Summary contains spoilers for the series! Review contains some mild spoilers.
It has been a year of change since Gemma Doyle arrived at the foreboding Spence Academy. Her mother murdered, her father a laudanum addict, Gemma has relied on an unsuspected strength and has discovered an ability to travel to an enchanted world called the realms, where dark magic runs wild. Despite certain peril, Gemma has bound the magic to herself and forged unlikely new alliances. Now, as Gemma approaches her London debut, the time has come to test these bonds.
The Order – the mysterious group her mother was once part of – is grappling for control of the realms, as is the Rakshana. Spence’s burned East Wing is being rebuilt, but why now? Gemma and her friends see Pippa, but she is not the same. And their friendship faces its gravest trial as Gemma must decide once and for all what role she is meant for.
“We create the illusions we need to go on. And one day, when they no longer dazzle or comfort, we tear them down, brick by glittering brick, until we are left with nothing but the bright light of honesty. The light is liberating. Necessary. Terrifying. We stand naked and emptied before it. And when it is too much for our eyes to take, we build a new illusion to shield us from its relentless truth”.
At 819 pages, reading The Sweet Far Thing is a huge undertaking, but it definitely paid off in the end. The sense of accomplishment I felt at having finished it was awesome and I understand why the length was necessary.
If I had to pick a series that created the best atmosphere this one would win hands down. Everything seems realistic and the writing so descriptive that it is easy to believe all of this actually happened. When reading you are transported to London in the 1890’s and though I’m glad I don’t live there, I love reading about it. I am obsessed with this time period – from the homes to the manner of dressing to the formal speech and these book really make me feel as if I am there.
The girls at Spence are nearing the age of their debut (girls used to curtsy before the queen at a large party before they were allowed to begin looking for a husband) and have really grown up from the beginning of the trilogy though not much time has passed.
Gemma is still the same snarky girl who met at the start of her journey, but she has become more sure of herself and less impulsive. She desperately tries to not let her power go to her head and understands the consequences of trying to alter someones life through deception, or in her case magic. I love her as a narrator as she does not try to change the facts and is very relatable.
Her relationship with Kartik is explored further, and though I can’t say anything about the outcome I really felt the connection between the two characters.
Felicity, Ann and Pippa all still play important roles in this story. Felicity is still as stubborn and self absorbed as ever but she is less snobbish and more mature. Ann has perhaps grown the most; changing from a girl to was afraid to change her life to a woman who is afraid not to. Pippa is still the same as ever in her own way but eventually becomes consumed by power.
The plot is rather complex and weaves many side characters and prophecies into the immense tapestry that is this series. The more information the girls uncover about the Rakshana, the Order, and the Realms the more questions they are left with. At the end it all comes down to a lust for power.
Gemma is desperately trying to save the realms a task which is impossible as long as there is power to be lost and gained. It is much like trying to form a union between groups of people who each want to hold the power for themselves. If one wins then there is sure to be war, but to spread it equally might result in the same fate.
I was happy with the ending because for every loose end that gets tied up one slips free. It is also bittersweet; though each of the remaining characters get sent of in their own directions in search of happiness they each suffer terrible losses.
I highly recommend this series!
Check out the rest of the Gemma Doyle Trilogy!