber.
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Felicity and Ann hunched over their ornaments as if they were fascinating relics from an archeological dig. I note that their shoulders are trembling, and I realize that they are fighting laughter over my terrible plight. There's friendship for you.
"For this you shall lose ten good conduct marks and I shall expect you to perform an act of charity during the holiday as penance."
"Yes, Mrs. Nightwing."
"You shall write a full account of this charitable act and tell me how it has enriched your character."
"Yes, Mrs. Nightwing."
"And that ornament needs much work."
"Yes, Mrs. Nightwing."
"Have you any questions?"
"Yes, Mrs. Nightwing. I meant, no, Mrs. Nightwing. Thank you."
An act of charity? Over the holiday? Would enduring time with my brother, Thomas, count toward that end? Blast. I've done it now.
"Mrs. Nightwing?" The sheer sound of Cecily's voice could make me froth at the mouth. "I hope these are satisfactory. I do so want to be of service to the unfortunate."
It's possible that I shall lose consciousness from holding back a very loud Ha! at this. Cecily, who never misses an opportunity to tease Ann about her scholarship status, wants nothing to do with the poor. What she does want is to be Mrs. Nightwing's lapdog.
Mrs. Nightwing holds Cecily's perfect ornaments up to the light for inspection. "These are exemplary, Miss Temple. I commend you."
Cecily gives a very smug smile. "Thank you, Mrs. Nightwing."
With a heavy sigh, I take apart my pathetic ornament and begin again. My eyes burn and blur. I rub them but it does no good. What I need is sleep, but sleep is the very thing I fear. For weeks, I've been haunted by wicked warnings of dreams. I cannot remember much when I awaken, only snatches here and there. A sky roiling with red and gray. A painted flower dripping tears of blood. Strange forests of light. My face, grave and questioning, reflected in water. But the images that stay with me are of her, beautiful and sad.
"Why did you leave me here?" she cries, and I cannot answer. "I want to come back. I want us to be together again." I break away and run, but her cry finds me. "It's your fault, Gemma! You left me here! You left me!"
That is all I remember when I wake each morning before dawn, gasping and covered in perspiration, more tired than when I went to bed. They are only dreams. Then why do they leave me feeling so troubled?
From the Hardcover edition.