The Gemma Doyle Trilogy
By Libba Bray
I was a little hesitant with how the book started; Kartik’s point of view wasn’t bad, but I immediately missed Gemma and hoped the book wouldn’t continue to swap between the two characters. Thankfully, it didn’t! We get Kartik’s motives right out the gate, and then we hop straight back to Gemma, Felicity, and Ann for good.
Rebel Angels focuses on a lot of the same themes that A Great and Terrible Beauty did: fate, change, and control. However, since the main plot is ongoing at this point, I was appreciative of that, because those themes are necessary for ongoing character growth. This book begins in December of 1895, so it takes place very soon after the end of the first book. One thing I was a little disappointed with was the lack of the realms in Rebel Angels. A lot of the book takes place in London with drama between Gemma and a new love interest. There’s some extra drama involving Ann and a lie, but honestly, the plot felt it dragged somewhat. Gemma runs around thinking she’s got everything figured out, which she obviously does not, and then seems surprised when things don’t go her way.
Kartik’s obvious jealousy of Gemma’s beau is a little funny. Gemma is sardonic as ever. Felicity has seen very little change at this point. And Ann seems to finally be coming into her own. At the very least, Ann’s confidence rises throughout Rebel Angels even if her situation is a pretense. The confidence is genuine all the same.
But there were two things that made question marks appear above my head for Rebel Angels.
One was Ann and how her self-harm was handled. Rather, not handled. At first, it’s implied that once she felt she had friends, Ann’s tendency to self-harm went away. When Gemma notices it again, she basically tells her, “Hey, promise me you’ll stop that,” and it’s literally never brought up again. “Ever!?” you say. Ever. Yes, this is Victorian England, but if Gemma was “brave enough” to mention it to Ann at all, she’d be much more likely to check in on someone she seems to think of as a friend. At least sometimes, right? Nope.
The other issue I had with Rebel Angels was the assault Gemma suffered. The book breezes right by it, like since Gemma wasn’t technically raped, it shouldn’t matter. Wrong. It matters and would absolutely be a source of trauma! Magic vision in the middle, coerced to drink, and alone with someone she thought she could trust aside, this would be a hugely traumatic event in Gemma’s life. While I agree it’s highly unlikely she’d ever bring this up to her family or friends for fear of being “ruined,” Gemma doesn’t even think about it. For a character that has, up to this point, been very internally driven and unable to suppress her emotions, it’s weird.
Overall, I didn’t hate Rebel Angels. I liked the pacing and story more for book one, but the second book was interesting enough that I finished it within a couple days. I think, at this moment, one of the girls’ teachers is my favorite character, and I’m very, very interested to find out more of what’s happening to Pippa in the realms. There are just a few mysteries left to be solved, but Rebel Angels actually wraps up the main story that A Great and Terrible Beauty began. But there’s one book left! What else could possibly happen? Let’s see how it all ends.