Archive for May 2009
I see the makings of a Great and Terrible Betrayal instead…
It’s 1895, and proper British girls are supposed to become proper English wives. With her mother’s suicide, having visions of shades devouring people’s souls, and used to the colorful chaos of India, 16-year old Gemma is raw and shaking. She is shipped off to a proper boarding school in England to calm her, and to keep her from underfoot of her family’s grief.
At the school, a gothic setup in the middle of the woods, peopled by gypsies, and pitted with caves, a strange game plays out between Gemma, the school’s pack leaders—haughty Felicity and beautiful Pippa, and proverbial underdog—poor and graceless Anne.
At first, the name of the game was one-upmanship. But, with every advantage, after each concession, these girls’ antipathy transforms into a bond. Gemma is perceptive enough, and lonely enough, to see that these girls, brats all yet full of personality, were all straining against the conventions society has crowned them with—just as she is.
Felicity wants to be powerful; Pippa desires true love; Anne wishes to be beautiful; and Gemma seeks self-knowledge. A 20-year old diary found buried in the woods tells Gemma she was not the only one with strange abilities. It also somehow turned a key in Gemma’s mind.
Armed with this little, in between tea, waltz lessons, French and painting classes, and genteel manicured lawn games, Gemma decides to set her new friends free, for a time, by opening a gate into the realms, the magical world that we go to when we dream, that only a select few can go to at will.
Unfortunately, Gemma not only set caged animals free, she also let an evil force loose. There was a reason why the Realms have been closed off for such a long time.
The first of a trilogy, A Great and Terrible Beauty is not your run-of-the-mill Gossip Girl-type YA. It’s dark, with heavy doses of The Craft mixed in with The Secret Garden and the Little Princess. The result is intoxicating, and seductive—both the read and in how the magic affected the girls… and complex.
Though the girls have fallen in with one another, I’m sure they will just as quickly fall out of it, given another chance to get what they want. They are flawed, damaged, and very greedy. They cannot see it yet, but they are actually enemies, even as circumstances make them into allies. Can Gemma use them as they use her?
To save the world, the realms, and each other, she must become the tyrant of their grand little clique. It really is a great and terrible beauty.
Oh, yeah. A mysterious young man follows Gemma around—to protect her, or for something else? They have a steamy scene together, almost for real, in their dreams. Edward and Bella, eat your hearts out!
I really liked this book: evil winning over good, but with good fighting on, in the archetype of the gunslinger. I didn’t mind that the setting was vague and foggy; with details left out, our imagination worked overtime to create a scarier world than what maybe king had intended!
But I read it some four years ago for me to remember details. What I have are impressions. And when someone asked me about the book, I was surprised at how deep they run.
ispywithmy Great artwork. Did you read the “original release” version or the one he revised in light of the later books? I’ve been somewhat curious about this.
artseblis i think i must have read the original version. my copy was old, bought at booksale. but i read this a long time ago, some 4 years maybe. i used a shelfari reply post as my text for the book review (just so i can post something).
if i did read the original. i don’t think i’d want to read the revised version. the original is a classic, nevermind the continuity issue.
freifallen I have this on my TBR but am hesitant to read it because I know it goes on for 6 more books that get thicker and thicker. Now maybe I’ll put it on the upper portion of Mt TBR. Thanks!
ispywithmy Same here. The other issue I have is that if I get hooked on The Gunslinger (and I might, since I really enjoyed the Dark Tower short story “The Little Sisters of Eluria”), I not only have to read the six other novels but also a huge chunk of King’s work because of all the other connections he makes here and there.
ispywithmy Thanks. I’ll have to check my copy: I’m pretty sure it’s the old version, though I might also have the revised one somewhere. Did you ever read the succeeding novels?
artseblis @ispywithmy — oh, yes: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE and THE WASTELANDS.
@cecile — the books may be thick, but the pace is fast. i was too engrossed to realize i was reading such thick tomes. the haunted house sequence involving the boy from our world was maybe the scariest i have ever read.
@ everyone — the Gunslinger can actually stand on its own. it reads like a myth or a legend, an archetype or symbolism of the battle between good and evil. as such, the world is dreamlike, like something you had a bad dream of, or a mesh of otherwordly fragments pulled from your subconscious reassembled by your mind into something comprehensible.
the sequels are different animals altogether. they remade the gunslinger into a person, with more flaws than you can imagine, driven by duty but needing the help of companions so he can complete his mission, which is to reach the Dark Tower, the source of the reality-bending forces devouring all the universes.
but in bringing down (or up, depends on your point of view) the struggle of the gunslinger and the three companions into very human terms (read an aging soldier, a junkie, a legless woman with split personalities, a little boy), the sequels become less mystical and more accessible; just replace the goons with zombies and the evil rancher with a dark tower.
even if you loved the first book, you won’t necessarily like the following ones. there is a jarring discontinuity of mood, tone, pace, and writing between Gunslinger and the continuation of the saga.
for me though, adjusting was not problematic. the story, and action!, was too gripping to care that the gunslinger is now, still extraordinary, but not so mysterious anymore. i get my mystery fix, in high enough doses, from this search for the dark tower thing.
ispywithmy Fantastic! Now that’s more than enough information to help me finally get off my bum and start reading the first novel at least. Thanks!
*the artwork is from Google search.