The reader enters A Great and Terrible Beauty in 19th century India with Gemma and her mother where Gemma foresees her mother’s death in a way she cannot yet begin to understand. She is then sent back to her homeland, England, which she has never seen before to go to a school for young ladies called Spence Academy. Through many different trials and tribulations, she eventually forms an unlikely friendship group with three girls, two pretty and popular, one her room-mate, a poor girl at the school on a scholarship, ridiculed by the other girls.
In the first book, Gemma discovers she can enter the secret world of the realms, a mysterious place, and finds the diary of Mary Dowd, a girl who used to be at Spence who had this same strange ability as Gemma. Throughout this book and the other two, they continue to enter the realms, discovering new people, some good, some evil.
I’m not good at giving reviews without giving away the plot, but they are really fascinating books that include both the fantasy world of the realms, a beautiful place to begin with, and the real world of girls in a Victorian boarding school leading up to their debut into society. They are not normal girls however, and they are reluctant to follow normal conventions in the real world once they have entered the realms and been able to do what they really want. It also includes one underlying romance (or maybe more?!) and many twists and turns along the way. You’re never quite sure who you can really trust in it, and at some points if the narrator herself, Gemma, can really be trusted with the task she has been given.
The books are aimed at teens to young adults I believe, but I’m pretty sure some adults might like them too (am I an adult now?!). They might sometimes be a bit out there with the whole fantasy world, but that’s the sort of thing I like, a mixture of real and surreal. I’d really recommend them to anyone who likes that sort of thing.
If any of you have read these books, let me know your opinions of them too =)