Monday, June 21, 2010

Burned review


Every time I promise myself that I will stop reading the House of Night books, I give in, and read "just one more." This series is like candy. You can't stop with just one, and even though it's probably not nutritious, they are delicious reads. This latest installment is not for the uninitiated; readers will be lost without the backstory from earlier books.

Reading Burned, I was struck by how different it seems from the start of the series. The perspective hops around a lot, and with Zoey out of commission, this really is Stevie Rae's book. As the first red vampyre priestess, Stevie Rae is responsible for the red fledglings, vampyres that are much more similar to the traditional undead than the superhero blue vamps. She's hiding a dangerous secret... she's Imprinted with a Raven Mocker, Rephaim, something her friends' who've survived several deadly Raven Mocker attacks, would never understand. 

Much like Zoey, Stevie Rae now has to juggle her boyfriend, Dallas, and Rephaim, who is living in hiding near the House of Night campus as his broken wing heals. There's a lot of moral ambiguity here, as Stevie Rae has recently recovered from being evil herself, so she's quite sympathetic to Rephaim's struggle to figure out his path now that his link to Kalona has been weakened. She's also oddly protective of her red fledglings who have gone rogue and started attacking and torturing humans again. She hopes to influence them to improve their behavior. Stevie Rae's burgeoning feelings for the half-birdman Rephaim tarry dangerously close to furry fandom in my eyes, however. Creepy!

In the meantime, Stark, Aphrodite and Darius are off to the Scottish Isles to see if they can perform a ritual that will bring Zoey back from the coma that she's in. Through a series of "aha" moments, they realize that Stark has enough Scottish ancestry to qualify for entrance to the Isle of Skye, where he pleads with their Queen for the chance to save Zoey. Lots of capitalized titles here, as the Casts worldbuild a more and more complex scheme of Priestesses, Prophetesses, Queens, Warriors, Shamans, etc.

Aphrodite does drop a couple of f-bombs in this book. I really feel for the Casts. When Zoey uses silly-sounding euphemisms like "bullpoopie" they are roundly mocked for being namby-pamby. When they resort to four-letter words, for more "realism" however, they'll risk alienating parents and teachers who purchase the book. Stevie Rae's favorite exclamations still tend to be "dang" and "ohmygoodness."

I'll be frank. I can't imagine any Catholic nun warmly endorsing paganism, as Sister Mary Angela seems to do in this book. This seems to be a way for the authors to put words in the mouths of those who are conservative idealogical opposites to their views on the goddess. Marion Zimmer Bradley does something very similar in The Mists of Avalon.

For me, the scenes with Zoey are some of the weakest in the book. As she wanders in Otherworld with Heath, split from various parts of her personality, readers are subjected to corny exchanges like the one she has with her 9-year-old self who exclaims on meeting the grown-up Zoey, "We got boobies!" Ridiculous. And despite Heath's recommendation to Stark that he should best support Zoey by letting her take the lead, the scene still has the distinctly creepy feel of one man "giving" her to the other.

I was surprised to see Zoey returned to full-strength by the end of the story. I really thought that an added challenge of coming back to Tulsa with the "disability" of being no more powerful than other fledglings would be an interesting turn.  And that's the crux of the problem, really.  A great story needs conflict.  With Zoey's supernatural powers (unusually strong, even among the already gifted vampyres), great looks, and a bevy of gorgeous guys fighting over her, the stakes seem fairly low.  There's not a lot of dramatic tension when you start to feel that Zoey will come out of any and every situation unscathed and probably Even More Powerful than before.

Will I read the next book in the series? Hard to say. At the moment, I've sworn not to. And yet, by next year, when Awakened, the eighth book in the series, comes out, I may have changed my mind.

I blogged this during the 48-Hour Book Challenge.
I borrowed this book.


  1. Well, I actually haven't read any of this series. I see it pop up on blogs all the time, though. Most people love them, and I'm in need of a slightly addictive series. I'll have to check them out.

  2. Yes, these are books that people love, and love to hate. Kind of funny, as it begs the question, "If they frustrate you so much, why do you keep reading them?" I don't know... they are just addictive, I guess!



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