Standard warnings apply. On that topic, I will take the time to copy out a typical moment of hilarious well-meaningness:

Jack and Damien are together. Hello. They’re gay. My friends and I, along with anyone who’s not narrow-minded and utterly judgmental, are cool with that.

I forgot to mention that vampyres may choose new names when they become fledglings. Jack is Jack Twist. Yes. From Brokeback Mountain . I thought the names could not possibly get more on-the-nose until a new possible love interest is introduced. He is named Stark. After the character played by James Dean in Rebel without a Cause.

In the department of shouldn’t-work-but-somehow-does, I reluctantly found myself liking Stark. He has a huge rowdy dog when all other vampyres like cats, he has the very cool power of shooting arrows that never miss even if they have to teleport in order to hit their targets, and he has some excellent angst which I won’t spoil.

This book takes the most cracktastic elements of previous ones and makes them even more cracktastic. Actual dialogue:

“Stevie Rae, honey, let me be clear that I’m not judging, but you didn’t eat a street person or anything like that after you caught on fire, did you?”

I also like that the characters, while plausibly driven by teenage hormones and emotions, generally behave in a sensible manner and try to clear up any stupid misunderstandings. And if undead creatures are doomed to lurk in tunnels, eventually they'll start fixing up the tunnels and trying to get net access down there. (I would if I was undead!)

Spoilers awaken ancient angels )

Untamed (House of Night, Book 4)
Most of my caveats about Marked (House of Night, Book 1) apply to the successive two books, and if you didn’t enjoy that you’re not going to enjoy these either.

There continue to be massively clunky and/or offensive moments, plus some astoundingly bad prose and word-coining. It took me forever to figure out that "gihugic" is not a Klingon word pronounced gih who gick, but derived from "ginormous."

However, I was absolutely right about the hints I thought I’d picked up at the end of Marked, and the plot and characters of Betrayed and Chosen are significantly more interesting and less clichéd – though Zoey does continue, rather hilariously given the amount of specialness in Marked alone, to be the most special fledgling ever.

It's difficult to discuss the most fun and surprising elements of these books without getting into giant spoilers. But I will mention that Zoey continues to get tattoos that are bigger and more awesome than anyone's (though that does get undercut in a quite cool way in one book) and that her love triangle between boringly perfect vampyre boy Erik Night, creepy sophisticated vampyre professor Loren, and stupid stalkery teenage human Renfield Heath takes a turn that completely surprised me, which is that I ended up kind of liking Heath! Seriously, he turns out to be sweet, self-aware, touchingly vulnerable, and even sexy. There is a scene where he cuts his neck with a razor blade so Zoey can drink which is... er... well, I thought it was hot.

There is also a promising hint that the authors might think Erik is kind of a shallow, misogynistic jerk. I hope they do, because I think he is! Also Zoey keeps going on and on about how he looks exactly like Superman - the most sexless superhero ever.

Spoilers' tattoos are more special than yours )

View on Amazon: Betrayed (House of Night, Book 2)

View on Amazon: Chosen (House of Night, Book 3)
This is the vampire—excuse me, vampyre finishing school book.

Zoey Redbird has normal teenage problems – her stepfather is in a whackadoo Christian cult, her boyfriend is not too bright and drinks a lot, and she fears geometry – until she’s marked by a vampyre. Excuse me, Marked.

Wham! Next thing she knows, she’s attending vampyre boarding school. This point was a little unclear, but apparently the Mark doesn’t turn you into a vampyre, but is given to you after you’ve already spontaneously mutated in order to warn you to get yourself to vampyre academy. Once there, you become a fledgling trained in the ways of vampyres. But there’s a catch: about ten percent of all fledglings have their bodies reject the Change, and drop dead before graduation.

This is obviously not going to happen to Zoey, though, because she is extremely special. How is she special? Let me count the ways:

1. Her crescent moon Mark, which is normally just an outline on fledglings, is filled in.
2. The vampyre Goddess Nyx came to her in a vision and told her she had some sort of important mission.
3. Her personal advisor is the headmistress.
4. She craves blood, which normally doesn’t happen till much later.
5. Her wise Cherokee grandmother imparted special Cherokee wisdom to her.
6. She sees ghosts (or possibly zombies).
7. A very few full vampyres can control ONE of the five elements. Zoey, though still a fledgling, can control all five!

Though I mock, I actually quite enjoyed this. It’s kind of terrible and trashy, but the fun kind of terrible and trashy.

For all her specialness, Zoey is a likable character with a sense of humor that’s often actually funny. The academy is a fun setting, with its classes in Vampyre Sociology 101, cat companions, snobbish blood-sucking sororities, and secret rituals in the dead of night. The pace seems fast even though objectively not a whole ton of a lot happens, and though I never feared for any of the major characters, the Casts do a good job of making the possibility of sudden death hang over the characters’ heads. And despite the obligatory presence of a predictably boring male love interest, Erik Night (!), it’s overall very female-centric.

The novel is told in first person, and one of its main strengths is that, with some lapses, it really does read like a teenager wrote it: casual, teenage-cynical alternating with teenage-earnest, simultaneously frank and judgmental about sex. And one of its main weaknesses is that it REALLY reads like a teenager wrote it, complete with bad sentence structure, pointless rambling, etc. It also has a lot of teenage-plausible casual offensiveness – I winced, for instance, every time she called something “retarded.” However, that isn’t just Zoey being in character. There’s also the wise old magical Indian grandmother, not to mention the sympathetic gay guy who isn’t weird and femme like those other gay guys. Etc. That being said, that sort of thing is kept to a relatively low murmur, and there’s clearly an effort, however hamhanded, made at being inclusive.

What really made me want to read more, though, were the hints at the end that all was not as it seemed, and that some standard plot and character tropes might not go in the way I was expecting. Though I could be wrong about that. Anyway, I tore through this and will check the library for the sequel.

View on Amazon: Marked (House of Night, Book 1)


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