Thursday, 6 January 2011

Review: Secret Lives - Gabriella Poole

'True graduates of the Darke Academy take life by the throat, Cassandra, remember that!'

The Darke Academy is a school like no other.  An elite establishment that moves to a new exotic city every term, it's students are impossibly beautiful, sophisticated and rich.  And the more new scholarship girl Cassie Bell learns about the Academy, the more curious she becomes.

What sinister secrets are guarded by the Few - the select group of students who keep outsiders away?  Who is the dark stranger prowling the corridors at night?  And what really happened a year earlier, when the last scholarship girl died in mysterious circumstances?

One thing Cassie will discover is that a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but knowing too much can be deadly...

Darke Academy Series:
Secret Lives
Blood Ties
Divided Souls

Gabriella Poole is a pseudonym for author Gillian Philip, you can find out more about The Darke Academy series and her other books on her website here

So far life has been tough for Cassie, she has spent most of her life in a children's home since she was abandoned by a mother who couldn't cope.  When she wins a scholarship to the elite Darke Academy she is determined to make a fresh start of it but she knows it won't be easy to fit in with the wealthy students.  Arriving at her new school she finds herself ignored by most of the other students, in particular by a group who call themselves the Few.  Students in the Few seem to run the school, skipping lessons as they please and ignoring curfews which immediately catches Cassie's attention, she is determined to find out what secrets they are hiding and why they are allowed to break all of the rules.

Secret Lives is the first book in the Darke Academy series and was a quick and easy read.  I'm not always a big fan of prologues but this one had me completely gripped.  After the prologue the story did seem a little slow to get started but the pace does pick back up again and it made for enjoyable reading.  One thing I really did struggle with was the number of students we were introduced to in such a short space of time.  I was desperately trying to remember all of the different names because I wasn't sure who was going to be important to the storyline.  I think we could easily have been introduced to less characters without losing any of the story or if they had been introduced over a longer period we would have been able to get to know them all a bit better.

What I really loved was getting to read a young adult urban fantasy with a British main character and I found myself really liking Cassie.  Life in the children's home wasn't easy and she quickly learnt how to stand on her own two feet which makes her a feisty character and one who won't let the other students push her around even if they do have a lot more money than she does.  I loved the way she didn't let anyone get away with bullying her and didn't let it show that she found the others intimidating.  She is a tough cookie and you wouldn't want to end up on the wrong side of her.

The other students come from all over the world and although they do tend to pretty much follow the standard stereotypes I liked the fact that a mixture of cultures were included.  It made it more interesting than stories where all of the main characters come from the same background.  My favorite characters alongside Cassie had to be her roommate Isabella and the other scholarship student Jake.  Isabella is a fiery Argentinian who is funny and likable and made me smile with the way she was constantly mixing her metaphors while Jake is the all American boy who has his own secrets to hide.

I knew going in that this was a vampire story so I had expectations before I started reading but Gabriella Poole (Gillian Philip) managed to completely surprise me with her unique twist on the genre.  I'm very curious to see where the story will take us in Blood Ties so will definitely be continuing the series.  If you're looking for something with a great British heroine I would recommend giving Secret Lives a try.

Source: Library

Other reviews of this book:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.


  1. I've nominated your blog for stylish blogger award! Check out my blog for more details

  2. I probably wouldn't read this, simply because of the vampire element, but I enjoyed reading your take on it! Great review, Sarah :)

  3. @ Bookgirl - congratulations on getting your award & thank you so much for sharing it with me :o)

    @ Melissa - If you're not a vampire fan this probably isn't the right series for you but I'm glad you liked my review :o)



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