Study Guide

A Great and Terrible Beauty Supernatural

By Libba Bray


Chapter 7

At the smell of roses, I snap my eyes open.

The little girl from the ally stands in front of me, shimmering. She beckons me with her hand. "This way." (7. 127-128)

The supernatural really begins here, with a figure from Gemma's vision showing up in real time, and leading Gemma to the caves where she finds the diary.

Chapter 10

She puts the scrap in my open palm. It's blue silk, torn and soiled around the edges, as if it might have been ripped by a branch. My legs shake so that I have to lean against the first tree I see. (10.77)

This is the first clue Gemma gets that she has power or that supernatural things may be happening beyond just visions. Now that she has evidence of crossing between dreams and reality, Gemma is in shock.

Chapter 12
Minor Characters

"Oh, yes. These women could help spirits cross over into the afterlife. They had the power of prophecy and clairvoyance. The veil between the supernatural world and this one was a very thin one for them. They could see and feel things that others couldn't." (12.55)

Miss Moore seems to be a treasure trove of supernatural lore. In this one little snippet, Gemma discovers more about her magical powers, and so do we.

Chapter 17
Felicity Worthington

"We've been reading the diary of a dead girl." Felicity shudders. "There's something terribly creepy about that."

"Do you suppose," Ann says, "that any of what Mary wrote could be true? The supernatural part?" (17.59-60)

Ah-ha—we are getting closer to knowing the truth behind what is going on, or at least Gemma's friends are. We already knew that what Marry wrote was probably true, seeing how Gemma has communed with spirits and all, nut now we know more about who Mary Dowd is, which seems important. And even more importantly, we see that Sarah is really bad.

Chapter 21

I don't realize that I'm holding Madame Romanoff's hand with all my strength, because there's a sudden flare of light, like the world opening up, and I'm falling into that tunnel again, my rage pulling me down fast.

But this time, I'm not alone.

Somehow, I've managed to bring Madame Romanoff along, as I almost did with Pippa. (21.59-61)

In this scene we see some of the power Gemma possesses. She talks with spirits and visits another world, with another human there with her as proof that she is not just imagining things. This place is real, and Gemma is definitely clairvoyant.

Chapter 22
Pippa Cross

Pippa touches a finger to a leaf. It curls in on itself, melts, re-forms as a butterfly and drifts heavenward. "Oh, it's all so beautiful."

"Extraordinary," Ann says.

Blossoms rain down, melt into our hair like fat snowflakes. They make our hair shine. We sparkle. Felicity twirls round and round, overcome by happiness. (22.42-44)

This supernatural world is a sensory overload, filled with colors, smells, and feelings. It is almost overwhelming… But one thing they all agree on is that it is real.

Whispers grow in the corners of the cave. They swell into a hum. The next second, the world drops out from under me. Felicity is holding my hand tighter. Pippa gasps. They're frightened. A tingling flows down my arms, connecting me to the others. (22.33)

Gemma is growing bolder with her knowledge of her supernatural powers. She is now not just controlled by them, but choosing to take her friends into the other world, called the realms. Gemma is becoming more of a leader than a follower.

Chapter 25

"I wish I could stay here forever."

"Well, you can't," I tell her.

"Why not?" Ann asks, coming up behind me. […]

"Because this is not a place to stay," I answer defensively. "It's a place of dreams."

"What if I choose the dream instead?" Pippa says. […]

"What if I refuse to bring you here next time?" (25.97-102)

Suddenly Gemma realizes how alluring and attractive magic is. Her friends want more and more, but Gemma is beginning to see how it might affect them in their own lives, in the real world. In this way, the magic is like a drug, and can be addictive and dangerous.

Chapter 28

The rhythm of our hearts beating in unison, like the thundering of horses trampling across winter-bleached fields, hope thumping freedom inside us. […] I can't absorb it. It could break me. I need to tear away but I can't.

And then the world falls away. (28.23-24)

This is Gemma's big mistake, the one that opens the realms to corruption and lets Circe's creature inside. The runes hold all the magic of the realms and Gemma sucks some of it out when she touches one.

Chapter 38

"Stop! What are you doing?" it shrieks.

I smash the third and fourth runes. For a moment, the thing changes shape, becomes my mother, trembling and weak on a patch of strawlike grass.

"Gemma, please stop. You're killing me."


"No. My mother is dead." (38.42-46)

At the end, Gemma is able to use her wits to not be tricked by the creature. What she finds is that the supernatural isn't predictable—it will use her weakness against her to get power, but Gemma finds strength to diminish her weaknesses and free herself… both from the evil in the realms and from her inner demons.

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