Only I stand apart. And secretly, I fear it shall always be this way, me alone, belonging to no one, no tribe, always standing just outside the party. I try to push the thought away, but it has already spoken truth to my soul.
I’ve been pretty focused this last week on finally finishing up Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy with the final book, The Sweet Far Thing. As the third book in the trilogy has over 800 pages (almost as much as the first and second books in the series—combined), this has been a major time investment in my busy schedule.
The series has been enjoyable, though not one I would probably reread the way I would like to reread all the Harry Potter books back-to-back sometime, or Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series once the fourth and final book, Breaking Dawn comes out in August 2008.
Bray does a wonderful job of imagining an alternate world, ‘the realms’, that is both magical and frightening. Gemma is a likeable heroine but it is very easy to get caught up in how petty and horrible her school friends usually are. Bad decisions are frequently made and Gemma gets snared more than once in a tangled web of lies and deceit. Luckily she is brutally honest about her feelings to herself, and the reader has access to those thoughts. Always feeling herself to be the outcast, when told by a teacher at her fancy finishing school that young ladies must learn to discipline their own actions and realize the importance of leading orderly lives, Gemma wonders,
Can we really conquer chaos so easily? If that were so, I should be able to prune the pandemonium of my own soul into something neat and tidy rather than this maze of wants and needs and misgivings that has me forever feeling as if I cannot fit into the landscape of things.
She is nothing if not a confused teenager, even with the obligatory corset and skirts. Now that I think about it, it’s probably because Gemma messes up so much and prioritizes so badly throughout much of this book that it is possible to like her. She’s a real person, a fully fleshed out character. In her more serious moods she makes comments like the one above, and then the next minute she’ll be obsessing over her upcoming debut in front of the Queen and whether she’ll trip while curtsying and forever be ‘that girl who fell’.
Historical fiction is especially enthralling when an author goes to the trouble of researching the period properly. Bray’s effort in The Sweet Far Thing is admirable, but unlike the first two books in the series I felt like she was trying to work in every last little historical detail she’d made a note on while researching late 19th century Britain. It’s a little distracting, when the action of the novel is so dramatic on its own.
Any recommendations on historical fiction now that Gemma’s adventures have wrapped up for this reader?
// Notes from the Road
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