Books Love Me

A Malaysian Reader's Book Blog

The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

Historical England, boarding school, magic and realms, strange creatures, evil forces, and a group of teenage girls: these make up the Gemma Doyle trilogy. The Sweet Far Thing picks up where Rebel Angels left off.

Gemma and friends are back at Spence Academy and under the watchful eyes of their headmistress, Mrs. Nightwing, they learn decent manners, curtsies, and everything else ladylike. Gemma is unable to fit in with the mindless chatter and gossip of the other girls at her school. She feels that there’s more to life than just attending parties and dancing with men.

Now Gemma holds all the magic of the magical realms where she and her friends, Felicity and Ann have been going. She’s expected to share the magic with all the tribes in the realms but not so soon. Since Felicity desperately needs a Lady Markham to sponsor her debut in order to claim her inheritance, she needs some of Gemma’s magic to make it happen. As for Ann, well, she needs some magic to escape from being a miserable governess.

What about the beautiful Pippa who’s stuck to wander in the realms forever? Felicity is always delighted to spend time and play with her best friend. However, Gemma feels that there’s something suspicious about Pippa and that she must be careful around her.

In the meantime, Gemma keeps having dreams/visions of a lady in a lavender dress. The lady seems to be trying to tell her something but no sound comes out from her. Who is she? Is she dead or alive? What is she trying to say? What is the Key and what in the world is the Tree of All Souls? Absolutely mysterious and frustrating!

Gemma also needs to find out why the school is restoring the ruined East Wing now. Many years ago, two girls supposedly perished in a fire that destroyed the East Wing but they survived anyway. One of the girls was Gemma’s mother. The other girl, Circe, became an enemy and murderer. It is also said that the then headmistress, Eugenia Spence, sacrificed herself to the Winterlands. The Winterlands is an evil place, by the way.

Oh no, I did not forget the handsome and elusive Kartik. He returns to stay with the gypsies and occasionally has little secretive chats with Gemma. He keeps telling her that he’ll leave someday which only irritates and saddens her. His old brotherhood, the Rakshana, is also on the lookout for him as he failed to kill Gemma in the previous book.

That’s quite a lot to digest, isn’t it? Well, you can expect much more than that from this 819-page book. There are five acts and there is a quote at the beginning of each act. In truth, I enjoyed reading every page of this book even though it took me more than a month to finish it.

Some things I just didn’t like though. I thought Gemma’s friends selfish, especially Felicity. Most of the time, I felt that Felicity’s only using Gemma to enter the realms so she could be with Pippa. I’m also quite surprised at Ann who eventually leaves Gemma alone in her troubles too. Like Gemma, I thought that perhaps her friends are only her ‘friends’ because she has magic which can reduce or wipe out the unpleasantness in their lives. Well, nobody’s perfect.

Besides her school chums, Gemma has to deal with Kartik, Pippa, Miss McCleethy who’s watching her every move, Fowlson who’s working for the Rakshana, her father who’s addicted to laudanum, and her obnoxious brother, Tom. She definitely has a lot on her plate.

I’m quite sad to see the end of the Gemma Doyle trilogy. It’s been a thrilling journey following Gemma, her friends and their battle against being helpless women in a rigid English society that expects little and yet so much from them.

Other reviews: Debbie, Susan B. Evans, Emily, Em

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  1. I have this trilogy on my TBR for this year. Can’t wait to get started.

  2. Thanks for visiting and checking out my review! I agree with you completely about Felicity and Ann – I really almost hated them by the end of the series! They were just so awful to Gemma that I half-wished she would become really “witchy” and turn them both into toads or something :)

  3. I was so sad about Kartik. I felt I had fallen in love with him too and my heart broke when she hugs the tree and her dream at the end. He was the one character I felt changed the most from book one through book 3. I knew Pippa was bad from the beginning and yes I also felt that Gemma’s other friends were just with her for the magic, but they did see her through till the end so that says something. I’m not sure what the sweet far thing is. maybe it is the independence she so longs to have, which she gains in the end, or maybe it is the happy life (with Kartik) that she was so close to having but loses. Great book!

  4. Wow! Very thorough review you have here! I absolutely loved this whole trilogy. I have the urge to read it over, though I just finished it!
    To me it felt like Gemma was a real person. At night I “hung out with Gemma” as I told my friends if they asked me what I did last night. They gave me weird looks, but Gemma is/was very real to me. Bray’s trilogy is far better than anything Stephenie Meyer could ever produce. I hope Bray gets more fame in the next few years: she sure deserves it. :]

  5. Beth F: Yes, don’t wait anymore, you need to read it soon!

    Susan: Haha! Yeah, I was also wishing for Gemma to leave them alone and go do her thing. Then, Fee and Ann will land in some sort of trouble and Gemma of course will be the one to save them.

    Katie: True, true, we have to give her friends some credit too. At least they didn’t go all bad and fanatical like Pippa. As for Kartik, I don’t know what to say about him. He keeps too much to himself. And good suggestions on what the sweet far thing could be!

    Emily: Same here, I wanted to read it again but I need to move on to other books too. =) Hey, that’s a cool thing to tell your friends. I’m also hoping for the same thing too and that she’ll churn out more books as great as these (Gemma Doyle trilogy)!

  6. This series was great. I can’t wait to see what else Libba Bray writes.

  7. Em: Yeah, her books were refreshing indeed. I can’t wait too! :)

  8. Thanks for participating in the 9 for 2009 reading challenge.

  9. Isabel: Hi, thanks for coming by my blog.

  10. I…really enjoy this book… although it made my cry a lot… I want to thank Mrs.Brayfor this BEAUTIFULL book…thanks …. Iknow this doesn’t mean anything to Mrs. Bray… but it does to me. I’m always reading and I can tell you that this book is in my list of the #1.I have read in the past 5 months around 20 books and not little books, but they are so so not to big not to little.And I can tell that this book touch my heart. THANKS….For this amaizing book…(^^,)

  11. Sumel: Good to know that you enjoyed reading this book. I did too and was sad when I got to the last page. It definitely was a memorable read. Let’s hope that Ms. Bray writes more!

  12. Well … I hope she could write more about it but it could loss its charm. but she could write some thing more, but like that… I love it. I recomend this books and others to my friends and they…. just… couldn’t understand why was I so into it. Cuz they catch me once reading it and I was crying. cuz Ann was leaving.So they start reading them. Iread this books on September last year it took me like three days to rea the 1st one and the second like 4. my mom was also mad at me because I was reading to much.(^^,)

  13. Haha! My mom would chide me at times too if I spent too much time reading.

    Anyway, I heard that there’s a new book by Bray, called Going Bovine?

    I find Ann not a very outstanding character so I didn’t feel anything when she was leaving. Felicity was much more exciting.

  14. I’m going to try to find this book and see what is it about. Right now I’m a little bit buzy reading other three books-,”MIDNIGHTERS”. I’m in the third one right now. those books are really good but Libbas are great. thanks for the info about that book(*u*).

  15. Honestly, the most striking part in the book was the final battle in the Winterlands. I cried for almost a day on and off when I read Kartik sacrificed himself; their last kiss was honestly so beautiful. Hahaha I probably sound like a freak but reading that book like wow, their love is just something way too pure for me to explain. When his back arched and he became part of the tree I was bawling for hours it was just so sad. Then when she went to visit him ohhhh gosh. Plus the little “vision” she had (not even that just a sight) of Kartik on the other end of the water waving, drawing the symbol (I’m tearing up even now) was just wayyyy to much for me to handle the ending really impacted me and Kartik better come back. Cause I agree with a post up there, I pretty much fell in love with Kartik as well.

  16. I think the final page (starts with “When I dream, I dream of him”) all the way until the final sentence of the book was the perfect ending. Of course, I wasn’t happy that Kartik died, but I think that Gemma has to move on. Sort of like Titanic. He was like her soulmate, but she still has to live.

  17. @Sumel: I haven’t read the Midnighters before but they sound interesting. Hope you managed to find Going Bovine. :)

    @Ida: Thanks for the re-enactment of the scenes with Kartik! It’s just too bad he had to sacrifice himself.

    @Paige: That’s inspiring, Paige! About moving on.

  18. @Ida: this happend to me as well. now I’m crying.


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