Bray, Libba. 2005. Rebel Angels.
When I read Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty last July or August, I was not that impressed. Sure it was entertaining, but I didn’t feel a connection with the characters that moved me deeply enough to proclaim (or perhaps the right word is exclaim?) the book’s wonders. I’d heard of enthusiastic fans of the novel. I even knew some of them. But it left me wanting something more. So I wasn’t in the biggest hurry to read Rebel Angels. In fact, over Christmas this was one of the many books that I returned to the library unread. It’s almost-600 pages seemed too daunting to try during the holidays. But after yet another friend raved about A Great and Terrible Beauty and talked about how eager she was to read the sequel, I decided to give it another go. I only have one word: WOW. The ironic thing--for me--about Rebel Angels is that it is set during Gemma Doyle’s Christmas vacation so it would have made the perfect book to read over the holidays. Oh well, I missed that one. Anyway, back to the book. Gemma and her two remaining friends Felicity and Ann are at Spence Academy preparing for their Christmas vacations. The first third of the book is at Spence Academy, and the remaining follows their adventures away from good old Spence. Months after the tragic death of their friend, Pippa, the girls have yet to reenter the realms. Gemma’s visions seem to have lessened over the months, but lately she has been having vivid dreams. Dreams she cannot explain. Dreams urging her to return to the realms and claim the magic. When Kartik comes with a message for her, she knows what she must do...she just doesn’t know how to go about it. Told that she can trust no one, she is urged she must find the Temple and bind the magic before evil ones--particularly Circe can find and claim it. It is an exciting, adventure full of surpises and plenty of twists and turns. It makes you doubt everything you thought you knew....
Since I haven’t read A Great and Terrible Beauty in months, I thought I would find Rebel Angels confusing...but that wasn’t the case. Everything clicked, everything worked. In fact, I think in some ways it could stand alone from A Great and Terrible Beauty. The essentials--the back story--are all told and explained (albeit briefly).
To Felicity and Ann, I’m a means into the realms.
To Grandmama, I am something to be molded into shape.
To Tom, I am a sister to be endured.
To Father, I am a good girl, always one step away from disappointing him.
To Simon, I’m a mystery.
To Kartik, I am a task he must master.
My refelection stares back at me, waiting for an introduction. Hello, girl in the mirror. You are Gemma Doyle. And I’ve no idea who you really are. (396-397)
Interview with Libba Bray