In this thrilling sequel, Gemma continues to pursue her destiny to bind the magic of the Realms and restore it to the Order. Gemma and her friends from Spence use magical power to transport themselves on visits from their corseted world of Victorian London (at the height of the Christmas season), to the visionary country of the Realms, with its strange beauty and menace. There they search for the lost Temple, the key to Gemma's mission, and comfort Pippa, their friend who has been left behind in the Realms. After these visits they bring back magical power for a short time to use in their own world. Meanwhile, Gemma is torn between her attraction to the exotic Kartik, the messenger from the opposing forces of the Rakshana, and the handsome but clueless Simon, a young man of good family who is courting her.
This is the second book in Libba Bray's engrossing trilogy, set in a time of strict morality and barely repressed sensuality, about a girl who saw another way.
Although Bray's follow-up to A Great and Terrible Beauty feels a bit like a bridge between the launch and the next installment in her series, fans of the author's first novel will nonetheless remain enthralled by Gemma Doyle's latest adventure. In the first chapter, narrated by Kartik, the handsome Rakshana novitiate with whom Gemma flirted in the last book, members of his brotherhood give him a charge: to find the Temple within the realms, secure its power for the Rakshana and then kill Gemma. Gemma then narrates the balance of the novel, as classmates Felicity and Ann set forth to locate the Temple in order to bind up the realms' powers (unleashed when Gemma destroyed the runes at the close of the last book). However, they discover that the runes' destruction has set the magic in chaos; classmate Pippa (trapped in the realms in the last book) looks more beautiful than ever why did she not have "to cross"? Can she be trusted? Such questions of trust plague Gemma. What is Kartik's motive in signing on as her father's driver? Plus, a mysterious new teacher arrives who may or may not be Circe (whom Gemma blames for her mother's death), and Gemma's brother, who works at a mental hospital, leads the teen to a patient who may know how to locate the Temple. Gemma's and Ann's love interests, meanwhile, further mine the theme of Victorian class and society. Bray provides a satisfying ending, yet she implies a further struggle for power. Fans will want to stay tuned. Ages 12-up.