Miss Mabel’s School for Girls – Book One of the Network Series by Katie Cross
Apparently I’ve lost the ability to read books without taking notes on prose, flow and clarity. So, here goes.
When I found this book on my phone, I had no idea where it had come from, but, its cover looked real pretty in a mahogany red. I dived into it that lunch and would have had it finished by dinner if that pesky thing called work hadn’t interfered.
Is it that it was that good? No…not entirely. It did fall into certain YA fantasy tropes- like making hair and eye color the distinguishers of characters, like having a trifecta of evil popular girls and like giving the heroine a snarky inner voice that’s intrudes on the story in italics. But. Here is where the ‘but’ comes in: but, the story pulls you in.
It starts off at what seems like a randomly selected point and from there, there’s no looking back. Its pace is so rapid it throws you aback. Each time a conflict is resolved, you’re left thinking: but, it just started…about 3 chapters ago… and you also wonder: what else is she gonna fill the book with?
Don’t worry. There’s a lot of story. In fact, it’s so tightly packed, there wasn’t’t a page that didn’t carry it forward. The time leaps are a little all over the place, gives you a feel sometimes that you’re reading an anthology, but, the ends of each section are beautifully cut off. There’s just something so satisfying about a perfect suspension point.
Also, the snarky head voice aside, Bianca is an easy character to follow. She’s a 16 year old in a world of adults, battling for her life and for her family. Her emotions seem quite natural and though, her friendship with Camille and Leda did seem a little forced in the beginning, I’m glad to say it evened out towards the end.
I won’t say much about the other characters because none other than the villain played any major role in this book. And I want to leave discovering the villain all to you. All I can’t stop myself from saying is that she was so transparently evil, I found her quite adorable.
Oh! Oh! About the world! It’s fantasy, y’all. So, there’s magic and more magic abound. But, what I loved was that magic wasn’t just a plot device in this book. It was everywhere! It permeated the atmosphere, the world, on every page and every section. When Bianca says that she lives in a world of witches, you believe her. Because they use it in a way we use oxygen- to live, to breathe, to exist- and that pervasive feel transported me into the network and made it really easy to spend two whole days absorbed in it.
BOTTOMLINE: I recommend it. I definitely recommend it. Maybe read it when you’ve come off of your YA trip, so it’ll be easier to ignore the tropes. But, for the story and for Bianca’s resilience, it’s definitely worth a read. I’ll personally be looking up the next in the series.