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A Great and Terrible Beauty


A Great and Terrible Beauty

Author: Libba Bray

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult


"A Great and Terrible Beauty" is the first book in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, set in the late 19th century. The story revolves around Gemma Doyle, a young girl who, after the mysterious death of her mother in India, is sent back to England to attend a boarding school called Spence Academy. Gemma's transition to her new life is fraught with the challenges of fitting into Victorian society and dealing with the strictures placed on women of that era.

As Gemma settles into her new environment, she discovers that she has supernatural powers that allow her to enter a magical realm called the Realms. She becomes entangled with three other girls at Spence—Felicity, Pippa, and Ann—forming a secret group that explores these powers and the Realms. Together, they navigate the complexities of their desires, ambitions, and societal expectations.

The novel explores themes of female empowerment, friendship, and the struggle for autonomy against the backdrop of a rigidly structured society. Gemma and her friends must confront not only the dark forces that lurk within the Realms but also the secrets and lies that permeate their own lives and the history of Spence Academy.

As the girls delve deeper into the mysteries of the Realms and their own powers, they are faced with moral dilemmas and the realization that their actions have far-reaching consequences. The book culminates in a series of tragic and transformative events that forever change the course of Gemma's life and set the stage for the next books in the series.


  • Empowerment and Independence: The novel focuses on the journey of its female characters toward self-discovery and empowerment in a society that seeks to confine them.
  • Friendship and Loyalty: The complex relationships among the four girls highlight the importance of loyalty, trust, and the power of friendship to overcome adversity.
  • Magic and Mystery: The use of magic serves as a metaphor for the characters' inner strengths and desires, as well as the dual nature of beauty and danger.


"A Great and Terrible Beauty" has been praised for its rich historical setting, complex characters, and the incorporation of feminist themes. It appeals to a wide audience, including fans of historical fiction, fantasy, and young adult literature.