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R&R 127 | House of Night 1: Marked

It's been ages; I've been busy with lots of other stuff and couldn't find the time for this project. I haven't even finished a book in the entire month of June. Seriously, that's how busy I've been. And I'll continue to be busy, but I have found a way to clear some time to continue the project, hopefully more regularly from here on out. Thanks for sticking with me during my 'neglectful' absence.

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Marked (House of Night #1)
First published in: 2007
This edition: Atom Books, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-905654-31-4
Genre/keywords: young adult, vampires, supernatural
Pages: 306
Cover photography: Getty images; design by Cara E. Petrus

rr127-1000px

It's just regular day at school for most Oklahoman teenagers. But not for Zoey Redbird. Zoey just got Marked. Which means Zoey is destined to be a vampire, and to attend the House of Night school. A challenge of a non-life time.

MARKED, the first book in THE HOUSE OF NIGHT series, has a bit of an abrupt opening; it starts with Zoey being "Marked" immediately. Granted, the book never drags on and doesn't get boring, but everything happens way too fast. I would've appreciated a better intro, as this is part one of a series, the perfect opportunity to introduce your series' back story properly, a back story I would have been interested in, as this is an atypical vampire lore story. Oh, sorry. It's 'vampyre' here. Sigh.

Using the archaic "vampyre" in such a modern book bothers me in the same way the use of the term "magick" does. I was doing a shoulder shake laugh when I read what the vampire who marked Zoey said (as he marked her): "Night had chosen thee! Thy death will be thy birth!" (etc. etc.) I found myself wondering, while only on page 4 of this book, whether I would regret this read. For an atypical vampire story, it's pretty cheesy at times.

My main problem with book, however, is the protagonist-slash-narrator. I'm not so much bothered by theMary Sue-ness of her. You know, the main character, female, unaware of own attractiveness, every boy drools at sight of her… Oh. And she's Very Speshul. At this point, with a lot of YA literature it's what you choose in a main character by choosing to pick up this type of series in the first place. By choosing the series, you choose the cliche.

I didn't choose Zoey's judgmental voice though. This book is obviously geared towards teenagers (so I wouldn't recommend it to adults), but at the same time Zoey's comments about Goths and emos and "Okies" and "girly-gays" can be very off-putting for these teens, those who would be interested in reading the HOUSE OF NIGHT series. They could very well find themselves judged by Zoey and thus the authors! Alienating a large portion of your audience isn't the best move to make. I was also bothered by Zoey's recurrent shallow remarks regarding the (only!) "unattractive" fellow fledgling with his carrot hair. I'm so tired of (us) gingers being singled out this way.

The book has its preachy moments, as well. At some point in the book there's a whole "drugs are bad mmmmkay?" speech and while I appreciate the message that the authors hope to send, e.g. don't drink and don't do drugs, a book about bloodsucking vamps is not the right forum. Zoey's judgmental voice already gets on one's nerves enough without the holier-than-thou attitude. Oh and a girl is a "slut" simply for making out with a boy (geeeez), yet the authors have no problem inserting a blowjob scene into the text early on and referring to it constantly in subsequent chapters. If you're going down the goody-goody road, be consistent and don't use sex to sell your story.

All of the above – combined with Zoey's speshulness – makes Zoey sound arrogant and unsympathetic. The authors, too.

Zoey's stance on language is also inconsistent: it's "hell" this and "hell" that, but she cannot bring herself to say "shit" or "crap" when referring to horse excrement. No. It's horse "poopie". Yes. Not even poo, but pooPIE. And women have boobies. It's like a three year-old is telling the story sometimes.
The worst has to be the humor, though, often used at unwelcome times. A prime example can be found during a rather pivotal / serious scene where Zoey is having an outer body experience after an injury to her head, and sees her body from above:

"And I/she didn't look good. I/she was all pale and her lips were blue. Hey! White face, blue lips and red blood! Am I patriotic or what?"
– p.42

I actually snorted and shook my head when I read this, because I couldn't really believe these authors for thinking this was funny or that teens are seriously like this. And to think one of the authors of the mother-daughter duo IS a teen. And how proud they are of sounding so teenaged-like (it's in their preface).

While a lot of YA-series are perfectly suitable for adult readers, I wouldn't recommend The House of Night to adults. It's over-the-top teenaged. Nothing resonates with me, nothing.
The series is also not for some religious people. The SOOKIE STACKHOUSE novels by Charlaine Harris also have a fanatic anti-vampire church, but Harris allows for plenty of grey areas. Sookie, for example, is a Christian girl and pro-vamp. THE HOUSE OF NIGHT: Pagan good, church bad.

What I did like about the series is the original aspects:
– The vampires worship the Goddess Nyx; it's vampirism meets wicca, paganism
– The way you become a vampire is not the traditional 'by being bitten'. I always appreciate a fresh take.
– Like the SOOKIE novels, vamps are out in the open.
– And it's about baby vamps going to a vampire school, although I think this is also being done in the VAMPIRE ACADEMY series by Richelle Mead, though I haven't yet read any of those books.

I also liked that plenty happened to keep a reader interested, though I will still say everything happens too fast (especially in that Zoey's too powerful, too soon).
Ah, it's suitable light reading; I acquired a bunch of light reads for the summer (backyard reads, equivalent of beach reads, but as I'm beach less…) and MARKED was one of them. Loud neighbors, bring it on. Is this a good series? Not really, I don't feel. But I've read worse.

(I may try the second book, but I'm not entirely sure yet.)

Karin Elizabeth
5 Comments
  • Great review! This series is just so bad but I can't stop reading it, it's like a guilty pleasure. Zoey gets even more annoying (and slutty) in the upcoming books, so only bother if you're in the mood for teenage drama.

    What really annoys me about the writing as well is how they always stress that they support homosexuals. That's good message, yes, but can't they just show it by having gay characters without making a big fuzz about it? No, they actually have to mention it at least twice in every single book (just like the fact that ____ is the Cherokee word for daugther x_x)

    July 5, 2011 at 10:02 am
  • Such a great review. I agree 100% with you. I got the box set with the first four novels as a present and you just wrote everything really that I thought while reading these books.

    Something that you didn't say that bothered me a lot: the romance. It felt so forced to me. I liked the new take on the vampires and the setting of the story. Zoey's classes seemed fascinating to me (In fact the best parts of the novel, IMO, were when Zoey was getting to know her classes and the House of Night).

    I started reading these in 2010 and I quit them halfway through the sixth book. I felt that if I read the first 4 books I at least had to stick around to see where all this mess was heading to. Also, I really was looking forward to some answers (that were never given. In fact this is a huge problem with this series, the questions are always piling up and the authors never bother to give any answers, at all). It really bothers me to leave these characters hanging with the stories untold but I had to quit because these books were getting worse and worse.

    1) The story is going nowhere, the authors seem to be more lost than the readers.

    2) Recently the author said that she signed a contract for 13 books + a spin-off series.

    No. I had enough of these preachy mother-daughter duo, thank you very much.

    PS: You mentioned Vampire Academy. There's a series really worh reading. The author, Richelle Mead, is incredle and her take on the vampire lore is indeed fascinating. If I am not mistaken they are based on the Russian vampire myth. The school setting is great, and so is the characters. I really think you might like them!

    July 5, 2011 at 10:40 am
  • K
    Reply

    Vampire Academy is actually by Richelle Mead. (:

    July 6, 2011 at 9:28 pm
  • I agree with you in most of the things, except with your feelings about the beginning. As you I would love a back story, but I liked that the beginning started with Zoey being marked because after that she was "What the hell did just happened?", just like me because I didn't know what it's told after, that vampyres exist in society , that people can be marked,…
    I think you should try the second book, it's much better.

    July 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm

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