Rating: 5/5 stars
Series: Network, Book 2
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Witch, Paranormal, Magic, Fiction
I have to admit, I was a little worried that Antebellum Awakening wouldn’t live up to Miss Mabel’s School for Girls since I enjoyed that read so much. Instead, I’m happy to announce that I fell even more in love with this world than I had been before. Now I feel as if my worries were misplaced (because oh boy were they!) and I’m even more excited to continue on with the series than I was before. The High Priest’s Daughter, here I come! (Seriously this time – no months long pause, I pick it up tonight!)
Why did I wait 4 months to dive back into this series?
On a more serious note, what I like most about this series is probably all of the clues that Cross is able to sprinkle around. If you’re working hard enough to put the clues together as you’re reading through this story, you’ll be shocked at what shocks you. At least I was. Cross was able to keep me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading just by this simple fact. When would the clues fit together in my head?
Cross’s writing has a way of pulling me into the world with no problem at all. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been away from the page, a sentence in and I feel like I’ve never left. The descriptions of the events are beautiful and the character interactions have me hooked. Not to mention the plot manages to keep me guessing at every turn.
This story is jam packed with everything I could have wanted. Getting a deeper understanding of the different types of magics in the world and the uses for them along with a more comprehensive history lesson of the world itself had me reluctant to put the story down for any reason. Yes that meant I pushed sleep back a couple hours to devour a rather gripping scene, but you won’t hear me complaining!
I would highly recommend this read to anyone that’s looking for a great story about witches. It’s an action packed read full of emotion and you can just feel the love that Cross has for her characters flowing through this story.
Okay, so Merrick’s mother is Miss Mabel, yeah? And that’s why he doesn’t talk about her ever? This is probably the largest leap that my mind had made this series (so far, at least), but I keep going back to it as if it’s a known fact. He seemed really pissy about his mother the one time he brought her up to Bianca, and my mind went to the thought that he didn’t want to admit that his mother was the evil that the Network was fighting against. Plus I really want Merrick to be Bianca’s love interest in the story as it would be wickedly delicious if she fell in love with the Big Bad’s own child.
And I kind of really like Merrick. He deserves the best there is.
I would feel bad for Merrick, though, having Miss Mabel as a mother. Not only did he lose the one parent that he cared for when his father died, but if Miss Mabel actually is his mother then she’s admitted that she never cared for him. And that’s a shitty thing to know.
Speaking of parents, Derek is an amazing father for someone who was never able to be around much while Bianca was growing up. Yes, he visited and was an amazing dad when he could be, but his job and their secret prevented him from being there as often as he would have liked for Bianca. It’s hard to be a full time parents when you can’t let anyone know that you even have a family.
The fact that he knew Bianca was hurting and mourning the loss of her mother yet didn’t force the issue shows just how compassionate he was as a father. While Derek found that talking about the loss of Bianca’s mother helped to ease the pain, he didn’t force Bianca to deal with her grief the same way he does. Instead, he tried to let her figure things out on her own, to process in a way that made sense to Bianca.
Thankfully, Merrick knew exactly what Bianca was going through with the loss of a parent. While his training was a great escape for Bianca to forget about the pain for a while (minus the runs in the woods, of course), he didn’t let her mope around forever about it. Instead, he told her that she needed to face the pain. To get the grief under control Bianca needed to admit that she hurt, that she had emotions and to let them take her over. It was this advice that finally got the dragon of magic in Bianca to settle down a little, to stop it from taking Bianca over and harming those around her.
On the topic of dragons, can I just say how cool I think their addition to the story is? Not only does the world have to deal with dark magic (more on this later), but they also get to look back at the protection and danger that comes with the forest dragons that still inhabit the Central Network. I love the fact that the sapphire dragon is “her” dragon, no matter how much she tries to deny it. There’s a bond there and I, for one, can’t wait to see how this bond continues to develop throughout the series.
Of course, not all of the flying creatures in this story were so awe inspiring. In contrast to the majestic beauty of the dragons, we have the terrifying horrors that are the Clavas. These humanoid/bat hybrids really seem to be the stuff of nightmares. Which, in a way, I guess they are for the witches of Antebellum. Creatures that fueled the nightmare that was the existence of Almorran magic which had been thought to have been lost to time. Oh, how I wish that were true.
Miss Mabel and her mother may very well have been taught Almorran magic from the time they were but young witches, but that doesn’t make it any less amazingly terrifying that they’re so proficient in the craft. It takes an intense dedication and evil nature (or, at the very least, a corrupt soul) to do the kinds of things that Miss Mabel does. I can only imagine the horrors that are required in order to perform this devilish type of magic.
Though it does make sense for Miss Mabel to use an ancient and evil form of magic to try and get her way. Just like the High Priestess said, the Networks (most specifically the Central Network) are stuck with their traditions, afraid to stray from them and create a new world order. What better way to force change than to reawaken the evil magic that was thought to have been vanquished? If the current way that things are run didn’t actually destroy all teachings of this evil, why would you not try to change things, to get rid of the evil in the world for good?
While I wasn’t her biggest fan all the time, I have to admit that I was just the tiniest bit devastated when I realized how the High Priestess was going to break Bianca’s Inheritance Curse. Hell, part of my thought (hoped) that Mildred was going to use her knowledge of Merrick’s maternity to get him to break the Inheritance Curse on Bianca. (Which, if he could do because he was Miss Mabel’s son and chose not to would have made him a bit of a douche in my books.) To realize that Mildred was going to sacrifice herself to give Bianca a chance to live almost broke my heart.
It hurt even more knowing that Mildred was turning out to be someone that Bianca really looked up to and trusted. While not a replacement for the mother that she’d just lost, Mildred was definitely turning into someone who was more than a friend to Bianca. Maybe a close aunt.
I also felt bad for Marten, knowing that he loved Mildred and knew what her plan to save Bianca was but was unable to do anything to change her mind. It’s silly to think that Mildred swore an oath that would decrease her magical abilities should she not fulfill her end of the bargain but by doing so she ended up dead, with no magical abilities at all. They had to carry their love in the shadows, never admitting to being together, and not even being able to admit it after death. That’s certainly a burden that Marten will carry with him for the rest of his life.
While there’s still so many things that I would love to gush about in this story, the last thing I plan on touching on today is the friendship that blossoms in the background of this tale. Yes, we get a deepening of the relationship that Camille and Bianca had in Miss Mabel’s, and it’s beautiful. And yes, I guess there’s a deepening of the relationship between Leda and Bianca, even though they seem to be at odds a lot in this story (but how can you not be the closest of friends when you risk your life for the other?). But out of all of the girls in the Witchery, I love the relationship that blooms between Michelle and Bianca the most.
This was just a budding relationship in Miss Mabel’s and only continued to grow once they’d moved into Chatham Castle. I love that Bianca took strength in Michelle’s understanding that magic didn’t need to be used for the small tasks; that only using it for bigger things had the ability to make the magic stronger, more powerful. I loved that Bianca was able to find solace in the quiet companionship she had with Michelle, a peace that she so desperately needed with the events going on around her. I loved how nature and real and deep their friendship felt and how it all started when they competed against each other for the chance to become Miss Mabel’s assistant.
Most of all, I loved the way that these girls fought for each other. They defended each other against the evils of the world in the most literal sense when it came to fighting the Clavas, but also in the most intangible way when they fought off the hopelessness and despair that came from not knowing if they were spending Bianca’s last night with her. They fought for a moment of happiness, a memory that could carry them through the darkest times.
And they fought for each other to find happiness. Do you know how rare it is to find someone selfless enough to actually wish you true happiness? I bet you do, living in the real world. Well, these girls were able to put aside egos and truly wish the best on their friends. Michelle and Nicholas might be shy, but this small group of friends tried their darnedest to get them together – because that’s what they wanted, of course. And while Leda and Bianca didn’t understand at the beginning why Camille was so dead set on getting Brecken to pay attention to her while she had the attention of all of the other guardians, they still tried to help her with the situation as much as they could. Bianca found out that Leda was keeping her apprenticeship a secret because she was worried that it wouldn’t stick, so Bianca kept Leda’s confidence and kept the truth to herself. This job is what Leda truly wanted and Bianca knew she couldn’t stand in the way of her friend’s hopes, nor did she want to.
Even being out of this world long enough to be a functional human being is starting to feel like a nasty case of withdrawal, so this is where I find I must end my ramblings. This story has filled me with joy and happiness, though also with a touch of sadness and horror. I’m looking forward to my next foray into the world of Antebellum.
Other reviews for this series:
- Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, Book 1