From My Shelf: "House of Night" Series

In an effort to stay ahead of the curve and in light of the fact that the books have been optioned in the hopes of a hit the size of Twilight, I recently picked-up the first novel in the “House of Night” series by authors P.C. Cast and her daughter Kristin Cast. The idea of a Vampyre Finishing School is indeed an interesting sounding premise but it’s far from what you get in the series. Four books of the proposed nine part series have been released and I’m pleased to announce that I’ve bought into the series; hook, line and sinker.

In the Cast’s vampyre world, which seems to run parallel to our own, vampyres aren’t created by being bit. Instead when they reach puberty, some individuals are “marked” with a sign on their forehead and forced to move into a local “House of Night”, a school that essentially prepares the fledglings for a transformation into vampyres. Unfortunately, not everyone who is marked successfully completes “the change” and a few individuals die in the process. In this parallel world, the vampyres have also “come out” and live amongst humans. These vampyres can also travel in the day (though it’s very uncomfortable) and there’s quite the gap in time from when you’re marked to when you make the change giving the young ones a chance to adjust to their soon to be new lives. The story marries the traditional idea of the vampyre with a more spiritual approach. The vampyres in these stories are highly matriarchal with the women having the most power, and they are forever attached to the Goddess Nyx.

A few thoughts on the specific books (very mild spoilers - promise):

Marked” – The first novel in the series sets up the story nicely introducing the main players including heroine Zoey Redbird, her group of friends, her nemesis Aphrodite and high priestess Neferet. Though I enjoyed the story, I found the characters, especially Zoey, highly unlikable and the style of writing obnoxious. I realize that Mrs. Cast brought her daughter on board to help with the “teen speak” but it’s a bit much and I nearly put down the book on more than one occasion thankfully, the story is compelling enough to keep the reader interested. Even more than the teen speak, I was particularly unimpressed by the continued and repetitive cultural references that came up throughout the novel which will do the book no favours in the ageing process. In the end, it’s a light read that ends on a fairly major cliff-hanger.

Betrayed” – More of the same. I came to dislike Zoey even more in book two and started to wonder what kind of example this girl is setting for other teens. A couple of boyfriends? Flirting with a teacher? What on earth? I realize that books in a series are almost guaranteed to sum up the previous novel at some point near the beginning for those that jump in part-way through but the recap here felt particularly forced and unnecessary. The story isn't that complicated; have faith that your reader will figure it out. It was at this point in the story that I started to realize that the Cast’s had probably written an insanely long manuscript or pitched a story idea that the publisher asked them to draw out over a nine part series because book two ends in even more of a cliff-hanger than book one.

Chosen” – This is where the story really starts to pick-up. The writing is a bit less annoying and the cultural references less pronounced not to mention that the characters, a little more developed by this point, have started to take on a life of their own. No longer are we simply tied to Zoey but some of the side characters have begun to grow into integral key players. Admittedly, the only reason I kept reading was because of Loren Blake. Oh dear, I do have a thing for the bad boys.

Untamed” – So far, this is my favourite book of the series. It took three books to get here but the story is finally starting to develop beyond teen squabbles and relationships gone wrong. The characters are even more flushed out and it’s nice to see characters, particularly females, that are more than appearances. Stevie Rae and Aphrodite are complex and Zoey begins to show sings of maturity in both her actions and responses to the men in her life and to the events unfolding around her. The novel showcases the Cast’s excellent control of the story and the way in which it is unfolding and I must say, the women and their editors know how to keep the readers coming back for more.

I’m hard pressed to highly recommend the books because the series doesn’t start off particularly well but it develops quickly and the novels are addictive. On the one hand, I’m happy to see that teen sexuality isn’t pushed into the background and that sex is something which features prominently in the story (rather than simply pretending it doesn't exist). I wouldn’t be comfortable with a pre-teen reading this but then it’s nothing new that they haven’t seen or heard about on TV. Still, I’d probably hold off on a 13-year-old giving this a read unless you’re prepared to have “the talk”. Aside from the sexuality, there’s also the disclaimer of language and though easy to read, there is a fair bit of swearing in the series though again, nothing they’ve not heard at school.

The relationships, both with friends and boyfriends are complicated and not perfect love-stories which I liked though I’m still a little distraught by the whole Blake/Zoey aspect of things. It’s a relationship that seemed particularly forced and then quickly ended and though I have some moral issues with it, I must also admit that I found Loren completely engrossing; I would have liked this to be developed a little more.

Overall, though not brilliant, the “House of Night” series is highly addictive teen-lit with just enough racy bits to keep adults as enthralled as teens. Must reads? Not really but definitely worth a look for so called “beach reading”. I’m anticipating the other books in the series; “Hunted” is scheduled for release on March 10, 2009.

For loads more information and extras on the books, check out the official website and online community for the series.


Post a Comment 3 comments:

Grace said...

I personally liked the series, but I only read the first 2 books in the series. I agree with you that Zoey's relationships and whole 'every guy who sees me loves me' thing. The series relies a lot on the fact that it IS one giant cliff hanger. I agree also on the swearing thing. Yeah, teens nowadays swear, but they don't use swear words in every 3 seconds. I actually liked the fact with Loren and Zoey having 3 boyfriends, etc. because it kept me on my toes, but I was hoping each one of her little boyfriends would realize how bad she is. :P

February 16, 2009 2:44 p.m.

themarina said...

Grace - sorry I missed your comment the first time around! Thanks for coming by and leaving your thoughts. Hope you've managed to read a little further because the books do get better and having just finished 5 - I can assure you the boy troubles continue and get mighty (and I mean mighty! interesting!)

April 16, 2009 9:31 p.m.

brandi said...

i personally love zoey she awsome and is just dealing with normal problms you cnt say that you never liked to guys at once ok cause thats messed up and zoey has a lot of streess aphordite can be a totaly snob but she turened around alot and stevie ray is a good friend ive read alll the books that are out till no 09

May 24, 2009 5:37 a.m.

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