Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bookshelf Addition: Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Confession: I love YA Fiction.  I live for the worlds authors create.  And I work in an academic library.  Ha.

I actually have read a couple books that I forgot to blog about, or perhaps I just was lazy, since the books I have read recently are anthology collections of short works of fiction originally published in literary magazines or by small independent publishing houses in collections of short fiction by various artists.  How's that for a run on sentence?  And Word isn't going to yell at me about it, because I use commas like a champ.

Anyway, I took a collective work of Charles de Lint to Indiana with me, as I was on the last of the stories and figured another hour would be all I needed to finish the work.  Then I remembered I get terrible motion sickness if I read in the car, and as our actual visit was pretty jam packed, the book remained unread.  Additionally, because I am a thinker, I brought along my new copy of Libba Bray's Rebel Angels, the second book of her Gemma Doyle series.  I figured I would have PLENTY of time to read that as well, since the novels are gripping but fairly easy reads, and I only had that one short story left to finish the previous book.

gemma doyle trilogy

So, that is the erroneous back story.  I wound up reading nothing until I got home.  I also have this awesome head cold, which usually leaves me moaning and lounging around in bed, reading for hours on end and demanding tea and water from my somehoe-still-in-love-with-me Bear.  He puts up with a lot of abuse when I feel ill.  Good man.

Tuesday I left work early because I was in a lot of pain and I felt like poo and nobody likes a librarian who coughs on them.  I came home and made a beeline to the bedroom, where I wrapped up in a million blankets and cuddled a hot water bottle and decided now is the time to return to the realms.  See, I had read the first novel of the series, A Great and Terrible Beauty, back in high school because I was enamored by the front cover.  I believe Patchie currently has that book.  I decided that even though I couldn't reread the previous novel, I remembered the important plot lines and could continue without much confusion.  Fast forward to four in the morning, when Bear is asleep and the cats have calmed down... there I am, still wrapped up like a burritto, reading by the twinkle light headboard.  It's amazing how reading about a completely different world than your own can make your troubles seem so far away.

rebel angels

So, on to the review.  Which is supposed to be the whole point of this post.

Let's start with a little information from the previous novel, A Great and Terrible Beauty, shall we?  Gemma Doyle lives in India with her parents and her brother Tom, until her mother and the Indian man Amar who is always with her as a sort of bodyguard, are mysteriously murdered at the bazaar.  Gemma learns of her mother's fate in a vision, in which a large otherworldly creature descends upon her mother after devouring Amar.  Arriving at her mother's side as she dies, she is given her mother's beloved half moon amulet as protection. Devastated, her father moves the family back to London, where Gemma's grandmother still resides.  Gemma is sent to Spence Academy, a finishing school for English girls.  There, she meets Ann, her roommate and a scholarship student, sent to school by a wealthy cousin who hopes to later employ her as a governess to her own children.  Ann is a little doughy, orphaned, and has constant sniffles, which, in conjunction with her scholarship status, makes her a bit of a social pariah.  Gemma also meets Felicity, daughter or a well-known Admiral, head strong, blonde with grey eyes like steel and the need to win at everything.  Felicity's best friend Pippa rounds out the group of friends.  Pippa is beautiful with black hair and violet eyes, the epitome of Victorian idealistic beauty, with a romantic streak that overshadows everything else in her eyes.  The girls find the diary of a certain Mary Dowd, which discusses her adventures with a Sarah Rees-Toome.  In these adventures, the girls gain access to another world full of magic, referred to as the realms, and discover they hold the power of an ancient society of priestesses known as the Order.  Over time, Sarah begins to lose her magic and binds herself to the evil creatures of the Winterlands in desperation, murdering a small Gypsy girl as a sacrifice to grant her power.  Mary tries to stop her as well as the then-headmistress of Spence, but they knock over a candle in the struggle, burning down a wing of the school.  All are presumed dead, but Gemma soon discovers her mother was Mary Dowd, and Sarah has become their arch nemesis, Circe.  Gemma, Felicity, Pippa and Ann create their own Order and begin to explore the realms, as the magic Mary Dowd once possessed is in Gemma's blood.  The girls are aided by a member of the Rakshana, the league of  men bound to protect members of the Order, named Kartik.  By the end of the novel, the girls have defeated Circe's huntsman, but Pippa gives up her mortal life to live in the realms with a knight she created for herself.  In the real world, her body is buried and the other girls return home until the next school year.

Woman reading

Okay, now onto the recent novel, Rebel Angels.  Back at Spence, Gemma, Felicity and Ann yearn to return to the realms.  They are uncertain as to how they will be now, since Gemma destroyed the ancient ruins that housed the realms magic in her battle with Circe's demon.  Ultimately, they finally return to find Pippa still there.  This was a bit confusing because Pippa was supposed to have crossed over with her knight when she gave up her mortal life... remaining in the realms could corrupt her spirit and send her to the beasties of the Winterlands.  Kartik turns up on a mission from the Rakshana and tells Gemma that she must find the sacred temple in the realms and bind the magic "to the Eastern Star", or the magic will be available for all the realms creatures to use to their own ends... and more importantly, Circe could seize the magic and use it to unleash horrible things into the real world.  Gemma begins her journey into the realms, trying to locate the temple.  Pippa, who has had time in the realms to learn more of their secrets than the other girls, acts as a guide, even though Gemma has been warned not to trust anyone or anything that resides in the realms.  The girls have no luck and eventually leave school for the Christmas holidays.  At this point in the novel, there is much excitement over balls, courting, operas, and other rights of passage for Victorian girls in England.  The trio meet up as often as they can to enter the realms and continue their journey without much luck.  Finally, Gemma learns of a Miss Nell Hawkins, an inmate at the asylum her brother Tom works at, who believes she belongs to the Order and is being hunted by Circe and angry spirits.  Under the guise of charity, Gemma seeks out Nell and tells her she believes her stories.  She begs Nell for any information of the temple.  Nell rips the half moon amulet from Gemma's neck and bangs it up, then holds it like a compass and tells Gemma to find the true path.  Later, Nell recites a cryptic poem, loaded with riddles about the realms that Gemma must decipher.  Meanwhile, Gemma meets a young man named Simon with whom she is interested, and must figure out her emotions between Simon and Kartik... A mysterious new teacher at Spence hints at a true identity more sinister than an art teacher, one that the girls fear and are determined to discover... An old friend and teacher stumbles back into their lives, and proves to be either an ally or a foe... And Pippa demonstrates the same sweet nature as always with a deep hidden feral love or carnage...

Page 122

I don't want to give it all away, and there is definitely more happening than I went over in the reviews.  I recommend this series for people who enjoy YA Fiction, Fantasy, and fiction set in the Victorian era.  It's also wonderful for late middle school through high school readers.  There are scenes in which the girls go to church, if you are wary about that sort of thing, but there isn't really any agenda with that... it's there because it was a part of the times.  There is magic also, but it is never the solve all to life's problems.  I know some people have issues with that, but it is an important part of the plot... and no, you won't close the book as a super Wiccan or anything.  :)

Have you read any books you recommend lately?

As always, click on an image to see the original URL on Flickr!  :)
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  1. I'm a YA fiction fan too, bigtime. Right now I'm reading Delirious by Lauren Oliver and so far it's awesome. Basically, the government has completely taken over the US during the setting of this book and around age 18 everyone is given a surgery to cure them of the horrid disease that is "love." Love starts wars and makes people do irrational things so they've simply gotten rid of it.
    Think 1984, a little bit. I definitely recommend it so far. =]

  2. Love me some YA fiction!! I read the Libba Bray series back when I worked at Borders.

    Have you read Sorcery and Cecilia? I love that one and the two sequels! More Victorian-era YA fiction, told entirely through letters the two main characters (Kate and Cecy) write to one another. They are one of those series that I'd like to buy again just to reread them.

  3. Sorry, it's Regency-era, not Victorian.

  4. Where'd you get the round, b&w pic?
    The woman must have known the photographer, and it's prob a candid snapshot. I doubt a hired professional would leave his tripod in the picture.

  5. Sara Bell- I will have to look into that one!

    Yseult- That sounds good too... never heard of it before!

    Squeebie- All the images in this post were found on Flickr and click through to their original pages. Good eye with the tripod. At the time the photo was taken, I doubt a hired photographer would have taken an image like that at all. Typically, photos in this era were stiff and focused on the camera; a formal portrait for posterity. This image is too relaxed for a professional's image if the subject were to have hired him.


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