I finished the first book in this series, A Great & Terrible Beauty, while I was in Europe. I could have reviewed it when I returned, just as I could have reviewed the second installment, Rebel Angels, when I finished it last weekend. But to be honest, I'm glad I didn't. Had I reviewed either of those without finishing the trilogy, I would have given it a terrible review from beginning to end. Now, on the other hand, I can say that whereas I did not particularly like this series, as a whole it's not the worst thing I've ever read.
It's not, after all, Twilight.
However, it's also woefully historically inaccurate. On the other hand, it gives a scarily accurate portrayal of toxic teenage female friendships. The problem is that none of the characters - particularly the heroine - are likeable. Gemma is at one moment written to be a headstrong girl with very modern ideas, ideas that are far beyond the Victorian setting of the books. Unfortunately, Ms. Bray does not continually write her as such - for if Gemma was that girl, fully and truly, she would not have put up with her "friends" Felicity and Ann as she does.
In the end, none of the books were any better than the others and I give all three - A Great & Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing - 2.5 out of 5 stars. I give them that because to be completely honest, despite being young adult lit they did keep my attention. I felt that the imaginative aspect was far-fetched and not well described at all, and that again the books were not historically accurate enough to garner any sort of respect. That said, this series could have been set in Elizabethan England or Colonial America or Napoleonic France and it wouldn't have mattered - it still would have been what it was, a fairly interesting read with a decent ending.
From A Great & Terrible Beauty:
"'Sometimes, I feel nothing, and I'm so afraid. Afraid I'll stop feeling anything at all. I'll just slip away inside myself...I just need to feel something.'"
"'Things aren't good or bad in and of themselves. It's what we do with them that makes them so.'"
"'There are no safe choices...Only other choices.'"
From Rebel Angels:
"'Travel opens your mind as few other things do. It is its own form of hypnotism, and I am forever under its spell.'"
"...sometimes your place is not something you find, but something you have when you need it."
From The Sweet Far Thing:
"'The hand you hold the longest is your own.'"
"It is funny how you do not miss affection until it is given, but once it is, it can never be enough..."
"And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time."
"'...the past cannot be changed, and we carry our choices with us, forward, into the unknown. We can only move on.'"
"'Why should we girls not have the same privileges as men? Why do we police ourselves stringently - whittling each other down with cutting remarks or holding ourselves back from greatness with a harness woven of fear and shame and longing? If we do not deem ourselves worthy first, how shall we ever ask for more?'"
"It is not a statesman or a god or a war hero who welcomes us to the new world. It is but an ordinary woman lighting the way - a lady offering us the liberty to pursue our dreams if we've the courage to begin."