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Libba Bray – The Sweet Far Thing

February 1, 2008

13. The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray (2007)
Gemma Doyle Trilogy, Book 3

Length: 819 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy

Started: 28 January 2008
Finished: 01 February 2008

Summary: Picking up shortly after the end of Rebel Angels, Gemma Doyle must now deal with the repercussions of binding all of the magic of the realms to herself. The tribes of the realms are clamoring for her to hold up her end of the bargain and give them a share, but Gemma is not quite ready to cede her power just yet… not when it can be used to help her and her friends in the real world. Also, there is trouble brewing in the Winterlands, and Gemma keeps having visions of a lady in a lavender dress, complete with cryptic warnings about the Tree of All Souls. As time passes, Gemma becomes less and less sure who she can trust, and thus less willing to give up the magic, but how long can one person hold the magic of the Realms without changing it… or without it changing her?

Review: This was, by a smidge, my favorite book of the series, although it definitely had its problems. First, the positives: Her characterizations are well done, and watching the growth of all her characters, but particularly Gemma and Ann, from unsure girls into women in charge of their own destinies is exciting. I really like the idea of an ordinarily powerless group of people (young women during the Victorian era) gaining access to power (through magic), and using that power to realize their own innate power to shape their lives. Also, while the “rules” governing the magical system of the Realms were never particularly clear, they seemed to flow better in this book than in the previous two, adhering to their own internal logic more closely. The book was also good at reminding the readers of what had gone before (important, since it had been a while since I read Rebel Angels), without providing too much re-hashing to annoy readers with better memories.

The single major problem with this book was its length. It’s a fast read, even given its size, but the story just doesn’t justify over 800 pages. Major fans of the series will probably relish every page, but I found some parts slow, repetitive, and just plain unnecessary. Some more judicious editing could have cut out one or two of the visions, one or two of the trips into the realms to play with Pippa, one or two of the red-herring twists of who can and can’t be trusted, one or two of the trips to London in which Gemma realizes the confines of social life, etc., etc. Doing so could easily have saved 200 pages, and made the entire book tighter and more gripping. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: A satisfying end to the trilogy, and definitely worth reading if you enjoyed the first two books. Otherwise, I’d probably pass – it’s got an interesting theme, but it’s just not worth the length for those with only a passing interest.

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  • p. 254: “‘Lucknow!’ a wooly-haired gentleman exclaims. ‘I do hope you didn’t meet up with any mutinous Indian sepoys!’” – an indigenous soldier serving in the army of a foreign conqueror, especially an Indian soldier serving under British command in India.
  • p. 255: “The guests are enthralled with Father’s story, and Father is delighted to have an audience. Playing the charming raconteur is what he does best.” – a person who is skilled in relating stories and anecdotes interestingly.
4 Comments leave one →
  1. Vicki Anderson permalink
    July 8, 2008 10:49 pm

    Libba Bray is an author that I look forward to reading again after finishing the trilogy of Gemma Doyle. I was captivated by this story and anxious to proceed to the next work after listening to A Great and Terrible Beauty. Catik’s fate was heartbreaking, and I would like to see a sequel reuniting him with Gemma in “the real world.” In fact, I was very disturbed by his fate.

    • Scarlett Johanson permalink
      October 13, 2010 12:44 am

      just fyi, it’s “Kartik” not “Catik.”

      but yes i agree i was very depressed that he turned into a tree and couldnt be w/gemma forever and ever. disturbed is another word for it i guess . . .

  2. Scarlett Johanson permalink
    October 13, 2010 12:40 am

    i am one of those “major fans” apparently cuz i thought it was not too long at all, whereas a lot of reviews i read said it was wayy too long. i thought it was realy intense and creepy and it was just the right length.


  1. The Sweet Far Thing (review) « The Alcove

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