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Books 149-150: Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

This completes my reading for 2010 and I completed the 150 books that I hoped I would.

Book 149: Rebel Angels (Gemma Doyle 02).
Author: Libba Bray, 2005.
Genre: YA. Historical Fiction. Fantasy. Coming of Age.
Other Details: Paperback. 548 pages.

Christmas is fast approaching and Gemma Doyle is looking forward to getting away from Spence Academy to spend time in London with her friends. However, she is having disturbing new visions involving three girls dressed in white that suggests something terrible happened to them. There is also a new teacher at Spence, who appears to have secrets of her own. The mysterious Kartik reappears and advises Gemma that she needs to enter the Realms and locate a hidden Temple and there bind the magic.

I really loved that the major part of the novel took place in Victorian London amid the swirl of the Christmas season and Bray did an excellent job of with portraying the girl's need to slip away from the watchful eyes of their families and chaperones in order to investigate certain mysteries and make their clandestine forays into the magical Realms.

I had a few niggles about historical details and some attitudes seeming a bit too modern, yet they were minor only. Easy to overlook when a series of books is this good. As hoped quite a few of the questions I had while reading A Great and Terrible Beauty were addressed here and the ground laid for the finale.

Libba Bray's 'Rebel Angels' page - with links to map of the London of 'Rebel Angels' and sample chapter.

Book 150: The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle 03).
Author: Libba Bay, 2007.
Genre: YA. Historical Fiction. Fantasy. Coming of Age.
Other Details: Paperback. 832 pages.

It has been a year of change for Gemma Doyle since her mother's death and her return to England from India. Now preparing for her official London début she also faces new trials and challenges. I can't really say too much about the plot beyond this as it would reveal too much about events that have taken place in the first two novels.

Again Bray moves between the Realms, the hot house atmosphere of Spence Academy and fin-de-siècle London. The theme of women's roles in late Victorian society is also explored as it is made clear that Gemma and her friends may be powerful within the Realms but they are still restricted by the society of their day.

I just finished this novel today and feel that Bray did a magnificent job of drawing together the various threads to create a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Gemma Doyle may have inherited great magical power but she is a well-rounded character, who makes plenty of mistakes and quite importantly learns by them. I really loved her narrative voice. It is rare that a book makes me cry but the closing chapters of this one did.

Libba Bray's 'The Sweet Far Thing' page - with links to a map of Spence and sample chapter.
Tags: bildungsroman/coming of age, fantasy, historical fiction, young adult
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