Book Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray

I will confess this now:  my opinion of Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty is totally and completely based on personal feelings Great and Terrible Beautyand preferences, much moreso than an objective review of the writing ability of the author or development of plot and characters, etc.  I usually try to hold a book at arm’s length and at least try to see it through other eyes, but I couldn’t get past my gut reaction here.

I just didn’t like it.  And I didn’t like it because there were too many elements of the occult, and I felt devoid of the Spirit while trying to read it.  I explain on the sidebar that I am a Latter-day Saint and that my tolerance for excessive language, violence, and sexual content is low.  I guess I should also clarify that I don’t fare well with books that deal with horror and the occult, either.  I understand that many of you would argue the absolute presence of that in this book, and I get that.  I’m just saying that what I felt while reading this book was not good, and I had to put it down.

Scenes where the four young women meet in a cave at midnight, chanting dark prayers, pricking their fingers for blood and then smearing it on each other’s cheeks.  Opening doors to other realms, realms where the dead have gone.  The idea of illusion, and evil taking on a pleasant form.  I just didn’t feel right about it.

Trust me, I’m struggling with this, because my family and I are HUGE Harry Potter fans.  Yes, those books have wizards and witches and spells and good vs. evil.  I can’t explain why I feel differently about those books.  I guess when it comes down to it, every book you read is colored by your own personal biases, and from one book to another it’s impossible to precisely quantify why you read what you read.

If you’d like more balanced – or more favorable! – reviews of this book, just Google it.  You’ll find tons of people on the internet that really loved this book (and the whole series).  I’m just not one of them.

*Disclosure: Amazon affiliate link included.

  • Dallas

    I was thinking of reading this book, so I am thankful to you for your review. I respect your opinion and will steer clear.

  • Well, I am glad to know I’m not the only one. I didn’t even know this book had occult themes, I didn’t get that far! I love Harry Potter too, but there’s other things I can’t handle. Thanks for the visit to my blog.

  • I didn’t like it either! It wasn’t the themes that bothered me (I couldn’t care less about the occult and other dark matters). I just didn’t think it was very well-written. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief throughout the entire book, and it seemed like the author was just making up the “rules” of the other realms as she went along. Not like Harry Potter, where it was obviously a well-conceived universe that the story was taking place in. Just putting my two cents in!

  • wandering.story

    It’s amazing and odd to hear other view points on a book I love so much, I must confess that after reading a particularly– twisted part I freaked out about going to sleep when an asortment of creatures caould crawl out from under my bed. I think that’s why I loved it so much, I was used to reading very “happily ever after” books and while this disturbed it also deeply moved me. If any one really enjoyed this book I suggest they read “The Blue Girl” by: Charels de Lint, it has the same creepy subtext. I still can’t get over how Libba Bray ended the series, but as I said before, I’m used to the “happily ever after” stories.