The Sweet Far Thing
by Libba Bray
read March 2009
I enjoyed this 3rd book of the Gemma Doyle trilogy. It has a lot of aspects that I think would draw in readers, especially teens. It takes place in 19th century England with finishing schools, balls, courting romances, and fantastic dresses. It has the intrigue of magic and a gateway to another world. There is a fair bit of romantic suspense and intrigue. The main character, Gemma Doyle, is a fairly strong, out of the ordinary girl and the supporting characters fall into other personality types. Felicity Worthington is a seemingly spoiled rich girl who has a huge inheritance and an even bigger secret. Ann Bradshaw is an orphan which limits her position in society greatly. She wants to be a singer, but her social status destins her to be a governess for her cousin’s spoiled children.
Gemma’s mother was part of a secret group of women who called themselves The Order. The members of The Order were powerful priestesses who guarded and wielded the magic of The Realms, a magical other world. They were joined by the Rakshana, a group of men who were the lovers of the Order and their sworn protectors.
Everything has gone wrong. In the first book of the series we learn that Gemma’s mother was really Mary Dowd. She along with her friend Sarah Rees-Toomes broke the rules of the order. Sarah made a pact with the Winterland creatures from the Realm to gain more power. This meant the sacrifice of a young gypsy girl. The result of this action was a huge fire at Spence Academy, the very school where Gemma now attends. The fire was thought to have claimed the lives of the two girls along with the headmistress, Mrs. Eugenia Spence, who was secretly leader of the Order.
Whew…still lots to recap. Gemma and the other girls find Circe, who is known by many names. The girls knew her as Ms. Moore, but as a girl she was known as Sarah Rees-Toomes. Gemma battles with Circe and in a last ditch effort, binds the magic of the Realms to herself.
She had intentions of making an alliance with the creatures of the Realms and giving everyone a share of the magic, but immediately things start to go wrong. Kartik, a former member of the Rakshana makes Gemma swoon though she won’t admit it to herself. He tries to help her the best he can, but he is also very evasive with her. She also has the problem of Mrs. McCleethy, a member of the Order sent to encourage her to give the magic back to them. Then there is Mr. Fowlson and the Rakshana who want the magic for themselves. The creatures of the Realms also show unrest and distrust of each other.
Gemma is confused and frustrated. Quite frankly she doesn’t know what to do. Her friends don’t help much. Ann gives up on her dreams and goes to live with her cousins as their governess. Felicity can think of nothing but bringing their friend Pippa back from the Realms where she is trapped. Gemma is convinced that Pippa is hiding something dark and evil, but Felicity will hear none of it. To make matters worse, she begins to have visions of a former Spence girl, Wilhemina Wyatt.
Gemma must find a way to find confidence in herself and make a decision that will not only effect her life, but the lives of all around her. Will she have the strength to make the right decision?
The first two books, A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels were pretty good themselves, but I think this was my favorite of the three. It is also the longest. I think all three are worth a read and get better as they go on.
Themes: magic, death, romance, ghosts, mythical creatures
Characters: Gemma Doyle, Grandmother Doyle, Mr. Doyle, Thomas Doyle, Felicity Worthington, Admiral Worthington, Mrs. Worthington, Ann Bradshaw, Pippa, Kartik, Mr. Fowlson, Circe, Eugena Spence, Wilhemina Wyatt, Mrs. McCleethy,
Setting: Spence Academy for Girls, near London, England. 19th century.
Topic: Gemma Doyle has all of the magic from the Realms. Everyone wants a part of it an Gemma must figure out a way to provide order and distribute the magic in a way that does not creat unrest and rebellion. She must look deep inside herself to find out what she needs to do.