In this sequel to the Victorian fantasy A Great and Terrible Beauty
, Gemma continues to pursue her role as the one destined to bind the magic of the Realms and restore it to the Order--a mysterious group who have been overthrown by a rebellion. Gemma, Felicity and Ann, (her girlfriends at Spence Academy for Young Ladies), use magical power to transport themselves on visits from their corseted world to the visionary country of the Realms, with its strange beauty and menace. There they search for the lost Temple, the key to Gemma's mission, and comfort Pippa, their friend who has been left behind in the Realms. After these visits they bring back magical power for a short time to use in their own world. Meanwhile, Gemma is torn between her attraction to the exotic Kartik, the messenger from the opposing forces of the Rakshana, and the handsome but clueless Simon, a young man of good family who is courting her. The complicated plot thickens when Gemma discovers a woman in Bedlam madhouse who knows where to find the Temple; Ann shows signs of being enamored of Gemma's loutish brother Tom, and their father's addiction to laudanum lands him in an opium den. A large part of the enjoyment of this unusual fantasy comes from the Victorian milieu and its restrictive rules about the behavior of proper young ladies, as contrasted with the unimaginable possibilities of the Realms, where Gemma has power to confront gorgons and ghosts and the responsibility to save a world. (Ages 12 and up) --Patty Campbell
From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up–At the end of A Great and Terrible Beauty
(Delacorte, 2003), Gemma Doyle was determined to rebuild the Order and find and destroy Circe. Now the teen finds that she must do one more thing–find the Temple and bind the magic she released into the realms when she destroyed the runes. Her task will not be easy; Kartik and the Rakshana have their own plans, which threaten her; a mysterious new teacher may be Circe; and Christmas in London challenges the careful facades that Gemma and her friends Ann and Felicity have built. Dark things are stirring within the realms, including a possibly corrupted Pippa, and the only guides are Gemma's horrifying visions of three girls and the gibberish of a girl confined to Bedlam. Like the first volume, this is a remarkable fantasy steeped in Victorian sensibility; even as the girls fight to bind the magic, they are seduced by London society and the temptation to be proper young ladies. Gemma and her friends are pitch perfect as young women in a world poised for change, uncertain of their places. In many ways, this volume surpasses the first. The writing never falters, and the revelations (such as Felicity's childhood of abuse, discreetly revealed) only strengthen the characters. Clever foreshadowing abounds, and clues to the mystery of Circe may have readers thinking they have figured everything out; they will still be surprised. This volume does not stand alone; however, any collection that doesn't already have the first should just get both volumes.–Karyn N. Silverman, Elizabeth Irwin High School, New York City
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