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Rebel Angels    by Libba Bray order for
Rebel Angels
by Libba Bray
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Rebel Angels is the sequel to Libba Bray's bestseller, A Great and Terrible Beauty, in which young Gemma Doyle was sent to England's Spence Academy after her mother's suicide in India. There, she befriended three other girls, suffered disturbing visions, and discovered an ability to enter the otherworldly realms, taking her friends with her and returning with perilous magic.

As this story begins, Gemma's Indian protector Kartik is held accountable by the Rakshana brotherhood for the breaching of the realms. They order him to influence Gemma to find the Temple, and there to speak words of binding that will give them power. They then tell him to kill her. Gemma, in the meantime, has repeated visions of three girls dressed in white on a cliff at the edge of the sea, and a frightening figure in a deep green cloak. The girls whisper, 'She lies ... Don't trust her', but who is she? A new teacher comes to Spence - Miss McCleethy, who previously taught at other academies where young women have died or disappeared.

Celebrating Christmas with her family in London, Gemma meets Simon Middleton, who seems very interested in her, causing jealousy in Kartik. Gemma worries about her father's addiction. She also meets, and confides in, Miss Moore, the engaging art teacher she and her friends caused to be dismissed from Spence. Miss Moore states what they all have felt, 'It's a terrible thing to have no power of one's own.' Felicity and Ann persuade Gemma to enter the realms again. Pippa died in the first episode, but the remaining trio discover that she has, surprisingly, lingered in the realms, rather than moving on as Gemma's mother did. They are delighted to see Pippa but Gemma wonders how she could stay and not be corrupted.

They travel through the realms on a gorgon, braving many dangers in search of the Temple. In London, Gemma contacts Nell Hawkins in the Bethlem asylum, where her brother works. Nell was placed there for delusions about the Order, but why is Miss McCleethy also interested in her? Why does Nell call Gemma 'Lady Hope' and what do her ravings mean? It seems that Circe is also on the trail of the Temple, but who is she? During this quest, Gemma learns disturbing facts about Felicity's background, and the trio brave powerful opponents, including water nymphs and 'Poppy Warriors'. Both Kartik and Gemma must make hard decisions, he about his lifelong allegiance, and she about how to bind the magic, using a 'combination of spirit and desire, love and hope, some alchemy that we each possess'.

This tale ends with many changes, but on a note of hope and new beginnings. Gemma knows she is on a 'lonely path' but is comforted by the friends who share it with her. There are hints of further adventures, which I very much hope will be the case.

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