Wednesday, January 8, 2014

   Well, here it is–my second Libba Bray experience. Sadly, it was kind of a disappointment.

   I feel like it takes a certain type of author to be able to write a successful historical fiction novel, and Bray doesn't quite meet up to the standard. A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY is set in Victoria's England and centers around an unusually aggressive, Indian-born girl named Gemma Doyle who's sent to a finishing school after the mysterious death of her mother. 

   To me, this book felt kind of directionless. I had difficulty paying attention to the plot, and most of the characters felt either strongly overdone or completely flat to me. The romance that was being set up between the main character and random, mysterious ethnic boy Kartik felt incredibly forced and uncomfortable–more of a weird one-sided love/hate lust than anything.

   I have to admit that some parts of this book–the friendship forged between girls who were previously enemies and the creativity of the whole magical realms set up–were interesting enough to keep me going. The relationships between the four girls was pretty well done, going from terrible first impressions to awkward bromance to iron bonds of friendship. I always love finding female characters who start out with the stereotypical hair-ripping, eye-clawing nonsensical squabbling and then wind up finding great things in one another and blossoming into vaguely homoerotic friends. {Seriously, though, the whole 'all girls are enemies upon sight' thing really ought to stop. That can't be healthy.}

   Mm, but then we get into the world-building. I had to work my brain's gears way too hard to form even a vague shape of what Bray was trying to communicate–and I'm still not sure why. Was it me? Was I so out of it that my brain literally stopped functioning while I was reading this?–Or was it the book's inability to communicate visual descriptions, preferring to go along with confusing metaphors and vague sensory details instead, all while never really explaining what exactly was going on? Perhaps it was both. {It was probably both.} So, yeah, while I got the gist of it, and liked the bits that I got, the whole magical world conspiracy stuff was too jumbled to make much sense of. Clarity is my best friend, mostly because I'm a bit of a dunce, to be frank.

   Also, okay, just, what the hell was with the tone in this book? It kept alternating from really sophisticated, mood-fitting language that was all prim and proper and perfectly Victorian to what sounded painfully like any other modern girl. What do you want from me. 

   Also, I don't care how historically accurate it is, the amount of racism in this book against Gypsies and Indian people was ridiculous. Just. What.

   WELL SO YEAH this was kind-of-sort-of a huge disappointment. Not because it was completely god-awful, because obviously there's something worse out there, but because I had high expectations, and sadly, they were let down. And then sort of spit on by the creepy, unnecessary sex dreams Gemma kept having about a guy she should be all means hate.