Dark forces are at work at the House of Night and fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird’s adventures at the school take a mysterious turn. Those who appear to be friends are turning out to be enemies. And oddly enough, sworn enemies are also turning into friends. So begins the gripping third installment of this “highly addictive series” (Romantic Times), in which Zoey’s mettle will be tested like never before. Her best friend, Stevie Rae, is undead and struggling to maintain a grip on her humanity. Zoey doesn’t have a clue how to help her, but she does know that anything she and Stevie Rae discover must be kept secret from everyone else at the House of Night, where trust has become a rare commodity. Speaking of rare: Zoey finds herself in the very unexpected and rare position of having three boyfriends. Mix a little bloodlust into the equation and the situation has the potential to spell social disaster. Just when it seems things couldn’t get any tougher, vampyres start turning up dead. Really dead. It looks like the People of Faith, and Zoey’s horrid step-father in particular, are tired of living side-by-side with vampyres. But, as Zoey and her friends so often find out, how things appear rarely reflects the truth…Ugh, what can we say about this book that we haven’t already said about the last two? Not a whole lot, actually. Three books in and we’ve quickly come to realize that these books continue to be shitty, just in the exact same way every time.
In fact, we could probably quote whole sections of complaints from our reviews of books one and two, and they’d be able to apply to Chosen, as well. It wouldn’t just be in “spirit”, either – the book seems content to recycle whole chunks of earlier books, bigotry and all. Homophobic scene with the Twins berating Damien for making eyes at a straight dude? Check. Backhanded compliment of Damien for not being prissy like all those other gay boys? Check. “Caramel-colored” Shaunee? Awkward Nick-at-Nite reference to unnecessarily excuse knowing about The Brady Bunch? Scent of hay, gust of wind, water lapping at the feet during circle casting? CHECK CHECK FUCKING CHECK AUGHHHHH.
So yes, the same issues that we had with the last two House of Night books are all still present and a-fucking-ccounted for, and it would be both excruciating and redundant to revisit them here. So we’re not going to talk about those this time. We’re going to try to cruise through this one, and just expand on a couple of the bigger problems we had with the third installment of the House of Night series, Chosen.
As usual, a good 90% of the book is filler. The conflict established at the end of the last book – Stevie Rae being an “evil” undead vampire that Zoey needs to cure – is supposed to be what’s driving the story, but as with the rest of the series, that conflict is largely sidelined until the very end. Once again, the majority of the book is spent enduring Zoey’s myriad boyfriend problems.
There’s not much to say about the boyfriends drama at this point, because much remains the same. Heath is still a dumb puppy-dog redneck, whining about his
Erik is still a bland placeholder, though we do begin to see more of the jealousy and cruelty that seemed to come out of nowhere when we read through the series the first time. His possessiveness is seeded here, as most of his scenes with Zoey involve him pissing on her leg in one way or another, until finally he just goes straight-up asshole on her towards the end.
And Loren is still, well-
“I’ll show you how much we can share…how completely we can be together,” he said.Yeahhh…that’s our big “development” in the love square for this book: Zoey has sex with her teacher love-interest, which breaks her Imprint with Heath (for now), and (temporarily) ends her relationship with Erik. And the whole thing is creepy. And skeezy. In like a million different ways.
Loren took the hand he was fisting in my hair and pulled at his shirt so that the buttons popped, exposing his chest. Then he drew his thumbnail slowly over his left breast, leaving behind a line of perfect scarlet. The scent of his blood wrapped around me.
“Drink,” he said.
I couldn’t stop myself. I lowered my face to his chest and tasted him. His blood surged through me. It was different than Heath’s – not as hot, not as rich. But it was more powerful. It pounded through me, along with a desire that was red and urgent. I moved against his body, wanting more and more.
“Now it’s my turn. I have to taste you!” Loren said.
Before I realized what he was doing he’d wrenched off my dress. I didn’t have a chance to freak about the fact that he was seeing me in nothing but my bra and panties because he took his thumb and this time sliced it across my breast. I gasped at the sharp pain, and then his lips were on me and he was drinking my blood and the pain was replaced by waves of amazing pleasure so intense that all I could do was moan. Loren tore at his clothes while he drank me, and I helped him. All I knew what that I had to have him. Everything was all heat and sensation and desire. His hands and mouth were everywhere and still I couldn’t get enough of him.
Then it happened. His heartbeat was under my skin and I could feel my pulse pounding in time with his. I could feel his passion along with mine and hear his desire roaring inside my head.
And then, somewhere in the back of my jumbled mind I heard Heath screaming, “Zoey! No!”
My body jerked in Loren’s arms. “Ssh,” he whispered. “It’s okay. It’s better this way, love, much better. Being Imprinted with a human is too difficult—it has too many ramifications.”
My breath was coming fast and hard. “Is it broken? Has my Imprint with Heath been broken?”
“It has. Our Imprint has replaced it.” He rolled so that I was under his body. “Now let’s finish it. Let me make love to you, baby.”
“Yes,” I whispered. My lips found Loren’s chest again, and as I drank from him, Loren made love to me until our world exploded in blood and passion.
For one, well…did that start out kinda rapey to you guys? Because it kinda did to us. When that encounter begins, Zoey is in the midst of an emotional freak-out. Erik’s change into a “vampyre” reminds her of the loss of Stevie Rae, and the stress of the past few books just kind of comes to a head, and she breaks down, which is when Loren shows up. She’s alone and vulnerable, and Loren takes advantage of the situation. He breaks out the blood-aphrodisiac, and once Zoey’s had a lick, he gets forceful (PFFFFFT, “I have to taste you!”, really?); he rips her clothes off, cuts her, and drinks her blood, which bonds them and destroys the Imprint she had with Heath, all in a flurry of motion, without asking Zoey’s permission.
After that, yes, Zoey is all hot and bothered and involved, high on the magical blood, and yes, she gives her consent when Loren proposes the sex (which itself sounds totally off – who says “let’s finish it” before having sex?), but it doesn’t negate the creepy way he got her into bed in the first place.
Either way, Loren is still the adult in the situation here, and there’s a huge power imbalance between the two of them. At the very least he’s taking advantage of her, and he’s definitely been stalking her, manipulating her, and being a fucking creeper. Then we come to find out that he’s intentionally seducing her to get information for Neferet, which makes the preceding situation even worse.
Look, we’re not big fans of Zoey, obviously, and we’re not negating her part in the love square, but the way this Loren thing is written, it shouldn’t completely fall on her. It’s frustrating plot contrivance – Zoey is naive and stupid beyond all belief, and Loren is REALLY OBVIOUSLY scummy. You spend the whole book knowing it’s not going to go anywhere good, wanting to smack Zoey over the head with a “DUH!” stick, but, well, we’re pretty sure that’s the idea. Zoey was taken advantage of. She made a plot-mandated dumb teenager mistake, and PC Cast has maneuvered her heroine into losing her virginity in a way that culminates in an awful, traumatic event…for the sake of a lot of pointless cul-de-sac drama.
We still don’t get what Cast is trying to do with the sex bullshit here. Zoey and friends are still slut-shaming with glorious abandon, which is pretty obviously hypocritical by this point, and yet if that’s what the book’s going for, it’s doing a pretty shitty job of pointing out that Zoey’s in the wrong, here. It takes so much joy in tearing down other female characters that any potential hypocrisy comes across more like a narrative-endorsed double-standard.
This all might be different, okay, if Zoey’s foray into love decahedrons and relationships yielded some kind of development or change as the books progress, but it doesn’t. Sure, she has to weather the fallout from the Loren thing for like ten minutes, but the empty corner in her love-square is immediately filled by Stark in the next book, and Kalona soon follows, and that love-pentagon fuels at least six more books worth of multiple-boyfriend angst. Zoey learns absolutely nothing from this, and it doesn’t stop her from getting involved with and lying to a sackful of asshole boyfriends again.
So basically, whatever Cast is trying to do with Zoey’s sexuality, here, she’s failing miserably. Which is a HUGE SURPRISE, RIGHT?
Getting back to the “plot”, the paragraphs of love-decahedron angst and sexy scenes are pretty much all we have to sustain us for half the book, until shock of all shocks, SOMETHING HAPPENS, presumably because even Cast couldn’t stretch nothing out for two hundred pages. After a night out peeling Stevie Rae off of homeless people (“they might have lice or something!”), Zoey comes upon her drama teacher, Professor-Barely-Important-Enough-to-Have-a-Name, beheaded, outside the walls of the House of Night campus. It’s set up to look like an act of
Naturally, Zoey immediately makes the whole thing about her, baselessly suspecting her step-father of the murder because he, too, is a “Person of Faith”, and OH GOD WHY DO BAD THINGS ALWAYS HAPPEN TO HER?? But that thread peters out pretty quickly, because there’s nowhere to go with it until the BIG REVEAL, so it’s back to boyfriend angst for us. Oh yeah, and occasionally thinking about fixing Stevie Rae.
Yet again, Zoey spends little to no time actually working on finding ways to resolve this book’s conflict. Sure, she thinks about it every now and then, in between make-out sessions, but seeing as how action is for losers, “thinking about it” is pretty much the only thing Zoey really needs to do before the answer is conveniently dropped in her lap:
“She’s my best friend,” I whispered fiercely.Yep. It’s that easy. That is how our book-and-a-half-long plot roadblock is solved. And don’t let that “all this time looking for a spell” crap fool you, because if her trips to the library served ANY purpose, they were to further her relationship with Loren – the library was where they always ended up flirting and/or making out, and that’s the only thing that got any focus.
“No. She used to be your best friend. Now she’s a scary undead dead girl who drinks blood like pop.”
“She’s still my best friend,” I repeated stubbornly.
“Fine. Whatever. Then heal her.”
“Okay, it’s so not that simple.”
“How do you know? Have you tried?”
And I stopped totally dead in my tracks.
“Holy crap! Could it be that easy? I mean, I’ve been spending all this time looking for a spell or a ritual or a…a…something specific and amazing and totally magical, and maybe all I needed to do is just ask Nyx to heal her.”
So yeah, yet AGAIN, Zoey didn’t have to think too hard about the problem-of-the-week to solve it, didn’t have to learn anything, face any challenges, or even do any goddamn research, she literally just has to ask Nyx to fix Stevie Rae, and it works. In the clusterfuck of shit-finally-happening that fills the last few chapters, Zoey & Co. magically transform Stevie Rae is into a new kind of vampire by using the exact same fucking kind of circle casting that they’ve been using from DAY ONE, plus a few words that just ~magically came to Zoey~ in the moment. THIS IS LAZY, ANTI-CLIMACTIC BULLSHIT WRITING, and it happens OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
I started to say “Neferet” when Don’t speak her name slammed into my gut. Okay, the words themselves didn’t hit me, but I knew what was all of a sudden making me feel like I was gonna puke. And then I realized with a small start of surprise that I hadn’t actually admitted everything to Loren. In my telling of the night when I’d rescued Heath from the undead-dead kids and first found Stevie Rae, I’d left out any mention of Neferet. I hadn’t thought about it. I hadn’t done it on purpose, but there was a whole piece of the story puzzle that I’d failed to put together for him.Yes, Zoey just CONVENIENTLY leaves out the huge portion of the story that might ruin the ~dramatic ending~ while she’s was pouring her heart out to Loren, thank God for that ~SUBCONSCIOUS EDITING~, right? It’s a good thing Nyx is there to hold Zoey’s hand, because if she ever had to figure anything out for herself, we would all be fucked.
Nyx. It had to be the Goddess working through my subconscious. She didn’t want Loren to know anything about Neferet. Was she trying to protect him? Probably…
“Of course, Nyx choosing me kinda makes me question her decision-making skills,” I mumbled…
The book ends with a clusterfuck of shit-happening, because cliffhangers, they keep the kids coming back, right? Zoey sleeps with Loren, Erik catches her, bitches her out, and tells all of her friends. Zoey learns Loren is lying and working for Neferet, Stevie Rae is healed, Loren is killed, and we finally – FINALLY – get our first glimpse of the over-arcing plot, as Neferet begins to rally the troops in favor of starting a war between the humans and vampyres.
It really is only a glimpse, though, because this facet of her diabolical plan to TAKE OVER THE WORLD fades into the background for several books when Kalona surfaces as the big bad at the end of the next book, Untamed.
This series juggles storylines with all the skill of a drunken monkey.
So yeah, all that stuff that we’ve already mentioned – that’s crap enough to make this a truly abysmal book, but all that stuff pales in comparison to the bullshit that follows.
LOL RACISMIt’s not like House of Night has been a shining pillar of excellence when it comes to race – the series is an unabashed endorsement of stereotypes, has a fondness for Othering and exotifying Zoey’s Sassy Black Friend, Shaunee, and has let loose with weave insults and “good hair” comments, and varying other subtly racist bullshit. But in Chosen, Cast has taken the racism to a new, disgustingly sinister level.
“Yeah, bitch! Ride him! Make him hurt so gooood!”Okay, what the fuck was that. No seriously, what the fuck. Zoey just got two guys, two men who are explicitly, pointedly stated to be black men, run over by a truck. And the story lovingly describes her every action, like we’re supposed to appreciate what a powerful badass she is. What the fuck?
“That little white boy don’t have nothin’ for you. I’ll give ya somethin’ you can really feel!”
Heath’s grip on my hips changed and he was in the middle of trying to turn my body away from the jeering voices so he could shield me, but the anger that spiked through me was blinding. My fury was impossible to ignore and my response was immediate. I lifted my face from his neck. Two black guys were just a few feet away and getting closer to us. They were wearing the stereotypical ridiculous sagging pants and stupid, oversized down coats and when I bared my teeth at them and hissed, their expressions changed from sneers to shocked disbelief.
“Get away from us or I will kill you.” I snarled at them in a voice so powerful I didn’t recognize it as my own.
“She’s a fucking bloodsucker bitch!” the shorter of the two said.
The other guy snorted. “Nah, bitch got no tattoo. But if she wants somethin’ to suck, I’ll give it to her.”
“Yeah, first you and then me. Her little punk boyfriend can watch and see how it’s done.” With a mean laugh, they started walking toward us again.
Still straddling Heath, I lifted my one arm over my head. With the other I dragged the back of my hand across my forehead and down my face, wiping off the concealer that hid my identity. That made them stumble to a stop. Then both of my arms were over my head. It was easy to center myself. Filled with Heath’s fresh blood, I felt powerful and strong and very, very pissed.
“Wind come to me,” I commanded. My hair began lifting in the breeze that swirled restlessly around me. “Blow them the hell outta here!” I flung my hands out toward the two men, letting my anger explode with my words. The wind obeyed instantly, crashing into them with such force that they were swept, yelling and cussing, off their feet and hurled away from me. I watched with a kind of detached fascination as the wind dropped the two men down in the middle of Twenty-first Street.
I didn’t even flinch when the truck hit them.
“Did you kill them?” His voice sounded all wrong, scared and accusing. I frowned at him.The first thing Zoey does is rationalize – they might not be dead, there’s a hospital, I didn’t mean to, I’m sure they’ll be fine. Blah blah blah. Then:
“No. All I did was get them away from us. The truck did the rest. And anyway, they might not be dead.” I glanced back at the road. The truck had come to a skidding, tire-squealing halt. Other cars had stopped, too, and I could hear people shouting. “And Saint John’s Hospital is like less than a mile down the street.” Sirens started wailing not far away. “See, the ambulance is coming already. They’ll probably be okay.”
“Heath?” I lifted my hand toward him, but dropped it when he flinched away from me. The numbness was fading and I had started to shake. My god, what had I just done? “Are you afraid of me?”Note there that the reaction isn’t about what Zoey did to those men, but Heath’s reaction to what she did to them. It’s not about them, it’s about her: why Heath, are you afraid of me because I killed two men in a rage?
“I’m okay with you being a vampyre, Zo. But I want you to remember that you’re still Zoey, too. My Zoey. And my Zoey isn’t mean.”Zoey isn’t mean, not “My Zoey isn’t a fucking MURDERER”. Yes Zoey, it was so mean of you to kill two men.
“I couldn’t let them hurt you,” I whispered, really shaking now as I realized how cold and horrible I’d just been. I might have just caused the deaths of two men.This is the first time we have Zoey acknowledge any sort of guilt-ish feeling over what she’s done, without excusing it or tying it to someone else’s perception of her. I might have just caused the deaths of two men. Okay, that’s a start. Now maybe some guilt, some checking to see whether or not the men died, how injured they were, if they made it to the hospital, maybe taking some responsibility. You know, things a normal, empathetic person would do.
Or she could just wander over to her best friend’s house in a blood-lusty, horny haze to talk about boys.
Yep, I was seriously messed up. Not only had I not broken up with Heath, but I had probably made our Imprint even stronger. Plus, I may have caused two men to be killed. I shivered, feeling more than a little sick. What in the hell had happened to me? I’d been drinking Heath’s blood and having a horny old good time (jeesh, I was becoming such a ho-bag), and then those men had started messing with us and it was like something inside of me freaked and changed from Regular Zoey to Psycho Killer Vampyre Zoey.Yeah, she sounds tortured. I mean really, not breaking up with her boyfriend, killing some guys, acting like a “ho” – all pretty much the same on the Zoey scale of Awful Things to Do.
Jesus Christ Cast, could you make Zoey’s reflection on possibly causing the deaths of two men sound ANY MORE CASUAL?
Clearly there was just too much vampyre stuff that I didn’t know about. Hell, I’d even taken notes and memorized some of the chapter on Imprinting and bloodlust, but I was starting to see that there was lots of stuff the oh-so-educational textbook had left out.Yeah. That’s what she’s thinking about. That’s her train of thought after POSSIBLY KILLING TWO PEOPLE. She’s HORNY. She briefly tries to blame the vampire biology books for not telling her about the possibly violent side effects of imprinting – and then goes on to more important rambling about her boyfriend problems.
What I needed was an adult vamp. Fortunately, I knew one I was sure would be very happy to volunteer to be my teacher.
I’m sure there were lots of things he’d be ever so pleased to teach me.
I thought about those things, which was easy to do when I was filled with Heath’s delicious, sexy blood. My body still tingled with heat and power and sensations I knew I didn’t have a clue about, but I craved more of. A lot more of.
There was no denying that Loren and I had a thing. It was different than the thing Heath and I had, and even different than the thing Erik and I had. Crap. I had too many things going on in my life.
Basically, I floated to Aphrodite’s parent’s garage apartment in a kind of horny, power-filled, yet confused haze…
This is the last time that Zoey mentions the men from that night, not just for this book, but FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES:
“Professor Nola was killed last night. It looks like some of the People of Faith crucified her and chopped her head off and left her out by the trapdoor on the east wall with a lovely note about not suffering a witch to live. I think that my step-loser might be involved, but I can’t say anything about it because my mom is covering for him, and if I rat him out she’ll probably go to jail forever. I just sucked Heath’s blood and got interrupted by some gang wannabes who I think I might have kinda sorta accidentally killed, and Loren Blake and I have been making out. So, how was your day?” The old Stevie Rae flickered inside this one’s red eyes.Yep.
“Ohmygoodness,” she said.
“You’ve been making out with Loren Blake?” As usual, Stevie Rae got to the heart of the juiciest gossip. “What was it like?”
You’d think that if your best friend came up to you and confessed to a possible murder, you’d be a lot more worried about that than her multiple boyfriend problems. But nope, “OHMYGODNESS HOT FOR TEACHER”, that takes priority.
What the fuck is this? No really, what the fuck is this? A person wrote this, she had her fucking PROTAGONIST experiences this, and then brush it off like it was nothing. The deaths of two men. Two black men.
And that, that’s the worst part, you see. They were black men. We were explicitly told that they were black men, that they were wearing “stereotypical” sagging pants and down jackets, and putting aside how INCREDIBLY SHITTY that is in terms of writing, lazily, flat-out labeling bit characters as stereotypes, fucking hack, let’s think about what that means. Cast wants us to know these men are black – they’re not white hoodlums, even though this would make no contextual difference in the story. They were stereotypical – Cast literally, specifically calls up a stereotype that her audience would likely be familiar with. Then she has her story-blessed protagonist, Zoey Redbird, kill them. And not fifteen minutes later, Zoey is daydreaming about humping her teacher, and priority in the mind of her friend is given to gossip and boys, implicitly absolving Zoey of her actions. So clearly, we’re not meant to give two flying fucks about the men who just died.
Cast is intentionally preying on prejudices that, at least in her mind, her audience has against black men: they’re dangerous, aggressors, potential rapists, misogynists, who are not deserving of our sympathy or empathy, of our heroine’s guilt; they’re sub-human. And then she agrees with them.
And she’s requesting, no, requiring her reader’s complicit racism. She’s explicitly telling you that you don’t have to give two fucks about the black guys who just died. Zoey doesn’t. Heath doesn’t. Stevie Rae doesn’t. The story doesn’t. So why should you? They were just black guys. Who the fuck cares, right? Here, shiny boy problems to worry about, forget about those two black guys PC Cast just wrote in and killed for no good fucking reason. Forget that PC Cast just outed herself as a fucking RACIST.
And before you go “But, but, they were possibly going to rape Zoey”, NO. Did they have to be black to play the role that they played? Is it any less likely that two white men would act that way in the same situation? If your answer is “yes”, then you need to re-think your prejudices. There was NO REASON for Cast to explicitly say that they were black, no fucking reason, except to communicate her fucked-up little racist code. In short:
And she doesn’t think you should either.
“You know how sensitive my people are to emotions, so you may as well just give up and tell me the truth.”
I sighed again. “You gays are freakishly intuitive.”
“That’s us: homos – the few, the proud, the hypersensitive.”
“Isn’t homo a derogatory term?”
“Not if it’s used by a homo. By the by, you’re stalling and it’s so not working for you.” He actually put his hand on his hip and tapped his foot.
I smiled and nodded appropriately as Damien went on and on about his Quest for the Perfect Present. Usually he isn’t so overtly gay. Not that the fabulous Damien Maslin isn’t actually gay. He totally is. But he’s also a tall, brown-haired, big-eyed cutie who looks like he’d be excellent boyfriend material (which he is – if you’re a boy). He’s not a fluttery-acting gay kid, but get the boy talking about shopping and he definitely shows some girlish tendencies.
“So this lovey-dovey stuff makes you two sick, huh?” Erik asked with an evil gleam in his eyes. I wondered what he was up to.
“Utterly nauseous,” Erin said.
“Ditto,” Shaunee agreed.
“Then you wouldn’t be interested in what Cole and T. J. wanted me to pass along to you?”
“Cole Clifton?” Shaunee said.
“T. J. Hawkins?” Erin said.
“Yep and yep,” Erik said.
I watched the twinly cynical Shaunee and Erin instantly change their negative attitudes.
“Cole is so fiiiine,” Shaunee practically purred. “That blond hair of his and those naughty blue eyes make me want to spank him.”
“T. J.” – Erin fanned herself dramatically – “that boy can sing. And he’s tall…Ooh, he’s so damn fine.”
“If Z dumps you for Queen Damien we’ll be here to help you deal with your grief,” Shaunee said. Then the Twins did a little impromptu bump and grind for Erik’s benefit. Despite the guilt I was feeling, the two of them made me laugh, and I covered Erik’s eyes.
Damien pointedly frowned at the Twins and then cleared his throat. “You two are completely incorrigible.”
“Twin, I forget, what does incorrigible mean?” Shaunee said.
“I do believe it means that we’re hotter and sexier than a whole herd of corriges,” Erin said, still bumping and grinding.
“You two are dolts, which means you have very little sense.” Damien said, but even he couldn’t keep from laughing, especially when a giggling Jack joined in the bump and grind.
“Anyway,” he continued. “I almost went to the library, but then Jack and I got all involved watching a Will and Grace rerun marathon and I totally lost track of time. Next time you want to do research, just let me know, though, and I’ll be happy to help you out.”
“Shakespeare,” he murmured as his thumb brushed softly over the line of tattoos that decorated my cheekbone. “It’s from one of the sonnets he wrote to the Dark Lady, who was his true love. We know, of course, that he was a vampyre. But we believe the true love of his life was a young girl who had been Marked and who died as a fledgling without completing the Change.”