It's the end of the year, and Gemma's looking forward to living it up in London. Balls, fancy gowns and dancing with the handsome Simon Middleton beckon. Best of all, it's time away from Spence Academy - and from the Realms.
But the lure of the enchanted world is strong, and the magic flows freely. Gemma's visions intensify - visions of three girls dressed in white, suffering horror and menace. Clearly all is not well in the Realms - or out of them.
Set against the rich backdrop of Victorian London, a place of shadows and light, in a time of strict morality and barely repressed sensuality, this compelling gothic sequel reveals that inside great beauty can lie a rebel angel...
Having read and enjoyed A Great and Terrible Beauty last year, I have been patiently waiting for this book to come into the library, and so was very excited when finally, not too long ago, it finally came onto the library catalogue.
So, after all that anticipation, was it worth the wait? Well yes, and no.
The school year is coming to an end for all of the young women at Spence Boarding school, and Gemma and her friends are looking forward to spending Christmas in London - after all what girl wouldn't love all the balls and the opera and all those tea times. Even young Anne manages to get an invite to London, only by making up an incredible story about her identity, but all three girls eventually find themselves in London.
Gemma's visit to London starts really well when she meets the deliciously eligible and dashing Simon Middleton - a member of one of the best families in London. Simon has taken a liking to Gemma, and she to him, but she must not allow herself to get too distracted - after all she still has to track down the mysterious Circe, bind the power in the realms and keep up all the necessary appearances of a very proper young Victorian lady.
One of the benefits of moving the setting away from Spence for most of the book is that there are a wide variety more settings that are available to the author - from the dingy parts of London where no proper young lady would ever go, to the opera, to Bedlam, to shopping in strange little book shops. There is also more scope with interaction with other characters such as the families of the girls, where some time was spent on some quite sensitive issues including but not limited to addiction.
Within the realms as well the story was expanded during this book. When the white door opens to Gemma and her friends they do find themselves in the part of the realm that they are familiar with, including Pippa, their friend who was left behind - but are things really the same. Gemma has found a young girl in Bedlam who has some knowledge of the realms and she and others are constantly warning Gemma to find the Temple and bind the magic, but to be careful of who she trusts, particularly as everything in the realms is out of balance at the moment. As the girls travel further into the realms they find more and more interesting tribes, some of whom are more interesting than others, and some who are far more dangerous than others. Can Gemma and her friends find the temple and bind the power before Circe does, and if they do, who should they bind the power in the name of . Is the Order to be trusted, is there another one who should be holding the power, or perhaps should it be shared.
Along the way Gemma needs to figure out who she can trust. Can she trust Simon to love her no matter what her strange powers may be? Can she trust Kartik, or is his first loyalty to others? And can she trust herself with the power that she has, or will it overwhelm her?
I think that this book was more fast paced than the first one, with lots more situations where Gemma and her friends could have found themselves in danger. In particular they spent a lot more time in the Realms in this book. In my opinion the book was less balanced than the first one was and in some way I think that this affected my concentration. To be honest, I think that once again this was more about my frame of mind as opposed to the book, but that's what I felt so therefore that is what I am basing my review and rating on!
I did enjoy it, but not quite as much as I enjoyed the first one. I am however just as eager to get hold of the new book, The Sweet Far Thing, which is due out in September.