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Rebel Angels
By Libba Bray

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Rebel Angels
By Libba Bray
Thorndike Press - Large Print Edition (2006)
ISBN: 0-7862-8087-5
Genre: Fantasy - Mystery, Young Adult

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - March 3, 2006

Rebel Angels is the much anticipated sequel to Libba Bray's thrilling novel A Great and Terrible Beauty. Set in the late 1800's, Rebel Angels picks up Gemma Doyle's story of her struggle to bind the magic that she unwittingly released, to help restore the mysterious Order to its role as protector over the magic of the Realms, and to find and destroy Circe before she can destroy her. As the story opens, it is December of 1895, and Gemma is still a student at the Spence Academy for Young Ladies. With Christmas drawing near, Gemma is looking forward to the holiday break and the balls that the season heralds. However, no matter how jovial Gemma is about the upcoming holiday, her days are still interrupted with visions of the enchanted realm where magic rules, and of three young women all dressed in white.

What do these visions foretell? More important, can Gemma master the magic that she finds so alluring - before it overwhelms her? Along with her two friends, Felicity and Ann, Gemma makes repeated forays into the lovely but potentially dangerous Realms. There they spend their time playing with the magic that the Realms offers them, hunting for the lost Temple, and providing comfort and solace to Pippa, one of their friends that has become trapped in the Realms. In her quest Gemma unexpectedly finds a young woman who has been committed to the Bedlam, the common term used to describe the Bethlem Royal Hospital for the Insane.

Gemma's forays into the Realms are fascinating. However, it is her interactions with two men, back in the real world, that I found most intriguing in this story. The two men are Simon Middleton, a proper Englishman who is in love with her, and Kartik, a messenger and spy for the Rakshana who has been keeping an eye on Gemma for this secret brotherhood. The Rakshana fear that by entering the Realms, Gemma has released demonic forces that could destroy the real world, and they are doing their best to forestall the looming catastrophe - or are they? Kartik has been following Gemma ever since her return to England, from India after the death of her mother, and it was he who first warned her of the visions she would be forced to endure. While Kartik has been of value to Gemma, the motives of the Rakshana Brotherhood are not all that clear, and determining what exactly they are up to is one the many mysteries that populate this book.

Like A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels is a coming-of-age tale mixed with an exciting mystery, all set against a rich Victorian backdrop juxtaposed against the decadent freedom of the Realms. Gemma's story is lively, vivid, and it connects with both younger readers and adults. Rebel Angels does a fine job of continuing Gemma's story, and in leaving room for yet a third book in the series. Bray's writing is passionate, and her story is throughly enchanting and full of unexpected surprises. I highly recommend this book to all readers, both young and old. However, be sure to read A Great and Terrible Beauty first.

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