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