The Sweet Far Thing
by Libba Bray
It has been a year of change since Gemma Doyle arrived at the foreboding Spence Academy. Her mother murdered, her father a laudanum addict, Gemma has relied on an unsuspected strength and has discovered an ability to travel to an enchanted world called the realms, where dark magic runs wild. Despite certain peril, Gemma has bound the magic to herself and forged unlikely new alliances. Now, as Gemma approaches her London debut, the time has come to test these bonds.
The Order – the mysterious group her mother was once part of – is grappling for control of the realms, as is the Rakshana. Spence’s burned East Wing is being rebuilt, but why now? Gemma and her friends see Pippa, but she is not the same. And their friendship faces its gravest trial as Gemma must decide once and for all what role she is meant for.
Whoa. Longest of the three books by far, but definitely the most fast-paced. My heart was racing throughout and I was hard pressed to put it down. Finished it in two days, because I just had to know how it ended.
The stakes keep getting higher and higher, and considering how the first book ends, higher stakes means not everyone gets a happy ending. But it was worth it. The end leaves you feeling hopeful, which I suppose is what the author sets out to do. In a society where woman are not given so much agency or power over their own lives, a handful fight and find a way to break away. And it reflects today’s society too, because people may say we have control, but while we have more control than our Victorian counterparts, by and large, situations like these where others control our fates do exist. Empower yourself, is the statement. The only person in control is you, is the statement. You will fall and stumble, but you pick yourself up again, is the statement. Do your best, is the statement.
Gemma does keep making mistakes, largely in part because she does not have all the information, but once she does, she makes a decisive move. The one that she thinks is best for everyone and not just herself. Obviously there are moments where she makes selfish decisions, or chooses to keep things to herself, but then she is still young and naive. And she is scared. She does not know who to trust, and she feels like she cannot trust herself. It is wonderful to see her evolve into someone people can follow.
Oh dear, Pippa. Lost too young, and scared, and wanting nothing more than to go back to a place forever out of reach. Her arc is terrible and heart wrenching. But it works for what we do know of her character. It has always been about power, in a way. Those who do not have it, crave it. Those who have it are divided – some crave more, some do not want it at all, and some are scared of it but want no one else to have it.
Felicity finally gets free, which is great for her. I will admit, there have been many times in the series where I thought she would desire power over everything else, but no, she desires freedom for herself, and I love that she defied my expectations of her character. Truth be told, I expected her to go down Pippa’s path.
Ann takes control of her life after a few stumbles. For some reason I have loved her character from the beginning. Perhaps because she is so sad and lonely that I wanted to be her friend. I love that she fights, in the end, for her own happy ending. It takes her a while, but she does it, and while magic gets her a foot in the door, it is her own talent that secures her fate. The magic bolsters her courage in the first step, but it is without magic that she sustains that strength.
None of their endings have to do with men, each of them sustain heartbreak in their own way, but all three girls have happiness and freedom and the idea of more. It is a wonderful end to a wonderful series.