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  • Archive for October, 2012

    Book Critique: Marked

    2012 - 10.28

    So I’ve been trying to figure out what on Earth to write about on this blog since I don’t seem to be doing to well at keeping up with regular updates on this thing. I’ve been racking my brain to try to figure out what I can consistently put on here besides my own boring musings, and it hit me today that since I like to read, I could do book reviews!

    I have just started reading the most amazing series called the ‘House of Night’, and so far, I am two books into it, and I’m about to begin the third installment. Currently, there are ten books in the series, which I did not expect when I looked up how many there were. I really expected it to be like the Harry Potter series or the Chronicles of Narnia, both of which has seven books. I will begin with the first in the series, Marked, and I will try to post critiques as I finish them. The House of Night series is written by P.C. Cast and her daughter, Kristen Cast.

    Summary: After a Vampire Tracker Marks her with a crescent moon on her forehead, 16-year-old Zoey Redbird enters the House of Night and learns that she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess Nyx and has affinities for all five elements: Air, Fire Water, Earth and Spirit. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club, is mis-using her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny – with a little help from her new vampyre friends.

    Setting: Tulsa, Oklahoma – a very interesting choice but unsurprising considering the authors are from Tulsa.

    Critique: The story is written in first person from the point of view of the main character, Zoey Redbird. From the very first page of the book, I was immediately drawn into the story. When the story begins, Zoey is just an average human high school student. She has a best friend named Kayla, who really isn’t a very good friend at all as she is the first to reject Zoey when she is ‘marked’ by a Vampyre Tracker. Zoey also has an on/off boyfriend named Heath whom she accidentally Imprints (a vampyre-human bond created when a vampire drinks a human’s blood, which is actually a very pleasurable experience for both involved). Heath is the star quarterback for the high school football team and although he seems like a nice guy, it’s clear that he easily falls prey to peer pressure as evidenced by the fact that he is an underage drinker and occasionally smokes pot. Zoey has ended things with him, but he seems to be too dense to get the hint. Heath shows up later in the book, first to ‘break out’ Zoey from the House of Night (along with Kayla who tries to steal him from Zoey) and then on Samhain Night during a ritual that goes very wrong.

    In this universe, the world is basically just like ours. Several of the places mentioned in the setting are real places in Tulsa, Oklahoma, according to the authors. The exception is that a small percentage of vampyres are Marked as teenagers, and there is public knowledge of vampyres. Unfortunately, the vampyres are often met with hostility from humans as a result of misinformation and the villainization of vampyres throughout the centuries.

    When a vampyre is ‘Marked’ as a teenager, they undergo what is called the ‘Change’. This is when their bodies change from human to vampyre, not as a result of being bitten, but when a Vampyre Tracker marks them with a hollow crescent moon. I am not yet sure what the process is by which they choose whom to be marked, so I’m hoping it will be covered in another book. Unfortunately, 1 in 10 fledgling vampyres die from the Change as their bodies reject what is happening to them. Once a fledgling — a vampyre who has not completed the Change — has been marked, they must get to the House of Night quickly or they will die. Fledgling vampyres cannot be away from adult vamypres for very long or they will die. The fanatic religious group, the “People of Faith”, are always at odds with the vampyres and are intolerant to anyone’s beliefs that are not their own. Already we see very heavy contrasts between religion here; vampyre religion is heavily based on Wiccan, pagan, and Native American beliefs while the People of Faith seem to be based on Christianity. I found that the authors revealed that that People of Faith are actually based on the worst kind of religious fanatics, and not just Christian ones.  Unfortunately for Zoey, her stepfather, John Heffer, is an Elder among the People of Faith, and we find out that Zoey has had familial issues concerning her mother’s marriage to her stepfather three years prior to the story.

    Just in the first few chapters I saw that the book brushed on things that teenagers deal with; family issues, as seen with Zoey’s homelife and the home lives of some of her friends, and peer pressure, as evidenced when we look at Heath and his underage drinking and pot smoking. And now we are throwing religion into the mix, which is an extremely touchy subject and very daring on the authors’ parts.

    As a result of Zoey’s being marked, we see her completely rejected by her human friends and family with the exception of her grandmother, Silvia Redbird. Silvia and Zoey share an extremely close bond, and they both have Cherokee heritage, which Silvia encourages Zoey to respect. It is Silvia who takes Zoey to the House of Night to keep her from dying after the Goddess Nyx gives Zoey an unusual affinity. She is often Zoey’s voice of wisdom and reason and is the only family Zoey has to rely on now that her immediate family has basically disowned her.

    Once at the House of Night, which turns out to be a boarding school for vampyres, we see Zoey struggle not only with typical teenage hormones and issues, but she also struggles to understand her rare gift — an affinity for all five of the elements — and fit in amidst the conversation over her now filled-in mark (previously it was an outline) that is usually only reserved for vampyres who have completed the Change. Right off the bat, however, Zoey makes an enemy out of Aphrodite, the leader of the elite group the Dark Daughters (not as bad as that sounds!) over the fact that Zoey’s mark is colored in when she arrives at the House of Night. Aphrodite is vindictive, jealous, judgmental, and mean, and she starts trouble for Zoey right on her first day. I think that perhaps this could have been done a little better; I don’t think the author should have rushed into the whole ‘Mean Girls’ thing right off the bat, although there really are people like Aphrodite. In fact, I would venture to say that she reminds me a lot of some ‘popular’ girls I went to school with. However, I will say that Aphrodite does get what she deserves in the end — knocked down a few pegs.

    Zoey is also introduced to the High Priestess, Neferet, who becomes Zoey’s mentor and promises Silvia Redbird that she will watch over her. Neferet is strikingly beautiful, as most vampyre men and women are, and she is very motherly toward Zoey. Apparently, all vampyres are allowed to change their names, and we have students with names like Aphrodite, Erik Night, and Thor. Yes, a student named himself Thor. Zoey chooses to change her name from Zoey Montgomery to Zoey Redbird in proud acknowledgement of her Cherokee heritage and the fact that her family disowned her. Soon she meets a charming and sensitive ‘Okie’ girl with a twang in her voice named Stevie Rae, who becomes Zoey’s new best friend and roommate. We also meet Damien, who is openly gay and dealing with problems from his family for being gay, and Erin and Shaunee, who are so alike that they are nicknamed ‘Twins’, even though Shaunee is black and Erin is white. These four people accept Zoey right away and they all become very close. Their friendship is tested when Aphrodite loses control of a ritualistic circle she casts on Samhain Night (Halloween) and winds up unleashing some demonic ghosts. Zoey and her friends are able to cast the demons back to whatever realm they came from, Aphrodite gets what she deserved, and Zoey gets the handsome Erik Night in the end as well as leadership of the Dark Daughters.

    Overall Rating: I’m gonna give this one a 4 out of 5. I liked the issues, liked the characters, and the fact that these vampyres don’t sparkle is a huge bonus. The only thing that is a little off for me is that Zoey seems a little Mary Sue in a sense that she is given a very rare gift, her tattoos keep growing as she defeats evil, and she has two men who like her at once (later it’s three!). But the things she struggles with are realistic and she does have quirks and flaws.

    The next critique will be on Betrayed, second book in the House of Night series, which will be covered soon.