If you like YA fantasy, Miss Mabel's School for Girls is a must-read. Set aside your comparisons with Harry Potter (inevitable forevermore when an author combines boarding school and witches, not to mention competitions and curses), because Miss Mabel's is an all-girls boarding school, and Bianca Monroe is far from a "smart girl" stereotype in a witch hat. She struggles with homework, prefers practical study to book learning, adores her family, can't bear to be caged in... and then there's that deadly curse she needs to get rid of. To live past the age of seventeen, she has to negotiate with an ultra-glamorous and deadly devious witch who's playing a much deeper game than anyone knows.
It's a page-turner that will tempt you to read it all in one sitting, staying up past your bedtime or whatever it takes. The characters are engaging, and the plot clips along with enough unexpected twists to keep you guessing. Don't expect romance — the only men we see are Bianca's father and the old coachman — but the plot doesn't need it. Do expect some darker elements; there's illness, pain, nasty curses, a couple of deaths, and hints of impending war (so readers below middle school might not be ready for it). This book would make a fabulous movie.
The message? You can be as strong as you need to be.
Favourite quote? “It felt good, mixing fear with a bit of courage, making me feel like I stood up to her, when really I depended on her for my life.”
How I found this book? I know the author through Facebook and am on her launch team — go, Katie!
4.5 stars • rare • truly excellent, blew me away, unforgettable