Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vampire Week Day 5: House of Night

St. Martin's Griffin

Imagine if you were a vampyre... and unlike urban legend, becoming a vampyre isn't transmitted by a bite, it's a natural process that happens to a small percentage of teenagers as they transition to adulthood. The House of Night is a finishing school to help fledgling vampyres negotiate the change they are undergoing. The school sounds more like summer camp and what many teens who don't have the opportunity to have an exclusive boarding school experience might crave: lessons in Equestrian studies, drama, economics and modern English classics with smart, challenging, vampyre teachers who treat their young charges with the independence and respect usually only accorded to successful college students. (They're even allowed to drink beer.)

After the distinctive tattoo-like markings common to vampyres appear, Zoey Redbird is ostracized by everyone in her family except for her Native American grandmother. Zoey has to leave behind her human high school and deal with the unusually strong gift of magic powers given directly by the vampyre goddess on her own. Almost immediately, she's invited to join the Dark Daughters, an exclusive sorority, and befriends her roommate Stevie Rae as well as a few select outcasts. Together, they form a new nexus of influence at the school, upsetting the delicate balance of politics and machinations that develop amongst the vampyre cliques there.

I was unsure what to make of Zoey's Native American heritage. Some of it seemed to be accurate and specific to the place (Oklahoma) but much else of it seemed a mish-mosh of traditions from paganism, and Greco-Roman myths. Part Harry Potter, part Twilight, this series promises to be extremely popular with teens.

St. Martin's Griffin

In the second book, new vampyre fledgling Zoey Redbird develops a crush on poetry teacher Loren Blake, and thoughts of love interest Erik Night are pushed to the side as she copes with her bloodlust for human ex-boyfriend Heath. She also struggles to re-define the exclusive prep soriority the Dark Daughters, helps with a police investigation of  murdered local teens and copes with the loss of her best friend and confidante Stevie Rae who hasn't make it though the change. And, what's going on with spurned Aphrodite, whose visions are called into question by Zoey's mentor, Neferet? The book is definitely setting up for a sequel with dark hints of an unpleasant destiny for those who don't make the change successfully (they seem to mutate into monsters much more consistent with what we'd think of as traditional vampyres.) The pagan rituals seem well-researched and true to Celtic traditions. The group of vamp teens display a good deal of maturity, I suppose the overwhelming nature of their change would be enough to prevent anyone from taking advantage of the sudden freedoms they are given on the House of Night campus. Zoey is totally boy-crazy, but despite her multiple crushes she still doesn't feel ready to consumate a relationship. A love interest for her gay friend Damien is also briefly included.

The third book in the House of Night series offer fun, light reading with plenty of pop culture references. Fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird is torn between three great possibilities for boyfriends: Erik Night, Loren Blake and Heath Luck. She's keeping more and more secrets as she struggles to figure out how to rescue her friend Stevie Rae from turning into an evil undead. Her mentor Neferet has already turned evil, and it's clear she's manipulating events. I felt bad for Zoey because she seemed so conflicted about her relationships, and despite keeping only to kisses still tends to think of herself as a "ho." She's also pretty impulsive and has trouble thinking ahead. It seemed to me that her main boyfriend, Erik, was the one she should dump. Being distracted by so many others is a sure sign that he's not the 'one'. And, he pressured her. She lacks respect for him, knowing that he was Aphrodite's ex. That has "dump him" written all over it, but she didn't seem to clue-in to that fact. One thing which I initially thought was strange was the way Loren Blake suddenly starts calling her "baby" the same way her human Imprinted boyfriend Heath had. But later, Blake turns out to be a complete cad of course, so it makes a little more sense. The book ends on a completely unexpected cliffhanger. Stevie Rae turns into a NEW kind of vampyre, and manages to transform vampyre fledgling Aphrodite (who's been shaping up to not be such a jerk after all) back into a human.

by P.C. + Kristin Cast
St. Martin's Griffin

In the fourth House of Night novel, Zoey has got to win back her friends and find a way to fight the increasingly evil head of school, Neferet. Aphrodite really steps up and behaves as a true friend for Zoey. The characterizations for Zoe's friends are flatter and more boring than ever. Zoey has a brief interest in new vamp Shane, but of course, is still torn between Erik Night (who's now been promoted to drama teacher) and her human ex, Heath. Shekinah, a top-ranked priestess of Nyx, arrives to oversee things at the school and defuse Neferet's war against the humans. Zoey does come off as more ambitious and more bossy than even she realizes. Zoey gets involved with a Street Cats charity run by Benedictine nuns which is just... odd. The intersection of Catholic and Pagan beliefs in this book felt like a jarring combo to me. The story ends on a real cliffhanger, with evil Raven Mockers from local Native legend overtaking the town and more than half the school mesmerized by a beautiful but evil new male supervillain, Kalona.

Talented young fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird and a few of her friends have holed up in some underground ducts outside their exclusive prep academy, The House of Night. They've forged an uneasy alliance with the group of red vampyres, led by Zoey's former roommate Stevie Rae.

Meanwhile, the world is under siege by Kalona, the leader of the supernatural Raven Mockers. Kalona begins to invade Zoey's dreams, where he lets her know that he believes she is his old love, reincarnated. Zoey is not terribly tempted by his offer to join him. Zoey's former mentor, Neferet, who she's never been close to, is now busy trying to start a vampyre/human war. Being stuck in the tunnels, most of the characters end up coping with issues of privacy -- they are all a little too close for comfort, and in each other's business. The two most interesting developments of this novel were that the now-human Aphrodite seems to have Imprinted on Stevie Rae. And, while Zoey is still indecisive about which boy she likes best, Erik or Heath, she's also newly intrigued by Stark, a red fledgling blessed and/or cursed with supernatural archery powers. The tradition of powerful priestesses having multiple consorts or pledged warriors is explained, and so I wonder if that is how her multiple-boyfriend situation is going to resolve itself. Despite all of this, the pace of this book definitely slows down quite a bit. I felt there was too much exposition, and not enough forward movement in the story. By the fifth book of a series, authors shouldn't feel that they have to explain everything. Have the mother-daughter writing team behind this series lost the plot?

I haven't gotten the chance to read the newest book in the series yet. Even though the books seems to be slowing down, I'm sure I won't be able to help myself and I'll probably read Tempted before the end of the year.

I borrowed all of these books from the public library.

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