Ah, Christmas! Gemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy, spending time with her friends in the city, attending ritzy balls, and on a somber note, tending to her ailing father. As she prepares to ring in the New Year, 1896, a handsome young man, Lord Denby, has set his sights on Gemma, or so it seems. Yet amidst the distractions of London, Gemma’s visions intensify–visions of three girls dressed in white, to whom something horrific has happened, something only the realms can explain. . . .
The lure is strong, and before long, Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are turning flowers into butterflies in the enchanted world of the realms that Gemma alone can bring them to. To the girls’ great joy, their beloved Pippa is there as well, eager to complete their circle of friendship.
But all is not well in the realms–or out. The mysterious Kartik has reappeared, telling Gemma she must find the Temple and bind the magic, else great disaster will befall her. Gemma’s willing to do his intrusive bidding, despite the dangers it brings, for it means she will meet up with her mother’s greatest friend–and now her foe, Circe. Until Circe is destroyed, Gemma cannot live out her destiny. But finding Circe proves a most perilous task.
So this book is pretty much the perfect holiday read.
Also, before I begin, a brief complaint: the quote on the cover. "Fans of the author's first novel will remain enthralled." I'm sorry, but who was dumb enough to make THAT the quote on the cover? This is a really fantastic book but all they can say is that if you liked A Great and Terrible Beauty, they'll like this? Sigh, Publishers. Sigh.
I really liked A Great and Terrible Beauty. It was something very different and intriguing and beautiful. But I feel like Rebel Angels takes it to a different level. A far more complex one, one with a plot that truly shines and characters that are as multi-faceted as real human beings.
This book is 548 pages long. It is a rather hefty novel. But I was never once bored, because there's always something interesting happening. The tricky thing about Libba Bray is that even when you THINK nothing is happening, it's always relevant. In this book, we get to explore much more of the realms and the creatures within them, and there is a much greater sense of urgency, because the plot is introduced early on. While the plot was complex and full of action, I think what really lent it its power was the twists Libba threw at us. I will say that I DID guess the huge twist, but it's not something that's overwhelmingly obvious. It was just a good guess. Libba Bray is excellent at throwing curve balls our way, and we don't even realize till they hit us that we should've seen them coming. One of my favorites was the one with Felicity. That was excellent.
The characters from A Great and Terrible Beauty were already complicated and flawed and real, but in Rebel Angels, they just become something . . . more. I ached for them. I loved them. I hated them. I grew annoyed with them. I wished for them. None of these characters are anything close to perfect and none of them should be, but they are beautiful and human and real. The scene where Gemma teaches Kartik how to dance had me smiling like an idiot. Also, um, Kartik? I liked him in AGTB, but now? LOVE. He has officially achieved fictional crush status.
I really love the closure Libba Bray gives these books. She doesn't leave off on a cruel cliffhanger just to force you into buying the next one. She closes them very introspectively and peacefully, so that you can set the book down and just smile. While this is obviously part of a trilogy, it has enough plot and closure to stand alone. And I think that's brilliant.
I am so afraid to read The Sweet Far Thing, guys. So, so afraid.