Sunday, November 13, 2005

A Great & Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels, Libba Bray

I picked up an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of Rebel Angels at a Children's Rep night a week ago. It looked interesting. But I had to read the prequel A Great and Terrible Beauty first. So I picked it up on Tuesday. Read it by Wednesday morning. Then started Rebel Angels finishing it on Thursday. As you can tell from that, they are easy reads. They are considered Teen books and the writing is a little underdone, but not necessarily in a bad way.

The story is about a young woman in Victorian England at a girls' boarding school. She was sent there from India after her mother died mysteriously. Our heroine discovers she has seeing powers and eventually learns she can access another world called the Realms, a la Narnia but more sinister and a little more moldable. It is a place of great beauty, but also of intense magic and old rivalries contending with a force of evil trying to take control of the world and its magic. She makes friends in unlikely ways. The enemies aren't just in this other world, but every day at the finishing school which has, of course, rich snobbish pretty ladies from the upper upper upper crust of society.

While the story may seem a mish-mosh of Lewis-Tolkien-Forster-Austen, it works. Compelling, intriguing, imagery and staging that is effectively lovely and dark at the same time. The balance of time spent between the real world and the Realms is nicely laid out. The story is less about the other magical place than it is about a young girl trying to find her place in the world, trying to understand herself and the gifts which she has been given. The lessons laced throughout about girls, friendships, first loves, the struggle for power, the greed of the rich and successful, how to balance the expectations of society with your own desires; they are all there and are stitched in to the narrative so smoothly that at not time are you being preached at or being snowed on with sentimental drivel.

The two books could stand together on their own or there could happily be a third and either way, I am satisfied. However, once you read the first one you will find yourself unable to read anything else until you have also devoured the second. Definitely a book for the more literate or intellegent teen girl. Definitely for girls. But also a nice read for adults who want to get away from some of the darker realism we read these days in novels.

Reccommended for Romantics and Women With Over-Active Imaginations

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