Welcome to my tour stop for The Network Series by Katie Cross! The Network Series is a young adult fantasy and the tour runs July 27 – August 7 with reviews only. Check out the tour page for more information.
I’ll be reviewing all three books in the series so far, starting with book 1 – Miss Mabel’s School For Girls.
Be sure to enter the Giveaway at the end of the review.
Miss Mabel's School for Girls (The Network Series, #1) by Katie Cross
Published by Antebellum Publishing on March 27th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Young Adult
Source: CBB Book Promotions
Never underestimate the power of a determined witch.Letum Wood is a forest of fog and deadfall, home to the quietly famous Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, a place where young witches learn the art of magic.Sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe has inherited a deadly curse. Determined to break free before it kills her, she enrolls in the respected school to confront the cunning witch who cast the curse: Miss Mabel.Bianca finds herself faced with dark magic she didn’t expect, with lessons more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Will Bianca have the courage to save herself from the curse, or will Miss Mabel’s sinister plan be too powerful?Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is the first novel in The Network Series, an exciting new fantasy collection. A gripping tale about the struggle to survive, it will take you to a new place and time, one you’ll never want to leave.
I received this book for free from CBB Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
When faced with your first day at a new school, you’d normally keep your head down and try not to cause trouble or raise suspicion about yourself, especially if you’ve got secrets to hide. Not Bianca Monroe. Within her first day at ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ an acclaimed college for witches, she’s not only annoyed the older popular girls, but entered herself into the toughest competition in the magical world, with the main prize the chance to become the assistant to the mysterious Miss Mabel herself. Normally only open to third year students, as a first year Bianca is not only facing some tough challenges as part of the competition, but also as she has to keep her true intentions a secret. Bianca must win so she can convince Miss Mabel to lift the curse placed on her Grandmother, Mother and herself. If she doesn’t they will all die, Bianca on her fast-approaching seventeenth birthday. Together with new friends Leda and Camille, as well as some trusty allies among the staff, Bianca discovers her true powers, but realises she must face some harsh realities if she’s to control them fully and break the curse.
It’s really hard to read and review new fantasy fiction set in magical schools without making the obvious comparison to ‘She who must not be named’, but in the case of Katie Cross it’s a very apt comparison; not with the plot as you might suspect, but with the writing, and I mean that as the greatest compliment. With the solely magical world of Antebellum (non-magic users have been banished to a far-away land never to be seen again) Cross has created a story so full of atmosphere that it almost drips off the pages. Our reluctant protagonist Bianca is a girl any reader can get behind, written to elicit empathy at every turn, especially during her rougher dealings with the completely sadistic Miss Mabel, but she’s not without her own character faults, making her realistic to boot. Headstrong and sarcastic, you can’t help but think her life would be a bit easier if she wasn’t so quick to go on the attack, but Cross’ ability with character development throughout the novel shows her learning – albeit slowly.
As with Rowling’s Hogwarts there’s a steady flow of friends, enemies, and teachers who aid Bianca’s journey through her first year, and these are equally well-written. Her main friends Leda (moody book-lover cursed with foresight) and Camille (vain foodie) are superbly sketched out, and conversations between the three are a delight. To see Leda’s dilemmas as she ponders whether or not to tell people what she sees in their future, or to hear Camille desperately bemoaning her lack of abilities breaks your heart, and you know that the three of them will be guiding each other for many a year. Equally there’s the variety of staff at the school, many of them wonderfully ambiguous in their intentions.
It’s with the aforementioned atmosphere that Cross really shows her stuff, as we’re treated to dark and gloomy forests, large ominous castles with impenetrable walls, secret passages leading to even more secret societies, and many festivities. It’s during the magical moments that the narrative really goes up a notch, as every spell is depicted in the tiniest detail, it’s effects as startling as they are impressive.
With short chapters, and uncomplicated prose, this is the perfect YA fantasy, but as with all YA novels, there’s something there for older readers to enjoy as well. My only criticism is that at times, the pacing was a bit patchy, but that may have been my impatience at waiting to get to the next set-piece.
‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ ends on a cracking high, sending you straight into the pages of book two ‘The Antebellum Awakening’. The third book in the series is a novella, collecting the stories of Bianca’s friends and the witch Isadora, whose probing interview they must get through before they’re even accepted to Miss Mabel’s. Book three is due in September 2015, and I know I can’t wait.
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