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The Sweet Far Thing    by Libba Bray order for
Sweet Far Thing
by Libba Bray
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Sweet Far Thing follows A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels as the third in the Gemma Doyle trilogy. The title comes from a poem, The Rose of Battle by W. B. Yeats, quoted at the beginning of the book. In the earlier episodes, Gemma Doyle was sent to England's Spence Academy after her mother's suicide in India. She befriended Felicity, Pippa, and Ann, and discovered an ability to enter otherworldly realms, taking her friends with her and returning with perilous magic. Other groups plotted to control the magic - the Rakshana and the Order (who want to maintain the status quo). Gemma fell in love with one of the Rakshana, Kartik, and Pippa died in the real world, but lingered in the realms.

As The Sweet Far Thing opens in 1896, Gemma seeks a way back into the realms after binding the magic to herself and defeating Circe. Spence Academy is renovating its East Wing, burnt down in a conflagration caused by Gemma's mother and Circe, and in which the school's revered founder, Eugenia Spence, died. Fee and Anne struggle with problems closing in on their lives, and demand help from Gemma's magic. Kartik refuses to talk to Gemma, having foreseen something that terrifies him. The Rakshana seek to control Gemma through her brother Tom. When the trio of friends do make their way back to Pippa in the realms, they find her changed and seeking ever more magic. They journey into the dark Winterlands, and Gemma is repeatedly warned to 'beware the birth of May'.

Gemma, who promised to share the magic with her friends and all the tribes of the realms, finds herself reluctant to give it up. She makes mistakes. She has visions of a previous Spence student, blind Wilhelmina Wyatt, and investigates her life to find out more. Desperate for information, she trusts someone she should have avoided at all costs. Power corrupts on all sides. Murder and war erupt in the realms - out of balance since Gemma's assumption of the power - and break through to threaten the students at Spence and the entire world. All will be decided at the dread Tree of All Souls in the Winterlands, where a sacrifice is once again demanded.

Spence's motto, 'Grace, strength, beauty' applies equally well to Libba Bray's brilliant series, whose episodes should be read in sequence, to get the most out of it. As the trilogy ends, the spirited trio of friends sail away into new and independent lives, making their own choices. It seems apt that as Gemma's ship enters New York harbor, it passes 'a lady offering us the liberty to pursue our dreams if we've the courage to begin.' I hope this is not the end of Gemma Doyle's magical adventures and that fans will be able to see her follow more dreams in the New World.

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