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In a distant realm: Book review of The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

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The Sweet Far Thing is the third book of Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy; the first two novels were A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels. The earlier stories established Gemma as a new student to Spence Academy for Young Ladies. She had recently moved from India after the death of her mother. Having left a happy life in a distant land Gemma is challenged further by her grandmother’s efforts to mold her into a proper young English lady worthy of presentation to Queen Victoria.

While attending Spence Gemma develops close friendships including; her roommate Ann Bradshaw (a scholarship girl destined to become the governess) brash Felicity Worthington (whose father is a British war hero) and Pippa Cross (a beautiful girl but whose family is poor). Gemma starts to have visions which led her to the caves that border the school grounds. Gemma learns that these are passages to different realms and that she can access them because she is a witch. Her friends follow suit.

By the third book the girls’ lives are at a crux. All Felicity needs to do to obtain a fortune is be presented to the queen; however her reputation as a wild card proceeds her. Ann thinks because of her homely looks she has no shot as a stage actress thus has accepted that she will be the governess of some truly awful children. Pippa is stuck in the realms because in early books she felt it was better to have her earthly body die than to marry an attorney (I ask you, who hasn’t been there?).

At the beginning of The Sweet Far Thing Gemma has lost her ability to access the realms. She is also failing miserably practicing her presentation curtsy to the Queen. Ann is ignored by the rest of the student body and Felicity is wrapped up in her own cares and comforts.

Sweet represented what I liked and disliked about the whole trilogy. I enjoy the idea of a series based in a Victorian Era boarding school where the girls discoved they have access to different realms and secret societies – very Harry Potterish. Less appealing was how Gemma came across as dull and her friends on the whole appeared self-centered at best and mean spirited at worst. It feels as if Bray is trying to interject some feminist principles within her storylines, especially with this last novel, but none of the characters are overly thrilling to read about.

At times it was hard to follow the plot when it came to the realms but then again I read the first two novel several years ago. I liked how Sweet tied everything up at the end although some cursory glances on the book’s Goodreads page shows many readers were disappointed at the conclusion. As for myself, Gemma grew a little in my estimation.

I cannot recommend Libba Bray’s The Sweet Far Thing without recommending the series and I do not feel the series is worth the time investment. There are other books of this genre that are better written with more intriguing characters. However if you enjoy novels written with a modern viewpoint set in the Victorian Era, fantasy, or young adult romance, you might want to check this series out.

Happy reading!

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