Reviews by Maria.
I would like to thank author Katie Cross for giving me the opportunity to read and review her novels in The Network series: Miss Mabel’s School For Girls, Antebellum Awakening, and The Isadora Interviews.
My review of Miss Mabel’s School For Girls:
Bianca Moore has inherited a dreadful curse and her only hope for breaking it is the witch that cast it, Miss Mabel. To get Miss Mabel’s attention, Biana must gain admittance to Miss Mabel’s School For Girls. Once inside she must hide how advanced she is as a witch and pretend to be a beginner. From there she will risk everything by entering a dangerous competition for the prize of being Miss Mabel’s assistant.
The first half of the book deals with the competition. This part of the book felt very familiar; a seemingly inexperienced witch enters a dangerous competition at her boarding school that she has no possible hope of winning. She has to try and beat the odds with help from her friends, wits, and luck. However Cross puts an interesting and fresh spin on the magic involved and has different challenges for Bianca to face. Two of those challenges are tough competitors: evil Priscilla and wavering Michelle.
The first half of the book went a little slower because it was dealing with classes and the competition. The second half of the book deals with much more character development, with many different character’s lives hanging on the line. The second half seemed to go very fast and was equally tense and captivating.
Bianca is a smart and capable as a main character and as a witch. She was funny, loving, and very determined. Bianca goes through so much to try and end the curse on her family that it made it very easy to cheer for her even before Mabel showed up. And once Mabel showed up, the real depth to Bianca’s character began.
Miss Mabel made for a very convincing villain. She was devious, crafty, and cunning in all of her interactions with Bianca. She was such a fascinating evil character that I almost couldn’t wait to see what she’d make Bianca do next. Miss Mabel did a wide variety of things to Bianca: from holding the lives of her mother and grandmother over her head, from making her practice hexes on innocent animals, to insane homework load, and then putting hexes on her and her friends. Miss Mabel thought of everything and was an incredibly diabolical adversary.
I would have liked for more time spent on Bianca’s friends Leda and Camille; both of whom had extremely interesting back stories. Leda also struggled with a curse, one that could easily drive her crazy; while Camille lost her family at a young age and feels lost at Miss Mabel’s school. I would like to see another book in the Network Series feature one of them.
My rating: 4 /5 stars..
My review of Isadora Interviews:
The Isadora Interviews was an extremely short story about events that took place before Miss Mabel’s School For Girls. Leda, Camille, Michelle and Priscilla all had chapters as well as the featured main character.
This short story was a nice addition because I got to know all 4 girls better. I got to learn what they were like before the school and what their home lives were like. The Isadora Interviews didn’t move the series along at all and just acted as a prequel, so it could be skipped and not hinder the story at all. But I had wanted to know more about Leda and Camille’s lives in particular, and this short story did exactly that.
My rating: 3 /5 stars.
My review of Antebellum Awakening (contains spoilers from book 1):
Antebellum Awakening picks up right after the burial of Bianca’s mother. Bianca is on her way to stay in the High Priestess’ castle and they strike a deal to try and save Bianca’s life from her curse. Only, Bianca knows her life can’t truly be saved because of her promise to Mabel. The book picks up 2 months later after Bianca moved into the High Priestess’s castle with Leda, Camille, and Michelle all living there, too. Leda and Camille continue their studies while Miss Mabel’s School has been shut down. Bianca is learning to fight, dealing with her grief, and still keeping so many secrets.
Bianca’s character doesn’t really grow that much in this book. But, she does go through the process of grief in this book which made her a more vulnerable character. She holds back her grief so she doesn’t feel it and that makes her magic unpredictable and out of control. Bianca starts seeing her mother’s ghost when she runs in the wood, which makes her give up running, even though it used to give her so much pleasure. At the same time Bianca becomes vulnerable emotionally, she starts training at sword fighting with the guardian Merrick. Merrick is ruthless in his training of Bianca to get her to earn physical strength but also to get her to get control of her magic and the root of her grief.
As more guardians were introduced, Camille started to gain a love interest. And I had hoped that despite Bianca’s tendency toward self-reliance, a romance might brew between her and Merrick. He was a very interesting character. He was strong, ambitious, a hard worker, and knew how to challenge Bianca while also letting her challenge herself. Bianca remained true to herself and did not need to seek out a romance since she had quite a lot going on already. But watching these characters become closer as friends, it was nice to see sparks of something more.
Another great character addition was Derek, Bianca’s father. He and the High Priestess were featured much more in this book. After having her mother and grandmother die in the first book, it was nice having family moments between Derek and Bianca. Because he was Head Protector, Derek wasn’t even allowed to have a family and could only contact them in secret. Having Derek and Bianca come together and actually have a relationship was sweet and heartwarming. Bianca’s decision to lie to him over how much danger she’s still in from Mabel, showed how much she valued her family over herself.
With addition of more characters, intense battles and feuds both magically and politically this series is picking up steam and I can’t wait to see how it continues!
My rating: 4.5 /5 stars.
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