#4 – The Gemma Doyla Trilogy, by Libba Bray
Libba Bray was a writer whose voice captured me immediately. She has beautiful style, accomplishing a 19th century tone without pushing it so far that it becomes tiresome. Her narratives are desperately compelling, and this story had me hooked from the first page. I devoured each book in a matter of days, waiting eagerly for the release of each sequel.
Gemma Doyle, our narrator and protagonist, is also the first paranormal creature introduced in this series, something resembling a witch – but she’s not the only one, and that’s a big part of what makes this story so interesting. Gemma is a descendent of an ancient order, who first suffers from paralyzing visions, eventually gaining access to a magical place called the Realms. There, we meet the lingering spirits of other order members, and the horrifying creatures of the Winterlands. We even watch Pippa, one of the girls that Gemma brings with her to the Realms, as she slowly dissolves from a bubbly, beautiful girl and into a twisted wretch, a creature of the Realms.
This is a series that ages perfectly from the first novel to the third, promising safety before cutting the tight rope. In ‘A Great and Terrible Beauty,’ the storyline is young. The characters are innocent and the magic is beautiful. Most of this novel reads like a fairy tale, and that is why the tragic ending is so unexpected. It sets the scene perfectly for the steadily maturing storyline that follows in the second and third novels. Here, we adventure the barren Winterlands for the first time, and delve deeper into the history of the evil witch Circe, leader of the corrupted souls who wander there. The trilogy reaches its climax with violent sacrifices and heartbreaking tragedy, coming to the promised head.
Although this novel is usually considered young adult reading, the themes and the vastly layered storyline are very adult, and the action is far from PG. The twisted creatures of the Realms are horrifying, especially after Pippa’s frightening transformation, showing that every monster Gemma comes up against was once as innocent as she is – even the evil Circe. Creating beautiful and terrible creatures alike, as well as a stunning world for them to exist in, Libba Bray has earned the #4 spot on this list with The Gemma Doyle Trilogy.