Greatly Terrible, Terribly Great

Good writers know that it’s not the story you tell, but how you tell the story.

There’s really nothing new in “A Great and Terrible Beauty” — the first book in Libba Bray’s “Gemma Doyle” trilogy. A girl discovers that she is the chosen one with supernatural powers she can barely control and an antagonist who seeks to destroy the world.

Really not very original.

But this doesn’t take anything away from the story itself.

Libba Bray may have faults in her tone and style, but to get technical is to lose the beauty of the book.

The characters come alive after a rather dreary introduction, becoming flesh and bone before the reader’s very eyes. I half suspect Bray herself lost control over the characters halfway into writing the novel. Infuriating, loveable, charming, awful — the characters are contradictions in themselves, each one fully honest and human.

I hate to say this, but “A Great and Terrible Beauty” actually succeeds where “Hunger Games” failed. I have little love for Katniss, but Bray’s protagonist Gemma Doyle has me tripping head over heels.

She’s vulnerable, feisty, stupid, clever, angry, pitiful, lovelorn, abandoned — she’s human.

She’s completely imperfect, which makes her perfectly lovable.

I’m excited to read the rest of the series.

PS: Libba Bray, when you write about Kartik’s kiss tasting of cinnamon, you get me hot and hungry at the same time. Tsk. Mmm… cinnamon.


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