Gemma Doyle is a sixteen-year-old English girl living at the turn of the century. She has been raised in India but moves to the Spence Academy in England. Gemma has a strange power that allows her to cross over into another world called the Realms, where she and her friends can experience anything they dream. She can also access the power of gem-like objects called runes, which allow her to bring the magic of the Realms back into the real world.
Gemma’s attitudes toward sex, culture, and independence seem like those of a modern girl rather than a Victorian one. She chafes against the protections and limitations of her life at Spence Academy, where she is expected to want nothing for herself except a good marriage to a man who will eventually control her whole life. She is a bit of a rebel and stands up to people who want her to conform, then she helps her friends do the same. Her rebelliousness is largely a positive force in her life, but when it is combined with ignorance it often leads her to make mistakes. Because she is endowed with extraordinary power, her mistakes often place others in danger.
The Girls at Spence Academy
Felicity Worthington, Pippa Cross, and Ann Bradshaw become Gemma’s closest friends at Spence. They come with her to explore the Realms. Felicity, the group’s leader, is charismatic but often mean. She craves power, and this ultimately leads her to become a tool of a dark beast. Pippa is the most beautiful of the girls, and she dreams constantly about falling in love. However, her parents want to marry her off quickly to a rich man to pay her father’s gambling debts and get her safely into a respectable relationship before London society finds out that she has epilepsy. Pippa ultimately chooses suicide rather than an unhappy marriage to a man older than her father. Ann is the ugliest of the girls, an orphan whose extended family is paying for her schooling so she can go into service as a governess someday. Ann dislikes her place in the world but has no way out. She uses her time in the realms to experience what it is like to be beautiful.
The other girls in Gemma’s class, Cecily, Martha, and Elizabeth, align themselves against Felicity’s clique. They trade insults and sometimes pranks with Gemma and the other major characters.
When Gemma comes to Spence, she follows a vision to a cave, where she finds the diary of a girl named Mary Dowd. This diary explains some of the history of the Order and tells the story of...
(The entire section is 1053 words.)