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.
For me, the best part about this series is the atmosphere they create. The late 1800s is my favourite time period and when I read these books I feel as if I am actually there. Every setting in this book is described in great detail making me desperately wish I could be there – from Spence Academy to the streets of London and even to India. I know that these books are not a hundred percent accurate, being fiction, but I feel that they give a really good sense of what the 19th century was like.
The book as a whole was more mature compared to the first one both thematically and plot wise. Unlike the first book which alternated between Spence and the realms, Rebel Angels takes place, at least for the majority of the book, in the city of London itself. This allows the characters to have more freedom and puts them in adult situations like going on calls and attending balls. In the realms too Gemma is required to take on responsibility to prevent the evil spirits from gaining to much power. The romance was more complicated than in the first book with the hint of a love triangle – not an annoying one – and the girls thinking more about their future.
The way upper class society was presented was interesting. At first glance it appears to be sophisticated and fun – lots of parties and visits and dinners. But it turns out to be a lot more petty and childish with everyone holding insignificant grudges and backstabbing each other and trying to gain status.
Gemma is as snarky and impulsive as ever but does grow as a character. We are introduced to her family – her father, brother and grandmother and her relationships with them. Felicity and Ann’s personalities were really developed in this book, something that was lacking the the first book. Felicity’s life is once again shown to be far from perfect, even undesirable and we learn more of Ann’s back story; her hopes and fears allowing me to connect with her better. Kartik plays a small role in this book but definitely has chemistry with Gemma.
The time spent in the realms is more like an adventure this time around versus just exploring. This time we get to meet other creatures of the realms and learn the truth about the history of the Order and the Rakshana. The fight for magic is less about good and evil and more about perception and hunger for power. We are given a taste of what the magic can do and I hope this will be developed in the third book.
Rebel Angels is a bit like a puzzle. Gemma gains information from the realms, from her visions which are pretty creepy, and from talking to Nell Hawkins; a girl in an insane asylum. All the pieces are presented, but it is nearly impossible to solve until the very end as it is hard to filter out the false information.
The twist at the end was awesome! It didn’t come out of the blue and made a whole lot of sense, but there was no way I would have been able to guess it. Rebel Angels is the prefect blend of historical fiction and fantasy of contemporary issues and of magic. It did not suffer from middle book syndrome and was an amazing continuation of the series. If you love the genre or time period I highly recommend this book.