Pros: The book blurb was enough for me to choose this one above all the others in the book shop. I am a huge Victorian Gothic ficiton aficionado and I was more than happy to find this one. A Great and Terrible Beauty commences with a lot of intrigue and a lot of action. Set in Victorian India and London, readers are immediately thrown into hair-raising occurrences that promises more as the story unfolds. Gemma’s character comes across as a haughty teenager who could be any teenage girl of today’s world. However, she is not and therefore, is a kind of a misfit in the society which only breeds “proper” ladies. Her redeeming qualities are her strength of character and the no-nonsense attitude which is perhaps a bit too liberated for girls of the Victorian age.
Cons: In the chapters that follow, the story stretches on without much happening. The intrigue that was built in the initial part of the story fizzles out when Gemma is not able to fathom the true nature of her gift entirely. The male characters lacks voice and Karthik although meant to provide a character foil to Gemma, does much less than he can actually do. He appears out of nowhere and the readers are not quite enlightened on how he managed to travel to London from India and that if he risked all he had, in order to travel to London following Gemma, why would he maintain such a distance from her? Gemma’s and Karthik’s relationship takes a shriveling effect even before it can blossom. For the first book in the Gemma Doyle trilogy, certain aspects of their relationship could have been explored much more.
Verdict: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. A Great and Terrible Beauty most definitely deserves to be read. With the author’s superfluous and suggestive writing style, the readers shall not go disappointed at any rate. It shows that Bray is well acquainted to what was fashionable and not, during the Victorian era and that itself is a major strength of the novel. At an age where women were merely instruments of pleasure, of keeping their home and hearth warm for their men, and at an age where she was most appreciated when she was very courteous and excelled in domestic virtues, these brazen strong independent characters of women strike the readers as unique. The setting of the novel itself provides for a charming bedside reading atmosphere. The atmosphere of chill and shadowy existence lurking behind the curtains within the ruinous facade of Spence Academy provides an interesting Young Adult Victorian Gothic Treat.