*WARNING: SPOILERS. DO NOT READ DESCRIPTION IF YOU HAVEN'T READ A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY*
Dust Jacket Description:
"Ah, Christmas! Gemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy, spending time with her friends in the city, attending ritzy balls, and on a somber note, tending to her ailing father. As she prepares to ring in the New Year, 1896, a handsome young man, Lord Denby, has set his sights on Gemma, or so it seems. Yet amidst the distractions of London, Gemma’s visions intensify–visions of three girls dressed in white, to whom something horrific has happened, something only the realms can explain. . . .
The lure is strong, and before long, Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are turning flowers into butterflies in the enchanted world of the realms that Gemma alone can bring them to. To the girls’ great joy, their beloved Pippa is there as well, eager to complete their circle of friendship.
But all is not well in the realms–or out. The mysterious Kartik has reappeared, telling Gemma she must find the Temple and bind the magic, else great disaster will befall her. Gemma’s willing to do his intrusive bidding, despite the dangers it brings, for it means she will meet up with her mother’s greatest friend–and now her foe, Circe. Until Circe is destroyed, Gemma cannot live out her destiny. But finding Circe proves a most perilous task...
Rebel Angels teems with Victorian thrills and chills that play out against the backdrop of 1895 London, a place of shadows and light...where inside great beauty can lie a rebel angel."
Characters: A Great and Terrible Beauty is the intro to a very elaborate world. The Sweet Far Thing adds a whole new dimension to complexity to Gemma's wants while tying up just enough loose ends. But Rebel Angels is the most plot dense book in the series. Everything becomes a hell of a lot darker, including the four girls. Victorian culture is a big focus of the book, since the girls are all in London from Christmas. TSFT may be my favourite, but RA is always the book that surprises me with each rereading.
Gemma's struggle between English society and the free will the realms' allow is the most evident in Rebel Angels. She's dealing with her family drama, teen hormones, boys, gossip and rocky friendships. That isn't including dealing with finding Circe, the woman who is trying to control the realms. It would be an understatement to say she's overwhelmed. That's what so great about the crazed, dark thread through the entire novel: you feel it as Gemma goes through it.
Family issues, primarily with Gemma and Felicity, are also a big focus. Ann begins to come into her own and Felicity's character is given a new layer of depth. The girls' start sharing even more secrets and Ann and Fee's loyalty to Gemma, not just her power, is tested.
Kartik starts to not only be an attractive nuisance from the Rakshana but turns into a friend of Gemma's. It's fascinating seeing their relationship grow from purely political to blunt and tender. Libba knows how to develop a romance and she builds this one up with skill.
There are plenty of new characters, mainly Simon Middleton, Gemma's other love interest, who adds lots of fun to the book and Nell Hawkins', the mentally ill girl from Bedlam Gemma is relying on to help her decode the mystery of the realms. Nell's addition gives the book a starker feel that I ate up. 5 flowers.
Writing: Libba has this odd way of giving gravity to absolutely every description she writes. Everything comes across as important. It's one of the things I love about her books. There's still the same lyricism. The dialogue sometimes ends on the info dump side but it's funny and organic the majority of the time. Every word is gorgeous. 5 flowers.
Plot: As I said before, this is the most plot dense book in the series. The girls' are on the mad dash to figure out where the source of power is in the realms. There are a lot of things interwoven into AGATB that lead to answers in RA. I think a lot of people saw the plot twist at the end, however I did not. In fact I remember having to reread the passage to make sure what I thought I was reading was true when I first read RA. The entire structure certainly satisfied me. 5 flowers.
End: The interesting thing about Rebel Angels is that it's the only book in the series where the climax is half in the real world and half in the realms. You can argue with me about AGATB, and I'll still say Rebel Angels is different that way. I love how Gemma's resolves the situation. The monologue near the end when Gemma is talking about Simon is probably the most undervalued quote in the entire series. Even Mrs. Nightwing has a superb story in the end of this book. 5 flowers.
Dust Jacket Description: There's no mention of the Temple, the source of magic in London. Nor of Nell Hawkins. Also it's Simon Middleton, not Lord Denby. I do however like how the end of the description ties in with AGATB. 4 flowers.
Cover: Least favourite in the series. This is not how Gemma looks to me at all. Also, what's up with the random necklace? That isn't the crescent eye. 3 and a half flowers.
Overall: Libba demonstrates how to approach the middle of a trilogy very well. The stakes grow higher in RA as everything intensifies and that's what I love about it. 5 flowers.