The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray

In the late 1800s, Gemma Doyle is a 16 year old English girl who has lived with her family in India all her life. She longs to go to school near London where she can participate in the glamour and revelry associated with her coming of age in society. Although her parents have always insisted in keeping Gemma away from London culture, a terrible twist of fate finds Gemma enrolled in Spence Acadamy, an English school for girls.

As Gemma settles in and begins making friends, she discovers there is a secret history to Spence involving a mystical and powerful Order of women. Gemma also soon realizes that she has powers of her own which she cannot completely control. Gemma struggles to understand them and to uncover the mysteries of the past involving Spence, the Order and her mother.

The story in the Gemma Doyle trilogy is imaginative and captivating, but what I really enjoyed, and what I feel the real strength of these books are, is the detail in which the author, Libba Bray, illustrates Victorian London society and the role women play within it. The second book especially, which takes place during Christmastime in London, is so rich with Victorian culture that it’s easy to get swept up into the thrill of holiday balls, shopping, teas, hopeful debutantes and courting propriety. Woven throughout is Bray’s macabre mystery, a dollop of romance and a strong feminist message: Gemma struggles with the societal expectation that she fashion herself into a suitable wife as well as the pull of the independent, dangerous nature of the women of the Order.

The Gemma Doyle Trilogy:

A Great and Terrible Beauty

Rebel Angels

The Sweet Far Thing

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve read the first two books and thought they were fascinating. The stories are very complex, with one story line taking place in Victorian England and the other taking place in what you might call an alternative reality. It really makes me sympathize how hard it must have been to be female in the Victorian era, if you weren’t happy with the status quo. Had I lived then, I think I would have been like Gemma, chafing at the expectations that don’t really make sense!

    I also sympathize with the main character because in my own life, I have a magical place called Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary http://www.4QF.org where people are accepted for who they authentically are. Then I have to come back to muggle life, where the pressures to conform are so much higher. I stand in line at the rest stop and wait in a line of women, while the men’s bathroom is empty. Why is it divided into two rooms? Is it left over from childhood, worrying about boy cooties? Why do we take off one set of clothes to put on another set of clothes to get in the water? Gemma wonders why does she have to wear the corset that makes her feel faint?

    I guess this is a good book for anyone who wonders how things could be different. – Robin

  2. I LOVE THE GEMMA DOYLE SERIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m a kid so you would speak and i love them and i own the thrird book and want to get the other 2. the messages are powerful and about 15 mins ago i found out that there is a movie and im sicked!!! can’t wait to see it!!!!
    -Hannah

  3. I have read many books like this the hunger games, gracleing, and many other good story’s but this one was extraordinary i have no idea how she wrote it all but i really hope that the author Libba Bray will wright a forth for i need to read on. I have felt fear, romance, sadness, and excitement in this book and yet i am only twelve very mature though and i still did cry for the last part of THE SWEET FAR THING which was really up setting because im an emotional person and books are my only comfort usually so i held on to each and every word like it was my life written out on paper. i highly recommend this book to people 10 and older to read i cant say theres a book ever any better than this one and i cant wait to see the movies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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