Good afternoon my lovely readers, today’s review comes from a very poorly but determined little blogger. Despite having tonsillitis, an impossibly high temperature and a cough that just won’t go away, nothing would stop me posting this review today! Katie has been a blogging friend since the beginning of mylittlebookblog and her support, endless enthusiasm and wonderful writing means I hope we will be friends for a long time into the future. I reviewed her first book ‘Miss Mabel’s school for girls,’ back in March this year and have been waiting very (im)patiently for the second book to appear! It’s finally here and I am so happy to be writing this review today! Hope you enjoy!
Never underestimate the power of a volatile witch. Still reeling in the wake of her mother’s death, sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe is forced to move to Chatham Castle. Not even the sudden appearance of ancient dragons in haunted Letum Wood nor her two best friends can distract her from the strength of her deep, dark rage. Her grief puts her magical powers into chaos, endangering any witch around her. She has six months left to destroy the curse that will kill her and fulfill her contract with the most cunning enemy of all: her former teacher Miss Mabel. Bianca must make a choice: learn to control her restless powers, or let the powers control her. Antebellum Awakening is the second book in the thrilling new fantasy collection The Network Series. It’s a haunting tale about tragedy, loss, and the power of moving on.
I will start this review with a round of applause for the incredible Katie Cross, after a first book so brilliantly written I wasn’t sure that this could hold up to the same standards but it packs the same wholesome punch and then gives the reader so much more. The book starts shortly after the first book leaves us, and we are set straight back into the magical world that I have been craving for the last few months. Bianca will shortly turn seventeen and unless the task, set by Miss Mabel, is completed Bianca will lose her life due to curse that has been put upon her. After the blistering battle with Miss Mabel, the loss of her dear mother and the uncovering of the turmoil affecting the network Bianca is in a bit of a pickle. For her safety she is moved to Chantham Castle as she tries to come to terms with the chaos of her life and the political unrest that is currently affecting the network. Add in a couple of forest dragons, some dangerous dark magic and some sword fighting you’re in for one hell of a tale.
First things first; I loved that the characters are back in full force. Bianca is still vulnerable at times but she has a kick in her that I love. The grief that she has been holding within her is breaking out and her ability to control it makes for wonderful reading. She’s such a strong character, with guts and a potent desire to survive but she struggles with it in the most human way. She’s also warm and loving and the mix between the two is wonderful. I also loved the development of Leda into a stronger more independent person and yet she is still incredibly bookish. The contrast in her personality has been wonderfully developed and she is a firm favourite character for me as a reader. Camille is just as delightful, she’s sweet and airy and she makes a wonderful contrast, which allows the different personalities to play off each other. I also loved her teasing with the Guardians who are a wonderful addition to the book. Although romance isn’t a big part of the books the little nods towards it are rather lovely. I also loved that the book is laden with the theme of family and although it’s very prominent in the first book it feels more real in the second and I found myself really feeling for Bianca and finding her story all the more heartbreaking.
On a more technical note the writing is flawless; it moves with pace and dexterity and with the perfect amount of description. It doesn’t bog down in too much description but every so often Cross gives us a real gem of a line such as ‘The dragons loomed so far above me that I had to crane my head back to see them. Their scales glittered with marbled veins of sapphire, crimson, emerald and a deep mauve, seeming both colourful and dark. Heat radiating from their bodies flooded over me.’ Stunning eh? It is the mix of such wonderfully built up characters and a real understanding of how to construct sentences with the perfect amount of dialogue contrasted with description that shows how accomplished Katie is as an author. She knows what she’s doing and it makes the book such a stunner.