Introduction and Drinking Game
Hello everyone. It’s been a long hiatus for me, I know. Unfortunately this isn’t a Halo update. I haven’t been able to find that book, and while I’m expecting to find it in my grand attempt at cleaning up, I’m not sure where it went.
I’m not as upset about it as I should be, but as I’m using it for my Capstone, it’s going to need to come up shortly.
Now, since I’m kind of using this to help me in this Master’s project, the nature of this spork is going to be a touch different. I’m going to take a slightly more scholarly approach to things. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be as snarky as possible at the same time.
Since I’m in possession of PC Cast’s own book were she talks about the folklore and myths that she’s using, there’s going to be a lot of discussion of that, as well as historic context, and other things that she thinks that she’s being clever about doing. Particularly when it comes to changing around pantheistic religions until they’re all mother goddess vampire worship.
However, just because I’m being brainy doesn’t meant that we’re not going to have some fun. Therefore, I happily introduce the House of Night drinking game!
1. Take a drink every time that someone that Zoey doesn’t like is treated like they are evil when they haven’t actually done anything wrong.
2. Take a drink whenever Zoey preaches.
3. Take a drink when things and people that Zoey likes are treated like they can do no wrong when they really aren’t all that much better than the things and people that Zoey doesn’t like.
4. Take a drink every time that Zoey is the best at something or acknowledged as special in some way.
5. Take a drink every time something from folklore, literature or mythology is misused.
6. Take a drink every for any time that tokenism exists.
7. Take a drink whenever a religion that isn’t the one that the Casts subscribe to is dumped on.
8. Take a drink for every incidence of ‘feminism’.
9. Take a drink every time that someone does something stupid.
10. Take a drink every time that Zoey whines.
11. Take a drink every time that the world itself makes no sense.
12. Take a drink every time something edgy is thrown in for the sake of edginess and ever really discussed.
13. Drink the whole bottle when the rules of the universe bend over for Zoey’s sake.
Once again, I recommend that no one actually use anything alcoholic when playing this game. It will result in liver failure. Use something like tea or coffee. Then you’ll only have to go to the bathroom.
Please note that I put quotes around feminism, because while the Casts certainly seem to think that that is what they are purporting, it reads like something that a fifteen-year-old would write on Tumblr on a bad day.
For any who don’t know: tokenism is when a character trait is introduced into the narrative for no reason other than to show how progressive the authors are. For instance, Alec from Mortal Instruments is gay, but the fact that he is gay is not only the extent of his character but also the extent of his impact on the story, and tends to constantly be pointed out. Basic test: if the character could be removed from the narrative and nothing important would change, you’re dealing with tokenism.
Now, I am going to be fair in this. Giving credit where it is due. Sometimes I think I can be a little over angry, and writing my own book has shown me that it takes a lot of work, and I have no doubt that this was the result of work. The question is if this work was well spent.
So, as anyone who has read my own review of this book knows, The House of Night is a series of novels written by the mother/daughter team of PC Cast and Kristin Cast. PC Cast is actually an established author, having written such works as the Goddess Summoning series. Most of her stories seem to have similar heavy Wiccan themes, and from what I have gathered in researching some of their interviews, she honestly believes in what she’s writing.
So, unfortunately, for me, she’s a lot like the writer of Shadowmancer, who thought that he could proselytize while writing a good book, much like C.S Lewis did. This isn’t all that uncommon, as Philip Pullman and other writers have attempted to do the same exact thing to varying success. The problem of course is that Lewis was a very, very talented writer and PC Cast is, while decent, not to the same talents that Lewis had.
Kristin Cast, at the time of this book’s creation in 2007, was a communications major. There is nothing much to say about her other than the fact that PC has flat admitted that Zoey is based heavily on Kristin as a teenager.
Now, co-authorship is not easy. I am doing it with a very good friend of mine. If she and I didn’t have very similar interests and ideas, we’d probably have a lot problems, and sometimes, we have to make compromises. Also, there is the fact that we have to edit things together so that it looks like it has a pretty even flow. She has her ticks and so do I. With an experienced writer and an amateur, I can only guess that it was probably twice as hard.
Here, there are clear times when PC Cast takes over and clear times when Kristin does, and I’m going to discuss when I think those are and what the effects are.
So, let’s dive in.
So, I’ve talked about this cover before, and everything that I said stands. This this looks like porn no matter how I try to pretend that it doesn’t. What I’m going to talk about here is why it looks like porn, what it was actually trying to do, and why it doesn’t do it.
The first thing that really comes to the attention when looking at this thing is the fact that the majority of the book is taken up with black. While there are some nice little designs around it, it doesn’t change the fact that this is almost entirely blank space that could be used for something else. The title and the crescent moon are nice enough, and hint at something magical, but the only actual picture here is that of the girl in the upper left corner.
Or rather half of her face, which is staring at me in a way that I think is supposed to be sultry and mysterious, but honestly just looks kind of silly.
It gives me nothing about what the book is going to be like, what the tone of the thing is, or anything else. If anything, it’s promising me sex, since it is formatted much like novels such as the later Anita Blake books, where a woman in a sultry pose is silhouetted against a dark background. The fact that her visible eye is violet does add something to the idea of magic, since it’s a rare color, but honestly it seems more like it would be at home as a Gossip Girl book than what they’re trying to write.
As it is, there is nothing that tells me anything about their being vampires, magic or anything else. Even the girls in the prom dresses tried to set a mood!
The book is dedicated to
our wonderful agent Meredith Bernstein, who said the three magic words: vampyre finishing school. We heart you!
And yes, ‘vampyre’ is spelled with a ‘y’ in this book. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m going to bring attention to it again.
I have no idea why they’re doing this. I looked at the book that I got that was supposed to help me know about mythology and nothing came up. I assume that it is merely because the Casts would like very much not to be connected too closely to the folkloric vampire, or possibly just be connected to the older spelling like in The Vampyre by John Polidori.
That’s probably for the best if it was a distancing.
The vampyres aren’t anything like the real thing.
The ‘we heart you’ feels as if the Casts are desperately trying to be hip.
There is nothing more than that to family, friends or anything else. That’s going to show up in the acknowledgements.
So, the first person that the Casts thank is a student called John Maslin who apparently helped with research and giving feedback. So, he basically made crap up and told them that the book was great.
She also adds
A big THANKS GUYS goes out to my Creative Writing classes in the school year 2005-2006. Your brainstorming was lots of help (and quiet amusing).
I don’t really know why the caps. I guess that a normal sized ‘thanks guys’ just wasn’t enough. I’m pretty sure that this isn’t Mommy Cast taking classes, since she’s already an author. It’s very possible that she was teaching and allowed her class to see some segments. That’s not really cricket, but I’m never seen anything that is overtly against it. Though I’m sure the students were more worried about their grades.
Also, I’d be interested in knowing what level this was. Creative Writing courses on the 200 level tend to be “I need credit and this looks easy” while the upper levels tend to be for more serious writers. The Writer in Residence at my college refuses to teach anything that is below 400.
Both thank one another for being wonderful people, and frankly it looks a little self-indulgent. Then again, I suppose that they both think that no one is actually going to read this, so who cares.
Finally, both thank Dick Cast, who is PC’s dad and Kristin’s grandfather for
the biological hypothesis he helped create as the basis for the House of Night’s vampyres.
So, basically the explanation that comes up, but honestly doesn’t make all that much sense within the narrative. I wouldn’t be all that grateful for that personally, but that’s just me.
So, that is the acknowledgements. It’s pretty short this time, so I’m going to let things go. In the next part, we meet Zoey Redbird, her friend, and things get started.
The story begins with an exerpt of Hesiod’s Theogony discussing “the Greek personification of night”, Nyx.
“There also stands the gloomy house of Night;
ghastly clouds shroud it in darkness.
before it Atlas stands erect and on his head
and unwearying arms firmly supports the broad sky,
where Night and Day cross a bronze threshold
and then come close and greet each other.”
Now, there are already some problems, since the text claims that this is a poem to Nyx. This simply isn’t true. Theogony is much more complicated than that. Given that the name means “birth (or origin) of the gods”, Hesiod is essentially recounting the entire early saga of the gods. Nyx, or Night, is certainly mentioned, usually as “gloomy Night” and other such ominous titles, including evil in one translation, but she bares little importance on the main poem. Night is the daughter of Chaos, who along with Earth, and apparently Eros (seriously, look it up) was without origins. She was a primordial goddess, and therefore, she would have been seen as scary powerful, but at the same time, she was pretty uninterested in humanity and even the things that Zeus was up to.
As long as they didn’t affect her or her children.
If you’re wondering how that fits into the idea of Eros as the son of Aphrodite, don’t ask. A lot of gods have multiple origin stories. Kind of like how Hesiod claims that Cerberus has fifty heads.
While she appears through the poem, mostly because she is the mother of Day, Aether, Death, Sleep, Doom, Dreams and Fate, and she is certainly an important goddess for the origins of the world, she isn’t really a big focus. The majority of the poem details the rise and fall of Cronos, leader of the Titans, at the hand of Zeus, his youngest son and how the world was set up. Hesiod was more interested in discussing the gods who directly affected him.
Night herself disappears about halfway through, and even this mention of her gloomy house, is in reference to how the world will be set up, with Atlas holding the sky so that Night and Day may pass and order be maintained.
But we all know perfectly well why the Casts are using that line: “House of Night” sounds cool. I mind that a lot less than the sheer academic dishonesty of the Casts claiming that Theogony is a poem to Nyx, a very minor goddess in the Greek pantheon.
Which means that we’re not even in the first chapter and we’ve got a drink.
This doesn’t overly bode well on how they are going to justify Nyx as a major goddess, but it is time to jump into the plot proper.
The story begins with a pretty good hook.
Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse, I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker.
Credit where it’s due, this is a good hook. It shows that something is about to happen, makes the reader wonder how the speakers day stank and why there is a dead guy standing at the speaker’s locker. It also implies that this isn’t as mind-numbingly terrifying as it would be in the real world.
It goes downhill quickly.
The speaker, after this interesting hook, goes on to complain about how their friend, Kayla was talking so much that she didn’t notice him, which is
more evidence of my freakish inability to fit in. (1)
for some reason. This is pretty common in YA, since readers often feel alienated from their peers, the protagonist is usually pointed out as being something of an outcast, and not like all the other people. Everyone’s written this. Honestly, even I have and continue to do so, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the trope as such. It can be used well, and it can lead to interesting characters. People side with an outcast. The problem is how this is handled. It’s just flat stated less than a paragraph in. What’s more, there is no evidence for why Zoey isn’t able to fit in. For instance, we don’t even get the age old ‘she doesn’t like shopping’ as a justification.
While I have no problem with this trope at all, you have to justify it. If Zoey was a huge nerd who liked to collect anime stuff or play video games or read less popular fantasy, I could see it. If she was into woodshop and liked to design things, I could see it. But the thing that makes it hard to fit in is usually situated in interests at this age.
Actually, all the evidence speaks of her being just like every other teenager in existence.
For instance, in the next bit Kayla is complaining that Zoey is being too hard on her boyfriend, Heath. She claims that he didn’t get “that drunk” at some party. Since she is dating and clearly has friends, as far as I can see, Zoey fits in with her general society just fine.
Zoey ignores Kayla and mentions that she feels sick, but brushes it off and makes a joke about her biology teacher probably saying that she was suffering from the “Teenage Plague”.
It’s not that funny.
Kayla continues her rant about how Heath has been being mistreated since
he only had like four—I dunno—maybe six beers, and maybe like three shots. But that’s totally beside the point.
No, no it really isn’t. Of course, this is to show that Zoey is in fact totally justified in her anger towards her boyfriend. The problem is that no real person wouldn’t see this as a problem, which makes Kayla’s being irritated with Zoey show that she is the strange one. It just looks to me like a desperate bid for my sympathy. It just makes me wonder about the Cast’s view of reality.
Kayla goes on to state that he wouldn’t have drunk so much if her parents hadn’t taken her home right after a game, and thus leaving little Heath alone without a girlfriend to entertain him.
Here, Zoey agrees about the
latest injustice done against me by my mom and the Step-loser she’d married three really long years ago.
I’m sorry, Zoey, parents making their underage daughter come home when a party clearly has alcohol is not an injustice. Maybe not fun, but certainly not an ‘injustice’.
I’d be a lot more sympathetic if it was clear that we were supposed to think that Zoey was being overdramatic.
Moving on from spite for her stepfather to spite for her friend, Zoey complains that Kayla is talking again (she calls her K-babble) how it was totally ok for him to drink since he’d just won a game and since Zoey’s “almost boyfriend” who clearly thinks that he’s her boyfriend but is being specified as such so that when Zoey treats him like crap later, it’s totally justified, is the quarterback, it’s right for him to celebrate.
Zoey’s dislike of it, isn’t really the fact that it’s the fifth time that he’s drunk, nor is it that he’s clearly starting to become more and more of an alcoholic and forgetting all of his ambitions. No, the real reason to be unhappy is
he’s going to get fat from all that beer. (2)
This is something that Kayla agrees with, since clearly having a beer gut is far more important than anything else that has been mentioned here. It gets aggravating since despite already complained about the beer gut, Zoey decides to whine about Kayla’s “typical shallowness” ( ) and Kayla, completely unaware that her friend is indulging in her superiority complex, jokes about her looking crabby while sick.
Then we finally get back to the fact that there is a dead person. Zoey corrects herself, which sounds strange in the narrative, admitting that he’s not really dead, but rather he is undead, and gives us this description:
There was no mistaking what he was and even if I hadn’t felt the power and darkness that radiated from him, there was no frickin’ way I could miss his Mark, the sapphire-blue crescent moon on his forehead and the additional tattooing of entwining knot work that framed his equally blue eyes. He was a vampire, and worse, he was a Tracker.
So, he essentially looks like this:
Only more girly.
Also, note how the Casts have a thing with Capitalizing random Words. It’s supposed to make them more important, but it makes me wonder why ‘Mark’ is capitalized when ‘tattoo’ is not. As they are both clearly significant to his being a vampire.
And no, I’m not using the ‘y’. I have my dignity.
So, since Trackers are apparently significant in a bad way, though we haven’t had any explanation of that while we were focusing on an off-screen character’s beer gut, Zoey freezes up. Kayla doesn’t seem to see him. Which raises questions. Are trackers only seen by the person that they Mark? Is there a reason? Does that mean that the Trackers are real or just figments of Nyx?
Sadly, the answer to these questions remains an unknown.
The vampire talks, and…well, look at this.
The vampyre spoke and his ceremonial words slicked across the space between us, dangerous and seductive, like blood mixed with melted chocolate.
“Zoey Montgomery! Night has chosen thee; thy death will be thy birth. Night calls to thee; hearken to Her sweet voice. Your destiny awaits you at the House of Night!”
So, anyways. Yeah. This has…problems. So, the description of the voice as blood and chocolate is both cliché by this time and also kind of nonsensical. I assume that the Casts are trying to show the dangerousness of it with the seduction that can be associated with chocolate, but in reality, the simile just sounds lazy and completely unnecessary. It’s also strange since Zoey is aware that this is ceremonial.
Finally, the actual speech, if you read it, is both poorly written and kind of creepy. ‘Will’ doesn’t work here, since we’re presumably using an older form of English. The correct word would be ‘shall’. If you’re going to rip off King James Bible English, at least do it properly.
As far as creepiness goes… Well, note that Zoey has absolutely no power over her transformation at all, and given that it’s got religious undertones, it’s a lot like a kind of forced conversation.
So, Zoey faints, and the next thing she knows is waking up to a very upset Kayla. Kayla, who ignores Zoey’s obnoxious comment about her looking like a fish tells her that she’s been Marked, while crying. Kayla’s reaction is PC Cast’s work most likely, and it works well. Her tears and reaction are nice world building, showing that, to the human world this is not only a big deal, it’s seen as a tragedy. The problem is what happens right afterwards. Zoey, being a jerk, whines that Kayla is crying and tells her to stop. ( ) When Zoey reaches out for her she
automatically cringed and moved away from me. (4)
This could make sense, if we had any kind of indication that she was suddenly terrified that Zoey would try to attack her and drink her blood. The problem is that so far, Kayla has not treated Zoey any differently.
Zoey is hurt by the cringing and Kayla complains about how she’s turned into a vampire and that’s horrible because “who am I going go to football games with?” (4)
…what? ( )
Kayla, your friend just became one of the legions of the undead. I think that you need to be worried about a lot more than just that. Of course, this is just to make Kayla seem more shallow and all, but it doesn’t feel natural. Even the shallowest of shallow characters needs to be able to react to problems in a way that feels natural. It would be more natural if she had acted very upset and confused, and talked about how terrible that it had to be for Zoey, but also ran off the second that she could with a poorly veiled excuse, but the selfish comment here just sounds as if the Casts wanted to show that Kayla was shallow, but not build on it, which really is a shame. It would have made Zoey slightly more sympathetic if she truly felt isolated from humanity.
So, Zoey whines about how she wants to cry, since Kayla isn’t moving closer to her, but doesn’t. Then, in the tone of the greatest of martyrs comments
I was good at hiding tears. I should be; I’d had three years to get good at it.
Well, aren’t you the tragic little princess.
As this is completely given no context for, it again sounds like a whiny, overdramatic teenager being whiny and overdramatic.
Since we’ve been making Zoey sympathetic (or at least trying to) we can listen to her judging the plebs. Essentially she spends a paragraph talking about how she doesn’t have to take a certain test, now, and if she hadn’t been studying for it like a good guy, she’d have been waiting for the bus, and listening into people’s private converstions. Her “stupid, Barbie clone” (4) sister who doesn’t seem to have a name is mentioned once, and Zoey is grateful that the only one who has seen her getting Marked other than Kayla is, and I quote
a tall thin dork with messed-up teeth, which I could, unfortunately, see too much of because he was standing there with his mouth flapping open staring at me like I’d given birth to a litter of flying pigs. (4-5)
Now, I remind you, this is our outcast heroine, who we are supposed to support. Who is supposed to be a kind person who represents the average ‘good girl’.
But that’s none of my business.
Zoey spends a good page wondering if vampires are going to be as stereotypical as the people at her highschool are (don’t worry, Zoey, you’re going to get a nice, PC group of friends) such has having preppy vampire cheerleaders or vampire dorks. Personally, I might find it amusing for a Mary Sue like Zoey to be turned into a vampire and find that everyone is a mega nerd and that the school has organized D and D tournaments, LARPs where the only race forbidden is vampire, there are school trips to conventions, and suddenly the people that she spent her life judging as less than her are the mainstream.
Of course, that would be vaguely interesting, which this book is not, and Zoey, our ¬outcast heroine who can’t fit in, whines about how Emos and Goths have an “aversion to soap and water” and how she doesn’t have a desire to wear too much eyeliner. Yep, even here the Gothic Movement is unloved.
So, moving back to the plot, Kayla asks if she’s ok, but she’s scared of Zoey, and we randomly get the information that Kayla and Zoey had been best friends since third grade, which they sure don’t sound like, and Zoey tries to convince Kayla that it’s still Zoey.
I have a theory that Kayla just realized what a jerk you are and being a vampire has nothing to do with anything.
So, Kayla’s cell rings (and the ring tone is ‘Material Girl’ in case you wanted more proof that she’s shallow) ( ) and it’s the plot calling in the form of Kayla’s boyfriend. The Casts again shoot themselves in the foot by having Kayla asking Zoey to call her, and she vanishes from the plot.
Which means that we have a few pages of Zoey thinking about herself, and some very clumsy world building.
So, we are informed that when you are Marked, you have two options, you will either become a vampire, or you will die. If she survives she has to go to the House of Night, which her friends call “Vampyre Finishing School” (6) where she learns how to be a vampire.
Of course, there’s another problem right here. This isn’t a finishing school. This is a prep school. There’s a difference. A finishing school is, one, usually all female, and two mostly concerned with getting out ready to face society. Given that Zoey and her little cronies never actually go through the polite way to ask someone for permission to bite them or how to excuse yourself from a fancy party before the sun comes up, I see very little of that.
So, while the idea of a classy school were vampires go is…stereotypical, it doesn’t work in this context.
She whines about not wanting to do either (which is understandable so I’ll avoid the drink this time) but manages to lose that when she complains about the “burden of my mega-conservative parents, my troll like brother, and my oh-so-perfect sister” (6) ( drink up, lovelies) and how she wants to be a vet and fit in (which again she’s actually doing a very good job of). After tragically whining about her home not being home anymore ( ) she complains about having to leave her friends.
This would be a whole lot more convincing if she clearly didn’t even seen to like her ‘best friend’.
So, woe is Zoey. She decides to move her hair so that it covers her new mark, but stops at the entrance of the school where she sees Heath, her boyfriend standing there with a bunch of other people, who Zoey doesn’t like because they’re not interested in her. We are introduced to characters who we’ll never see again like “Kathy Richtar, the biggest ho in school” who hasn’t really done anything other than flirt with Heath, and since Zoey does not admit to dating him, there’s nothing wrong with this behavior.
This is actually a depressing frequency in these books. Zoey refers to other girls, usually the ones that she doesn’t like, as ‘hos’. Particularly if they actively pursue a man and show interest in them. Because somehow, this makes them stupid. Now, this is, in my view, one of the strangest aspects of the Casts’ brand of feminism, possibly coming from them apparent intense hatred of and desire for men.
“While men are stupid and anyone who likes them is stupid, how dare this girl be competition for the men that I so rightly deserve.”
At least, that’s what I think that they’re doing.
Since she’s done crapping on her schoolmates for not being as good as her, Zoey reminisces on the last time that she saw a Tracker at the school. Apparently, they caught an unnamed guy in first period, who Zoey saw running from the school in tears and
“I never forgot how crowded the halls had been that morning, and how everyone had backed away from him like he had the plague as he rushed to escape out the front doors of the school. I had been one of those kids who had backed out of the way and stared, even though I’d felt sorry for him. I just hadn’t wanted to be labeled as that-one-girl-who’s-friends-with-those-freaks. Sort of ironic now, isn’t it?
No, Zoey, it might be proof of Karma, but it’s not ironic. What’s ironic is that you were one of the faceless masses backing away and yet you get made at Kayla for doing the exact same thing. You just admitted that she would face societal stigma for associating with you now that you’re a vampire, and you will hardly be around for long enough to do anything, but you’re angry with her for reacting in a way that you’ve admitted is normal.
So, because we haven’t had this happen yet, and the Casts are trying to get some kind of bad writing bingo, Zoey goes to the bathroom and we get a page of Zoey describing herself.
So, here’s your sentence description: hazel eyes, long dark straight hair, pale.
Since she’s a Sue, you can probably bank on it that she’s petite and pretty and has a nice slight figure.
There is a lot about how she inherited a lot of features from her Cherokee grandmother, and I’m going to call the Casts out on their poor research. Native American Genetics 101: Most of their genes are actually recessive, meaning that since Granny presumably married a white guy, Mommy would look a whole lot more like her father than Granny, and Zoey, who also had a dad who was a white guy would be even more white.
This is how, in the past, kids who were half/a fourth Native American were able to pass quite well. Zoey would most likely not have “olive” skin, like she claims, and if she did inherit Granny’s hair, it would be big and thick.
How did I know this? My family has a good bit that’s Chippewa. My mom inherited the thickness of the hair. It doesn’t look “exotic”.
Now, there is nothing wrong with having main character who has a Native American heritage and is proud of it. Actually if done well, it would be rather refreshing. The problem starts when Zoey starts calling her features ‘exotic’. As if the Native Americans aren’t Othered enough in our society.
Also, this line is…rather racist:
I stared at the exotic looking tattoo. Mixed with my strong Cherokee features it seemed to brand me with the mark of wildness…as if I belonged to ancient times when the world was bigger…more barbaric.
From this day on my life would never be the same. And for a moment—just for an instant—I forgot about the horror of not belonging and felt a shocking burst of pleasure, while deep inside of me the blood of my grandmother’s people rejoiced.
Did you know that the Cherokee Nation had vampire legends? One of them is the Jumlin
I highly doubt that they’d be overly thrilled about a girl going off to join the legions of the undead.
So, that’s the first chapter. While it starts strongly with action and a good quick event, it quickly grinds to a halt with pointless dialogue, description and the introduction of what even some fans of the series call the most obnoxious POV character in existence.
In our next chapter will be reinforced that men are in fact evil, and so are Fundamentalist Christians (and maybe Mormons)!