I had been eying this book off for ages, and finally found the time to read it a few months ago – I know – I’m slack for not writing it up earlier, but what can I say!!!
Beside the fact the author shares my surname (no relation that I know of) I am a sucker for magic and mayhem, especially with a touch of the Gothic. Perhaps because I had been anticipating it so much, I found myself getting frustrated with the characters. At some points, all I wanted to do was slap the characters up the side of the head and tell them to wake up!!!
Gemma Doyle is as good as orphaned. Her mother dies under mysterious circumstances in India. Her father is almost comatose with grief and drugs. Her Grandmother and brother are less than sympathetic and pack her off to boarding school with strict instructions to behave in a ladylike manner. The school is dismal and, if possible, even less sympathetic than her family. Just about every character in the book has a secret to hide and an agenda of their own.
Gemma herself runs hot and cold. On one hand she sticks up for her room mate who is less than beautiful and therefore much put upon by the ‘in’ crowd led by Felicity. In the next breath she falls in with Felicity and follows her faithfully into many misadventures and eventually disaster.
Through it all runs a thread of mystery and past magic as Gemma suffers from sudden visions and follows her strange insights to explore the history of the burnt out shell of the school’s East Wing through her discovery of the diary of young Mary Dowd. Ancient magic is invoked. Old secrets are uncovered and secret cults exposed… all in the pursuit of happiness through beauty – which in the late 1800s, when the book is set, was all a young lady could aspire to.
I enjoyed the book to a point, but doubt that I will read any of the sequels.