Monday, June 27, 2011

The Drama Continues...

Source: Author Website
Betrayed (House of Night #2) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009, 320pp.)

In this second volume of the “House of Night” series, Zoey Redbird’s life has finally taken a turn for the better. She’s doing well in school, has lots of new friends, and can rest easy with the comfort that Neferet, the school’s headmistress, is there to be a second mother to her whenever she needs it. But good times never last, do they? The death knell of her happiness comes when human teenagers from her old high school start turning up dead. In addition to this, one of her friends dies when her body rejects the Change. Then another shows a surprising change of allegiance, and Zoey’s love life gets really, really complicated. The “betrayal” that gives this installment its name is an surprising twist that guarantees the reader’s continuing interest in the series, but it happens a little too quickly. There is not enough subtlety in the pacing of events to allow one to feel satisfied (in other words, there’s no ah ha! moment). As for the love triangle (or is it quadrangle?), only one of the three possible romances holds any dimension. Zoey already has an “official” boyfriend at school (classmate Erik), but now she has to contend with mixed feelings for her dopey yet faithful human ex, Heath, and the undeniable physical chemistry she feels with Loren, House of Night’s deeply romantic poet laureate. Of the three, her relationship with Heath is the one that rings truest. Not only do these two have a long history together (they were childhood sweethearts), Heath is also one of the few people from her human life that continues to show her love and support, despite the uncomfortable fact that she’s now a vampyre. Her romance with Erik, meanwhile, feels a little flat, and the sexual tension that springs up whenever the poet laureate enters the room is hard to take seriously. Recommended for Ages 16-18.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fans Will Not Be Disappointed

The Fury (The Vampire Diaries #3) by L.J. Smith (1991; HarperCollins, 2010, 304pp.)

After her car runs off the road into the river, Elena is none too happy to find herself resurrected as a vampire. However, she has little time to feel sorry for herself. Evil seems to be brewing in Fell’s Church, a ghastly, mysterious force that causes pets to attack their owners, and turns close friends into sinister strangers. Now stronger as a vampire than she ever was as a human, Elena is determined to protect her home town against this nameless menace. She begs Stefan and Damon to look past their differences and work together, but getting these two rivals to trust each other may be the hardest task of all. Fans won’t be disappointed by this one. The story is brisk and engaging, and ends with a surprise twist that brings the original trilogy to a satisfying close. Recommended for Ages 15-Up.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nothing New Here

Source: Author Website

Marked (House of Night #1) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007, 320pp.)
“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!”
Imagine a world where monsters are an accepted reality. Imagine, too, that in this world, children undergo an alarming change. No longer are they the sweet-tempered cherubs you have come to treasure, but dark, brooding creatures that wreak havoc in the lives of others and have the habit of sleeping during the day. What are they? No, not teenagers (though you’re not far from the mark if that was your guess): vampires. Welcome to the world of Zoey Redbird, a place not so different from our own: bullies pick on nerds, parents and children fail to understand each other, and the high school “in” crowd takes particular joy in excluding outsiders from social activities. The only notable difference is that the word “vampires” is spelled with a “y,” and teenagers have the nasty habit of turning into these bloodsucking creatures without warning. This “Change,” occurring only during adolescence, is caused by a confusing mix of mutant DNA and hormones. When Zoey comes down with a particularly bad case of it, her horrified family and friends turn on her. She takes refuge at the House of Night, an exclusive boarding school for vampyres, where she makes a friends, enemies, and a name for herself.

Unfortunately, her story isn’t a very remarkable one. It borrows elements from a number of successful fantasy sagas, and more or less reads like an American Harry Potter: lonely, friendless protagonist discovers that s/he has magical powers and gets to attend a school for magic where students wear elaborately designed school uniforms. To the protagonist’s surprise, s/he turns out to have an outstanding talent for magic, despite the fact that s/he has had no formal training. In addition, the protagonist acquires, upon immediate arrival, an arrogant, blond-haired nemesis with inappropriate levels of hostility towards non-magic users. To top this all off, Zoey has a “mark” on her forehead, a crescent moon-shaped tattoo indicative of the Change. So: is this just another exercise in teenage wish-fulfillment? You bet. But like the countless other offerings in the YA vampire romance genre, it serves as a sufficient mode of escapism. Why else should we read, if not to escape reality?

However, a word of warning: although this novel will doubtless appeal to the legions of readers suffering from post-bestselling-fantasy-saga syndrome, this series is more appropriate for the Ages 16-18 bracket. Aside from its frequent use of strong language and sexual references (we first meet Zoey’s chief rival, Aphrodite, in a public hallway trying to force her ex-boyfriend to accept a sexual favor), the novel’s themes will be better appreciated by those about to graduate from high school. The change of scene from the human world to the House of Night mirrors the what an average teen experiences during the transition from high school, where loneliness and uncertainties abound, to college, where most outcasts finally find their “niche.” Marked, the first book in the House of Night series, will appeal to any teen who has ever found themselves bored, friendless, or lonely, and transports them from this mundane world of ours into a land of night where good friends abound, rivals are two-dimensional and unworthy of your presence, and hot vampyre guys have eyes only for you.