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A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

The Gemma Doyle Trilogy is my absolute favorite set of young adult science fiction mystery novels. In a very dark time in my life, I picked up the first novel – A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray -  and it rekindled my inspiration for reading and allowed me a fantastical escape into a beautifully crafted world unlike any I had seen before.

Our story begins in Bombay, India in 1895 with a naïve, youthful Gemma Doyle who runs off from her mother in the marketplace, not knowing it would be the last time she would see her alive. Before she knows it, she is shipped off to a ladies' boarding school – Spence Academy – in London; it was the one place Gemma wanted to go for her entire life, and the one place that her mother ran to India from. Lonely and guilt-ridden, Gemma unknowingly taps into her dark prophetic visions with no one to trust. All at the same time, she must catch up on years of knowledge on curtsies, table manners, and English societal norms, and struggle in her entanglements with Felicity, Pippa, and Ann, both members of Spence's most powerful clique and outcasts from everyone else.

Any in-between time is spent trying to unravel a plethora of mysteries: how her mother really died, what her visions mean and why she experiences them, how she feels about the secretive boy from India - a protector from the Rakshana who followed her to England with the gypsies, and the meaning behind the scandalous diary of one Mary Dowd – a previous student at Spence Academy, a witness to a catastrophic fire scarring the premises, and apparent member of the Order, a group of magic wielding women whom guard our world from an amazing and terrifying realm beyond. "Secrets haunt the halls at Spence, with its mysterious burned-out East Wing, and after a diary lands in Gemma's hands, it leads her to a world she cannot fathom - one where her destiny waits, if only she is brave enough to face it."

Even after having read and re-read and re-read again over the course of nearly ten years since the first time in middle school, I still dream of the dark, sensual, supernatural wonderment that is The Gemma Doyle Trilogy.

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