by Libba Bray
Ah, Christmas! Gemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy, spending time with her friends in the city, attending ritzy balls, and on a somber note, tending to her ailing father. As she prepares to ring in the New Year, 1896, a handsome young man, Lord Denby, has set his sights on Gemma, or so it seems. Yet amidst the distractions of London, Gemma’s visions intensify–visions of three girls dressed in white, to whom something horrific has happened, something only the realms can explain…
The lure is strong, and before long, Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are turning flowers into butterflies in the enchanted world of the realms that Gemma alone can bring them to. To the girls’ great joy, their beloved Pippa is there as well, eager to complete their circle of friendship.
But all is not well in the realms–or out. The mysterious Kartik has reappeared, telling Gemma she must find the Temple and bind the magic, else great disaster will befall her. Gemma’s willing to do his intrusive bidding, despite the dangers it brings, for it means she will meet up with her mother’s greatest friend–and now her foe, Circe. Until Circe is destroyed, Gemma cannot live out her destiny. But finding Circe proves a most perilous task.
So what can I say about this book but that it is intense. So intense. I love it. Every page.
The girls have all grown and changed, and continue to grow and change. Things get darker. So much darker.
Gemma still makes mistakes. It’s one of my favourite things about her. That she is prone to quick decisions or waffling, things that might go wrong. But her heart is in the right place. She is unsure of her own place and her own power. In trying to make her friends’ and family’s lives better, she is trying to wrest the control she doesn’t feel over her own life back. Everything is just spiralling – but I love that by the end she pulls herself together to do what she must. She keeps doing that, even in her moments of extreme doubt and fear. She is strong, she just doesn’t see it.
Not going to lie, though, at times I want to smack Felicity for how much she parallels Sarah/Circe. She resents Gemma a bit for her power, but she is also loyal and strong. And learning her history just makes me so sad. No wonder she wants to feel powerful, to have control over her life. It is so sad. I want so badly for her friendships with Gemma and Ann to help her heal, as the learning to defend herself obviously does.
I feel bad for Ann. Her lot in life never gets better, but I love that there are moments when defiance does spark in her. Those are my favourite moments. She is better than the hoity-toity society she wishes to be a part of by far. The tiny spark of this can be seen when she gives Felicity’s cloak to Franny, or when she is magnanimous with Cecily. And she is not after power, she just desires more than her life.
Pippa. Pippa, Pippa, Pippa. I was shocked, to say the least, dismayed, but – as much as I hated it, there are hints throughout the novel that things were different with her. I just hoped they had not been that different.
It took me a while to realise the Miss Moore and Miss McCleethy twists, and when I did I wanted to reach into the novel and just tell Gemma to be careful! Be careful with your trust and your heart, be it with the teachers or with the men.
Such a good novel. I cannot wait to see how Gemma goes on from here in her battle with the Order and the Rakshana.