House of Night Series Review: Hunted

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HuntedWhat if the hottest guy in the world was hiding a nameless evil, and all he wanted was you? At the start of this heart-pounding new installment of the bestselling House of Night series, Zoey’s friends have her back again and Stevie Rae and the red fledglings aren’t Neferet’s secrets any longer. But an unexpected danger has emerged. Neferet guards her powerful new consort, Kalona, and no one at the House of Night seems to understand the threat he poses. Kalona looks gorgeous, and he has the House of Night under his spell. A past life holds the key to breaking his rapidly spreading influence, but what if this past life shows Zoey secrets she doesn’t want to hear and truths she can’t face?
You guys ready? Cuz here we go again.

Just a reminder that you guys should really head over to Fangs for the Fantasy, my House of Night month reading buddy, for their review, which excellently covers a bunch of things that I just didn’t have the energy to analyze in mine. They’ve got a lot of good stuff on the shittiness of Erik and Zoey’s relationship, in particular, that is just A+ spot-on.

Hunted picks up right where Untamed left off – well, sort of. It actually picks up a few hours after Untamed left off, with an obnoxious dream sequence that I’m sure someone thought would serve as a good hook. We open to Zoey having a pointedly non-erotic “dream” about Timeless Pop-Culture References, when Kalona shows up, bare-assed naked, to make it erotic.
His laugh was seductive. I wanted to drown in it. I leaned forward, closing my eyes and gasping aloud as the chill of his spirit brushed against my breasts, sending shooting sensations that were painful but deliciously erotic to places in my body that made me feel out of control.

“You like the pain. It brings you pleasure.”
Wow, did not know we were going there. Uncomfortable. So while sixteen-year-old Zoey is getting her introduction to S&M by a (canonically) ancient immortal rapist, she also learns that Kalona thinks she is the reincarnation of the living sex-doll that trapped him, A-ya. For, you know, reasons. She looks like A-ya, her soul ~calls to him~, she commands the elements–

Wait, what?
“I’m not A-ya!”

“You command the elements,” his voice was a caress, awful and wonderful, compelling and terrifying.

“Gifts from my Goddess,” I said.

“Once before you commanded the elements. You were made from them. Fashioned to love me.”
I–what? Those don’t– that doesn’t– being made from something doesn’t mean you command it, otherwise everyone in this world would be a fucking bloodbender, right? And she wasn’t even really “made from elements”. I guess maybe you could say earth and water, since she was clay, but the elements weren’t really an important part of the story Zoey’s grandmother told her. It was more of a Wonder Woman/Sleeping Beauty thing, you know: speed of Mercury, Merryweather gave her the gift of song, whatever. Her makers gifted her with a fancy dress, pretty hair, pretty face, fast legs, and a nice voice. That’s it, man.

Double-checking with the last book, Zoey’s grandmother does mention that they engraved “the sacred seven” on her: north, south, east, west, above, below, and spirit” from which I guess you could infer elements(???), but still, this feels like a real stretch, Kalona. Your logic feels contrived, bro.

Anyway, Zoey’s drawn to Kalona’s world of erotic pain and pleasure, but snaps out of it Because Nyx, and we rewind back to just after the end of Untamed, where everyone freeze-frame high-fived while Stevie Rae had an arrow sticking out of her chest and was bleeding to death.

Seriously, it takes like three fucking chapters for them to get that arrow out of Stevie Rae’s chest, and in the meantime, Zoey reflects on just about everything except her mortally injured best fried. For example, another girl leads Erik – a dude she is currently not dating, remember – through the tunnels to find supplies, and Zoey loses her shit.
Okay, before I sound like an über-jealous freak let me explain: Erik Night is to-die-for hot in a Superman-Clark Kent kind of way and, to carry through with the superhero analogy, he’s also talented and honestly a good guy. Er, vampyre. Recently Changed vampyre at that. He is also my boyfriend. Er, ex-boyfriend. Recently ex-boyfriend at that. Sadly, that means I’m going to be ridiculously jealous of anyone, even one of the kinda freaky red fledglings, who might be catching too much of his interest (too much = any).
Once again, can we all just bask in the irony of Zoey being jealous because Erik is physically in the presence of another woman? Really? So acting on an attraction to three boys simultaneously is fine for Zoey, but if Erik does it? Nuh-uh! Not okay with her!

Second, “sadly that means I’m going to be jealous of anyone who speaks to him, ever”? Uh, no? It doesn’t “mean” that! I really hate the casual way Cast has Zoey expressing this incredibly entitled, selfish, hypocritical, and unreasonable overreaction. That attitude of “HE’S MINE, MINE, HE CAN’T EVEN LOOK AT ANOTHER WOMAN” is so toxic, particularly in the way it encourages women to see all other women as threats and/or competition. It’s not something that needs to be re-enforced as natural and not worth interrogating in any situation, much less this one. I mean for gods’ sakes, Erik just walked around with a girl to find supplies, and he and Zoey aren’t even dating! What the fuck??

But of course, because this is House of Night, and House of Night is The Worst, Zoey’s jealousy is completely justified by the narrative with the introduction of Venus.
Then I turned my attention back to Venus. She had an icy beauty. Venus was sleek and sexy in a pair of tight designer jeans and a simple cropped black tank that had a rhinestone skull’s head on it. Her hair was long and thick and the kind of blond that looked golden. In other words, she was definitely attractive enough to hang with Aphrodite, which was saying something, because Aphrodite is totally gorgeous. And, like Aphrodite used to be, Venus was obviously a hateful bitch, and probably had been one before she died and un-died. I narrowed my eyes at her.
Venus is essentially a copy+paste of Aphrodite in Mean Girl mode. She’s pretty, blonde, rich, after Erik Night, and she does almost nothing before Zoey just decides that she’s a “hateful bitch”. She calls her that like three fucking times in the course of three pages.
I was still trying to decide whether my negative reaction to Venus was because she was (obviously) a bitch, because she had been skulking around the tunnels with Erik, or because I had a bad feeling about the red fledglings in general when she spoke up.
So maybe my alarm system was misfiring simply because Venus was a hateful bitch, and not because she and the rest of them were evil incarnate.
“So do you want to use the facilities or not?” Venus said. I thought she sounded grumpy, or maybe “bitchy” was a better descriptive word.
YES ZOEY WE GET IT YOU THINK SHE’S AN AWFUL TERRIBLE BITCH BITCH, THANK YOU.

The swing of this portrayal is a damn shame, too, because it could have gone very differently. Venus is the former roommate and best friend of Aphrodite, who died some time before the first book. Presumably they were close, and one would think that seeing your former best friend alive and back to her old self would be something to be happy about, but the book has no tenderness to spare for them. The first thing Venus does when she appears is “meanly” reveal Aphrodite and Stevie Rae’s imprint, and then it’s all aboard the “bitch” train. There’s no “Hi, I missed you”, no “I’m so glad you’re okay”, just Aphrodite being like “Watch out for her, she’s a total bitch!”, because Aphrodite is Team Zoey now, and if you’re not Team Zoey, or even just happen to want something that Zoey might want, you’re canonically wrong.

Anyway, Zoey also takes this opportunity, mid arrow-removal, to reflect on her feelings for Stark. Because again, it’s okay for Zoey to be interested in more than one guy, but only Zoey, and don’t you forget it.
“We are lucky, indeed, that the fledgling missed his mark,” Darius said.

His words still went round and round inside my head because I knew what none of the rest of them did, that it was impossible for Stark to miss his mark. His gift from Nyx had been that his aim was always true, that he always hit whatever it was he aimed at, even if that sometimes had horrible consequences. Our Goddess had told me herself that once she gave a gift, she never took it back, so even though Stark had died and then come back as a twisted version of himself, he still would have hit her heart and killed Stevie Rae if that had been his intention. So did that mean there was more of Stark’s humanity left than there had seemed to be? He’d called my name; he’d recognized me. I’d shivered, reliving the chemistry that had sparked between us right before he died.

“Priestess? Did you not hear me?” Darius and Aphrodite had been staring at me.

“Oh, sorry. Sorry. I was distracted by…” I hadn’t wanted to explain that I was thinking about the guy who had almost killed my best friend.
HA HA HA RIGHT, because that would be douchey, to be thinking about how hot a guy was while someone is trying to explain to you that your best friend might die of blood loss.

Our heroine, ladies and gentleman.

Darius explains that Stevie Rae needs blood, and Aphrodite just happens to be standing there, so she’s volunteered. Stevie Rae bites her, and because vampire bites feel real good, it gets…kinda weird.
Then Aphrodite’s yikes turned into a disturbingly sensual moan and her eyes closed as Stevie Rae’s mouth latched on to her, breaking the skin easily and causing the hot, pulsing blood to flow as my best friend greedily sucked and swallowed like a predator.

Okay, yes. It was disturbing and nasty, but it was also weirdly erotic. I know it felt good—it had to. That’s how vampyres are made.
Wait what? Since when??? I thought the entire premise of the first book was that vampires were just spontaneously chosen by Nyx, Marked and shit, when did this happen?
And from observing what was going on with Stevie Rae and Aphrodite, it was clear that red vampyres definitely had the whole bring-your-human-pleasure phenomenon going. I mean, Aphrodite had even leaned suggestively into Darius, who wrapped an arm around her and bent to kiss her as Stevie Rae continued sucking on her wrist.

The kiss between the warrior and Aphrodite had so much sizzle to it I swear I could almost see sparks flying. […] I felt guilty watching, even though there was an undeniably sexy beauty to what was happening between them.
Is this– is this about to turn into an orgy? Wait, is this the YA version of an orgy?

Anyway, everyone barges in and Venus reveals that Stevie Rae and Aphrodite have imprinted, and oh my fucking god is this the “NO HOMO”-iest Imprint ever. Nobody can bring it up without going out of their way to assure whoever they’re talking to that Stevie Rae and Aphrodite do NOT want to fuck. Ewww, girls being romantically attracted to one another???? GROSS! Only cis white gay bffs allowed!

This is around the time we’re introduced to the Named Red Fledgelings, among whom are some of Cast’s most embarrassing racist caricatures. We get Montoya:
A short, Hispanic guy who looked seriously thuggish with his sagging pants and his multiple piercings nodded his head, sending his thick dark hair waving around his face. “Hi,” he said with just a touch of an accent and a surprisingly cute, warm smile.
Oh hey, our one and only Hispanic vampire, a “thuggish” guy of non-specific descent, with a “surprisingly cute, warm” smile and an accent. How incredibly progressive of you, Cast!

For better or worse, we never hear from Montoya again after this, to my recollection, but then there’s Kramisha:
A black girl twitched out of the group. It was a testament to how distracted I’d been with Venus and Aphrodite and Stevie Rae that I hadn’t noticed her before then. She had on a form-fitting bright yellow shirt cut low to show the top of her black lace bra and a pair of high-waisted, skintight cropped jeans that were cinched up with a wide leather belt that matched her chunky gold shoes. Her hair was cut geometrically into a short poof on her head, and half of it was dyed bright orange.

“Let’s get it straight right now that I’m not sharin’ my bed with no one,” Kramisha said, weaving her head around and looking bored and pissed off at the same time.
And I just, like, I can’t, she literally did the weaving head thing, ohmygodwhatareyoudoing, Cast?

“Aphrodite—she crazy even when she not drunk and Imprinted,” Kramisha said. “We all used to her, though.”
Oh my god.
“It ain’t your heart you wanna share,” Kramisha said.

“Don’t go hatin’ on me, baby!” Johnny B said, trying (unsuccessfully) to sound black.

Kramisha rolled her eyes at him. “You so crazy.”
You so crazy.
Kramisha stepped calmly out of the shadows. She gave Erik a long, considering look and said, “Boyyyy, you is workin’ it here in the tunnel? Damn! You got some game.”
It’s difficult to discuss Kramisha, because on the one hand, the character shouldn’t be shamed for speaking PC Cast’s mangled attempts at AAVE. On the other hand, she is one of two black characters in this entire world, the only black Red Vampire, and she as a sassy, head-weaving, you-so-crazy stereotype. It’s utterly cringe-inducing.

Kramisha is also the vessel for PC Cast’s terrible plot-device poetry a’la the prophecy we got last book. She and her powers exist solely to provide yet another source from which Zoey can get divine guidance from Nyx.

So, in case you haven’t been keeping track, we now have:

  1. Zoey’s Irritable Bowel Goddess
  2. Aphrodite’s visions
  3. Kramisha’s divinely-inspired poems
to feed the fledgling unearned plot tidbits. It’s ridiculous, because we had that whole discussion last book about how Nyx “doesn’t want to interfere” with anyone’s free will, and yet she’s perfectly content to tell them what to do via coded messages and Zoey’s dowsing intestines. I mean, she even goes so far as the make Zoey and her pals physically ill around the House of Night campus so they don’t get pulled into Kalona’s thrall, so what, really, is the difference between all of these shenanigans and just telling Zoey and her people straight-up what she wants them to do?

But you know, I say that like I don’t know what the real answer is, because of course, the real answer is simply that the Casts are lazy fucking writers. They just shit out these third-grade riddles for Zoey to spend the book “decoding”, which are essentially just time-release plot capsules that dispense the magical solution once we’ve met the allotted word count, presumably because that’s easier than writing a plot in which things actually happen and characters do things for reasons that make sense.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that Zoey does a whole lot of meaningless shit before she wanders upstairs to talk to Erik, who is keeping guard at one of the tunnel entrances. Zoey’s relationship with Erik in this book is totally all over the place, because really what Hunted devotes itself to is resurrecting Zoey’s love square, now upgraded to a love pentagon.

Zoey is so territorial about Erik that she’s actually still worried about his interest in Aphrodite.
“Good night. Don’t bother us.” And she disappeared.

“Better him than me,” I heard Erik mutter as he watched the blanket swing back into place. I made no attempt to hide my smile. I was glad Erik wasn’t still interested in Aphrodite.
Aphrodite, who hasn’t been with Erik in four books. Aphrodite, who is very obviously into someone else. And yet Zoey still sees her as competition? What?

Then again, she’s also worried about Jessica fucking Alba.
“Jessica Alba in Sin City. The kid has excellent taste. She’s one hot vamp actress,” Erik said quietly so as not to wake Dallas.

I frowned at him and pulled the Elvis blanket door closed.

“What? It’s not in my bedroom,” he said.
By the way, is there a famous mid-to-late 00’s actor or actress who ISN’T a fucking vampire in this world? In their last review, Fangs made a very good point about how “you cannot be a marginalised oppressed group which is completely separated from larger society and have a COMPLETE STRANGLEHOLD on the world’s media” the way these vampires do, and Hunted only further emphasizes that bizarre contradiction with the way Neferet handled the fallout from the Raven Mocker’s attacks in the last book.

While Zoey is officially rekindling her relationship with Erik at the tunnel entrance, Heath shows up, bringing news from the outside world.
“To repeat our special report on the gang violence in midtown Tulsa last night, Tulsa P.D. reiterates that the city is safe and the problem under control. To quote the chief of police, ‘It was an initiation ritual by a new gang that calls itself Mockers. Leaders of the gang have been arrested and the streets of midtown Tulsa are, once again, safe for our citizens.’ ” […]

“There was no gang in midtown last night,” I said. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!”

“She fixed it. She manipulated the press and probably the public, too,” Erik said, looking grim.
Yes, Neferet somehow has the canonical power to CONTROL THE MEDIA and manipulate it to her advantage! Truly, these vampires are oppressed!

Heath also brings with him a pissing contest, and he and Erik spend like an entire chapter measuring dicks before Heath asks to see Zoey outside. Erik, being a prick, adamantly tells Zoey that she CANNOT go talk to Heath because he says so, and Zoey reacts exactly the way that she should, honestly.
“Why the hell do you think you can talk to me like that?” My stomach clenched up so hard I thought I was going to be sick, but I ignored it, meeting Erik’s angry glare with a steely stare of my own. “As your girlfriend, you’ve just pissed me off. As your High Priestess, you’ve just insulted me. And as someone with a working brain, you’ve made me wonder if you’ve lost every bit of your sense. What do you think I’m going to do in the minute or so I’d be alone with Heath standing outside in the parking lot during an ice storm? Lie down and let him do me right there on the cement? Is that really the kind of girl you think I am?”
Jumpcut to Zoey nearly drinking Heath’s blood again.

I just, I don’t get this. So like absolutely, fuck Erik for thinking he can control who his girlfriend talks to, yay for Zoey putting him in his place. But then she goes and almost does the exact sort of thing he was worried about, and the exact sort of thing she was worried he might do with Venus or Aphrodite or Jessica Alba. What are you doing, book?

To her credit(?) Zoey doesn’t actually go through with it. She tells Heath no and tries to send him along his way, but is attacked by a Neferet Hologram-turned-Raven Mocker, and we get our first clear description of what they’re meant to look like.
Then, as I stared up in horror, her image shifted again, wavered, and where the image of the tainted High Priestess had been, there was now a huge Raven Mocker. The thing perched on the side of the depot roof wasn’t human and it wasn’t animal. It was a terrible mutated mixture of both. It was staring at me with eyes the color of blood and the shape of a man’s. Its human arms and legs were naked, looking vile and perverted emerging from the body of a gigantic raven.
raven mocker REMEMBER THIS YOU GUYS. REMEMBER THE HORRIFYING DESCRIPTION OF THIS CREATURE FOR LATER BOOKS.

Zoey destroys the Raven Mocker, but gets badly plot-wounded in the process. The group manages to stabilize her (and Zoey resumes her Imprint with Heath in the process), but then–
Darius sighed. “Zoey’s wound is severe. The human’s blood has saved her life by replacing the blood she lost and strengthening her enough that she was able to accept the energy of the elements, but not even Zoey can recover from so great a wound by herself. She is still just a fledgling, though even were she a fully Changed vampyre, an injury like this would be difficult for her to recover from.”
WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT OF BEING A VAMPIRE?

By the powers of plot convenience, it’s decided that Zoey has to go back to the House of Night to be in the presence of adult vampires, so that she can be healed and recover. Mind you, this wasn’t an issue anyone considered when they fled the school – when Heath brought up the whole “fledglings get sick without adult vampires” thing, they said that Eric, Darius, and Stevie Rae were enough. But now they’re not, so Zoey must return to the school.

Naturally all of her friends are willing to throw themselves back in the fire, too, but Darius is like, “Wait, what about the last two books’ plot hurdles?!”
“You are all forgetting another reason the rest of you can’t return with Zoey,” Darius said. “Neferet, and perhaps even Kalona, can read your minds. Which means everything you know about the red fledglings and this safe haven, they will know, too.”
Oh shit, yeah! That’s been a Reason for Not Doing or Telling People Things for a while now! What are we going to do about this incredibly difficult to overcome plot point???
“Uh, guys, I have an idea,” Heath spoke up. “Okay, I don’t really know much about this stuff, so I might be totally wrong, but can’t each of you get help from an element to, I dunno, set up some kind of roadblock around your minds?”
Why don’t you just set up some kind of roadblock around your minds.

Why don’t you just set up some kind of roadblock around your minds.

WHY DON’T YOU JUST SET UP SOME KIND OF ROADBLOCK AROUND YOUR MINDS.

And guess what? That’s ALL THEY HAVE TO DO.
I blinked in surprise at Heath and then grinned. “You might be on to something. What do you think, Damien?”

Damien looked excited. “I think we were idiots not to have thought of it ourselves.” He smiled at Heath. “Well done, you!”
Yep. It’s just that easy. No practice required, no real explanation for how you “set up a roadblock in your mind” with your mystical elemental power. Nope, just say “Hey, why don’t we do this?” and BOOM, problem solved.

And let’s all remember, this came from Heath, who literally knows nothing about this world or how it works. Why would he even conceive of this idea that makes no logical sense? Why would this even come out of his mouth?

Lazy, lazy, lazy fucking writing, you guys. We’re balls-deep in this series and I still get overwhelmed by it sometimes.

To add insult to injury, before they go, Kramisha reveals she has a new plot-riddle poem, and we have to suffer through pages of them piecing it together, oh my god this has to be some kind of illegal torture.
What once bound him
Will make him flee
Place of power—joining of five
Night
Spirit
Blood
Humanity
Earth
Joined not to conquer,
Instead to overcome
Night leads to Spirit
Blood binds Humanity
And Earth completes.
sobbing gif

This is so fucking obtuse, you guys. So pointlessly obtuse. This might as well be a fucking chicken noodle soup recipe for how poetic it is. These are just fucking instructions obscured purely for the sake of being obscured. Your goddess is garbage, Zoey Redbird. She’s garbage and she’s fucking with you and the entire world has to suffer because of it, including me.
“They’re people who represent each of those things. Or at least that would be my first guess. See how they’re capitalized? That usually means they are proper nouns, or names,” Damien said.

“They’re names,” Kramisha said.

“Do you know anything else about it? Can you tell who they are?” Damien asked.

Kramisha shook her head, looking frustrated. “No. It’s just when you said that they be people, I knew you was right.”
So we’re gonna pointlessly obscure this poem, but don’t worry, if there’s even the slightest chance that anyone might be confused about something for more than five seconds, Nyx will give them the farts so that they know they’re right!

Fuck, there’s even MORE poetry.
She comes back
Through blood by blood
She returns
Cut deep now
Like me
Humanity saves her
Will she save me?
Erik and Damian provide this scintillating insight:
“Actually, doesn’t it make the most sense that it’s that new undead kid talking?” Erik said slowly.

“You may be on to something,” Damien said. I could practically see the wheels in his mind turning. “The ‘Cut deep now / Like me’ part could be metaphorical for his death. Zoey’s wound is definitely life threatening, and they’ve certainly both been drawn to the House of Night because of blood.”
My brain is crying right now, like actual tears. This is so fucking awful. No, no, don’t you see, the line about being cut is somehow metaphorical for Stark’s death, but literal for Zoey’s talon wound, and I guess in a roundabout vampire way they’re going to House of Night because of blood and oh my god please someone put me out of my misery god.

sobbing gif

Oh, and in case you were wondering whether Kramisha had any agency whatsoever in this–
“What were you thinking when you wrote this?” I asked Kramisha.

“Nothin’. I was barely awake. I just wrote the words that come to me with both of ’em.”
Why no Zoey, I have no influence on the words that I’m writing. I am simply a humble plot device, at your service!

They prep to leave, and Heath gets shit-faced drunk after months of being sober because he catches Zoey making out with Erik right after they resumed their Imprint. Here again I have to point out – this is not okay. Heath is a shitty character, but what Zoey’s doing – pursuing whoever she wants, to the point that it emotionally damages the people involved – is really fucked up.

This is a shit, shit, shit portrayal of polyamory, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, Heath is trashed when Zoey feeds from him, which gets her drunk as well, and we’re treated to this little gem:
“I didn’t know vamps could get drunk off a human’s blood,” Aphrodite said. “That’s really interesting.” She handed me my purse while she studied me like I was a specimen under a microscope.

“You’d think it was less interesting if you’d eaten a wino and had a hangover headache and then burped cheap wine for days,” Stevie Rae said. “All I can say about that is nasty.”

Aphrodite, the Twins, Damien, Jack, and I all stared at her. Finally I was able to say, “Stevie Rae. Please don’t eat any more people. It’s really dis-dis-disturbing,” I slurred.

“She sure won’t eat another wino. That last one tasted bad for real,” Kramisha said.
Hey guys, remember when Stevie Rae killed a homeless person and there were no consequences whatsoever, and everyone just treated it like it was some sort of awkward faux pas? Remember when Stevie Rae ended a human being’s life and all she had to say about it after was that they were totally nasty and gave her a hangover?

But it’s fine, right, because it was just some homeless wino who smelled bad, and they don’t count as people!

These characters are fucking monsters.

Finally, before they split, Zoey cashes in that nun plot chip from the last book and tells Stevie Rae that if anything goes wrong, she’s to take all of the dangerous Red Fledgelings who may or may not still want to eat people to the basement of the abbey that houses all of those nuns that she met once for like an hour.

But don’t, like, warn them or anything, you can just go, it’ll be fine.

The gang – sans Stevie Rae, Erik, Heath, and Jack – head to the House of Night, only to find that Nyx has once again gone out of her way to influence their decisions by making it physically uncomfortable to be near the school campus.
“My stomach feels awful,” Erin said.

I took another deep breath and blinked hard, concentrating on staying conscious. “It’s Nyx. She’s warning you with those feelings. Remember the effect Kalona’s appearance had on the other fledglings?”

Aphrodite nodded. “Zoey’s right. Nyx is making us feel like crap so we don’t give in to this guy. We have to fight against whatever it is about him that sucks the rest of the fledglings in.”
And yet again I have to ask – why isn’t this happening to everyone? Why don’t all of the students and faculty feel this way about Kalona and Neferet? If Nyx has this power, and she’s willing to use it on Zoey and her pals, why isn’t she willing to help all her other “children”, especially given the shit that’s going down on this campus?

Zoey is near-dead, and is received by Kalona and Neferet. Neferet heals her, begrudgingly, because Kalona wants her to, then this happens:
Kalona chuckled. “You are such a delightfully bloodthirsty creature. If the young priestess is not a benefit to us, then of course she shall eventually be disposed of. Until then I will see what I can do about breaking the shackles that bind her.”

“No. I want you to stay away from her!” Neferet snapped.

“You would do well to remember who is master here. I will not be ruled or commanded or trapped, ever again. And I am not your impotent Goddess. What I give I will take away if I am displeased!” The sexy silkiness was gone from Kalona’s voice, and a terrible coldness had replaced it.

“Don’t be angry.” Neferet was instantly contrite. “It is just that I cannot bear to share you.”

“Then do not displease me!” he shouted, but already the anger was fading from his voice.

“Come with me from this room and I promise I will not displease you,” Neferet said teasingly. I could hear the disgusting moist sounds of them kissing. Neferet’s breathless moans were enough to make me gag.

After way too many totally R-rated nasty sound effects, Kalona finally said, “Go to our chamber. Ready yourself for me. I will follow you there shortly.”

I could almost hear Neferet’s No! Come with me now! shriek through the room, but she surprised me by saying, “Come to me soon, my dark angel,” and that in a sweet, sultry voice. Then there was the swish of her clothes and the opening and closing of a door.

She’s actually manipulating him. I wondered if Kalona knew it. Surely an immortal being would be wise to a vampyre High Priestess’s mind games (well, and body games, too—eesh).
………………………

She’s manipulating him?????? DID WE JUST READ THE SAME CONVERSATION, ZOEY? Neferet might be trying, but if that was an attempt at manipulation, it was a piss-poor and failed one. Neferet got none of what she wanted, and Kalona was very clearly in charge.

Like, what, what, what are you trying to pull, book? Why are you putting so much of this on Neferet? There’s a line later on, too, where Zoey says something like “Oh, we’re facing a demon and Neferet, who’s something worse than a demon,” and it’s like whaaaaaaaaaat? The book is real quick to portray Neferet as the greater evil, the mastermind behind this whole thing, but IIRC, it was Kalona who was whispering to her, Kalona’s influence that turned her from Nyx, Kalona who’s the near-immortal ancient rapist. Not to say Neferet isn’t culpable and doesn’t want to, you know, #KillAllHumans, but the tendency for the Zoey and the book to demonize Neferet more is frustrating to see, even when I care not two shits for these characters.

The Shitty Gang dicks around the school for a day or two, just enough for Zoey to get in some utterly repulsive alone time with Stark that we’ll talk about in Part Two of this incredibly lengthy review I’M SO SORRY, before they get EVEN MORE divine fucking intervention:
“So, let me get this straight: All of our cats, plus cats that belong to Dragon, his wife, and Professor Lenobia, are suddenly hanging out in Zoey’s room,” Darius said.
THAT’S RIGHT. THE TRUSTWORTHY PROFESSORS’ CATS JUST SHOW UP IN ZOEY’S ROOM, YOU KNOW, IN CASE YOU WERE WORRIED THAT ZOEY AND HER GANG MIGHT HAVE TO SPEND SOME TIME AND/OR EFFORT FINDING ALLIES. NAHHHHH, why would they EVER do that when Nyx could just hand them the answer on a silver fucking platter, god, WHAT IS THIS BOOK?

Zoey meets her friends in a cafeteria sequence that I’m not even going to quote, but suffice to say is fucking infuriating in the way that it sets up a plot obstacle and almost immediately disregards it when it’s no longer convenient. Zoey also goes out of her way to obscure information that Neferet might filch from her friends’ minds, even though we’ve ALREADY ESTABLISHED that they’ve found a way around that.

Meanwhile, Zoey goes to Drama class, where YET AGAIN, a man who is romantically interested in her (in this case, Kalona) takes the opportunity to talk to her and then immediately ends class. But it is here, in this very scene, that get the truest words in the series:
I got up and went to the back of the room. But not even the sound of opening and closing cabinets and pawing through files of old plays and mounds of scripts could cover the whispers that rained around me.

“Why should she get noticed by him?”

“It’s not fair!”

“If this is Nyx being mysterious, then I’m damn sick of it.”

“Yeah, it’s crap. If you’re not Zoey Redbird, then you’re not shit to Nyx.”

“Nyx gives her anyone she wants. The Goddess doesn’t leave anything for the rest of us.”
that's true

They’re getting wise to your shit, Nyx! People are finally catching on, can we follow these characters instead? They all seem infinitely more in touch with reality and likable than Zoey and her cohorts!

We’re in the final stretch as Zoey meets with her group in the stables to do…things. She speaks with Lenobia, her riding instructor, who reveals yet again how utterly arbitrary Nyx is.
“Neferet is worse than any of them,” she said bitterly. “She who should be most faithful to Nyx has betrayed her utterly.”

“She’s not what she used to be,” I said. “She’s become something that’s focused on evil.”

Lenobia nodded her head. “Yes, a few of us have been afraid of that. I’m ashamed to say we looked the other way instead of confronting Neferet when she first began to behave strangely. I no longer consider her in Nyx’s service.
So you were afraid of it, but did nothing, said nothing, presumably because Nyx did not make you gassy enough to know that your intuition was right on. Yeah, okay, sure, yep, sounds about right.

She then pledges her fealty to Zoey, just so that we’re 100% sure that she’s a good guy, and helps Zoey work out the poem, another exercise in “say things until my tummy rumblings tell me I’m right”.
Lenobia retrieved the poem from where I’d laid it on the floor of the stall. “It says ‘place of power—joining of five.’ And then it lists the five: Night, Spirit, Blood, Humanity, Earth.”

“They are people,” I said, feeling a rush of excitement. “Like Damien said, that’s why they’re capitalized, because the poem is talking about people who symbolize those five things. And . . . and I’ll bet if Grandma was here, she’d tell me that there were five Ghigua women who got together and created A-ya.”

“Does it feel right to you, deep in your soul? Is the Goddess speaking to you?”

I smiled and my heart soared. “It does! It feels right.”
“Okay, so, only Night and Earth are left.” I hurried on. “As I said before, my first guess for earth would have been Stevie Rae, because of her affinity. But I know in my heart she’s blood. Earth . . . earth . . . ” I sighed again.

“Could it be Anastasia? Her gift for spells and rituals is often grounded in the earth.”

I thought about it, and sadly didn’t feel the twinge that told me I had the right answer. “Nope, it’s not her.”
UGHHH. As Fangs pointed out on Twitter the other day, she can basically just go through the phone book at this point, using her dowsing stomach to find the people that Nyx wants her to exploit for their mystical power.

She farts out the members of her Captain Planet squad, until finally only “Night” is left.
“Look deeper, Zoey Redbird, and I do believe you will discover who Nyx has Chosen to personify Night.”

“Not me,” I whispered.

“Of course it is you,” Lenobia said. “The poem states it perfectly, ‘Night leads to Spirit.’ None of us would have ever looked to the Benedictine Abbey or its prioress to fill in the pieces of the poetic puzzle, but you led us straight to it.”
Of course Zoey is the personification of the goddess, I mean she’s basically vampire Jesus, so I don’t know why this is surprising. Also I just cannot deal with how dumb these poem riddles are, Zoey decided that the nun would be Spirit, so therefore she “lead” to Spirit. It’s just so blunt and artless, like that was literally the first thing Cast came up with and was like “Eh, yeah, that’s fine, no need to rework any of that.”

Then again, that basically describes this entire series, right?

Zoey and her pals escape the House of Night with the assistance of their professors in a plan complicated purely so that it seems like there was some difficulty in getting out, because otherwise they leave the exact same way they have the thousands of other times they’ve snuck off campus.

They run away to the abbey, where Zoey’s farts have assured her the “place of power” mentioned in the poem is, with Neferet, Kalona, Stark, and the Raven Mockers hot on their trail. Lo and behold–
“Mary’s Grotto is the seat of our power.” Sister Mary Angela pointed behind me and to the side of where we were standing—a place that was between us, the northwesternmost edge of the neatly cut lawn, and the monster-filled grove of trees.
What? I– What? Like– Nuns don’t have those, right? They’re Catholic fucking nuns, WHY DO THEY HAVE ANY KIND OF “SEAT OF POWER” BESIDES THE MOTORIZED LIFT THAT GETS THE OLDER NUNS UPSTAIRS??? OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS EVEN???

Zoey and her team hold hands while the other members of her team who weren’t important enough to be mentioned in the spell hold hands outside of them, and everybody concentrates– I shit you not– on the power of love, and Kalona and Neferet go flying away.
With a terrible cry, Kalona staggered back. Neferet clung to him. The darkness that pulsed from her twitched and writhed as she shrieked in agony. Though he never took his gaze from mine, he wrapped his arms around Neferet, unfurled his mighty, night-colored wings, and leaped into the sky. He hovered there for an instant, as his wings beat against gravity, and then the silver thread reared back, gaining momentum, before it snapped, whiplike, at them, lifting the winged man and the fallen High Priestess up and up until they disappeared into the clouds with the Raven Mockers screaming and following behind.
sobbing gif

Stark, who nearly killed himself thanks to the genie-wish-esque wordplay clause Nyx attacked to his archery skillz, escapes with nothing more than a fucking ridiculous scar that makes no sense–
The shirt had been burned away from his chest, and there was the bloody brand of a broken arrow over his heart.
I fucking hate everyone and everything, I need you guys to know that.

And then it’s the end, yaaaaaaaaay, this book is fucking over, finally, oh my god.

So I know this review is long, and that it may, in fact, make it seem like things actually happened in this book, but that is a wholly and completely false impression to get. This review is long because despite very little progress actually being made, nearly everything that DID happen was fucking stupid, contradictory, or just astonishingly contrived in some way. This is a book that is easy to rip apart, and even easier to just skip, because aside from re-restablishing Zoey’s love pentagon and changing Neferet and Kalona’s base of operations in the last five pages, nothing fucking happens. Noooooothing.

Garbage books.

PSSST, don’t forget to go check out Fangs’ review!

no stars

five down

TOMORROW: FUCKING STARK



 

15 Responses

  1. Azure

    December 16, 2015 7:37 pm, Reply

    Okay, yes. It was disturbing and nasty, but it was also weirdly erotic. I know it felt good—it had to. That’s how vampyres are made.
    No, Casts! You do not ret-con your shit! You established that Nyx and the Trackers are what turn people into vampires, not bites! If this was a method of turning people into vampires, then whats the point of the tattoos?!

    To be fair to Erik, it’s not like Zoey has a great track record for making good decisions on her own. It either leads to stupidity or hormones raging (which is also stupidity). Going out in the open where the villain’s minions could attack you is pretty stupid. I wish Erik just told Zoey she makes terrible decisions.

    Finally, people are calling Nyx and Zoey out on their bullshit! Nyx is the worst goddess/deus ex machina ever and Zoey is the worst heroine ever, and it’s about damn time someone say it like it is. I want new heroes, like twin brothers with powers of fire and ice or a girl with shape-shifting abilities, not deus ex farts.

    • Cyna Cyna

      December 19, 2015 2:42 am, Reply

      Yeah I have no idea what that line is in reference to. I don’t recall them ever mentioning it before, and it didn’t come up again. Kind of a glaring flub to just casually mention.

      Oh Erik absolutely could have raised his concerns without being a prick, but seeing as Casts plural decided that it was time for him to take a drive down Possessive Asshole street, I guess it’s not unexpected. He does something similar in the start of Tempted, where his problems are totally reasonable, but you’re not meant to agree with him, so he’s a dick about it.

      Oh yeah, I think we can all agree, Nyx is The Worst, and gets The Worster with every book.

  2. Haley

    December 16, 2015 9:13 pm, Reply

    With what you’re saying about polyamory, there was one of those SmartPop books written for this where a bunch of different authors tried to write intelligent essays about this book. Kristen Cast wrote one on Zoey’s harem, and all it came out as was “Wahh, boys can do it and get a positive reputation out of it, so why can’t she? She’s so special and her society accepts multiple partners from multiple species, she can have a human Consort and a vampire Warrior, she’s so awesome!”

    All without mentioning that it’s not really the polyamory people have a problem with. It’s the fact that Zoey doesn’t tell the guys that she wants to have multiple partners when they all assume she is in a mongomous relationship with each of them.

    Because Zoey is a FUCKING IDIOT PROTAGONIST!

    • Cyna Cyna

      December 19, 2015 2:48 am, Reply

      God I can’t imagine trying to write an intelligent article in favor or House of Night, it just shoots itself in the foot in every single respect. I can see being defensive like that because I imagine Zoey gets slut-shamed by the fandom about as much as she slut-shames other characters. But yeah that is 100% not the actual problem.

      I mean, even after Heath like rolls over and accepts it, he’s not happy about it, and ZOEY is still possessive as shit. Like any way you look at it, this is not a positive representation of polyamory.

  3. Fangs 4 the Fantasy (@Fangs4Fantasy)

    December 17, 2015 1:42 am, Reply

    Oh my gods curse you for that Raven Mocker picture – curse you for that mental image that will stay with me for this whole series now!

    And I completely forgot to mention to elemental mind road block which is either a) ridiculously obvious and should have been used before or b) makes no sense (“I will create a barrier with… air. Yes. Air will be the opaque hiding shield. Uh. yes. Airlike wall.”)

    Nyx is garbage. And also has a scatological fetish. Really, she could talk to people but instead her go-to means of communication (beyond bad bad poetry) is painful bowel ruptions. And I love how Kalona is blamed for turning the people against Nyx, rather than Nyx being the WORST GODDESS EVER. Every grievance they have is REAL

    • Cyna Cyna

      December 19, 2015 2:32 am, Reply

      Oh, the Raven Mocker picture is a sleeper image, I don’t know if it’s Tempted or the next but it’s gonna get EVEN BETTER I PROMISE.

      YES THAT WAS MY EXACT REACTION. “I’M GONNA MIND BLOCK WITH FIRE, YEAH, TOTALLY, MAKES SENSE.”

      Yeah I don’t know how you could exist in a world in which ALL THIS SHIT HAPPENS and have any faith in Nyx, she’s demonstrated multiple times that she’s The Worst.

  4. RayneofCastamere

    December 19, 2015 6:23 am, Reply

    Zoey, if your partners are not aware that you’re in a polyamorous relationship with them nor have they fully consented to said polyamory, then you are NOT in a polyamorous relationship with them. You are cheating on them and you are awful. And so are your friends who see nothing wrong with slaughtering the homeless who have it bad enough as is.

    Nyx is stupid in this. So stupid. She’s being needlessly vague so that the books can have “mystical” prophesies and portents and other things that let the author use overly purple prose that sound “deep” and “magic-with-a-K-at-the-end” but really are just so dumb.

    With other series, yeah, I could buy that an enormously powerful being with a radically different way of perceiving the universe and time and etc would have some trouble getting a message through clearly using a puny hoo-man as a conduit, but House of Night makes it EXPLICIT that Nyx pretty much has a hotline to her followers, no translating weirdness required. They want their mysterious bullshit while at the same time making it clear that Zoey is the perfect-est and the goddess wubs her just so damn much and tells her everything. It’s the same self-contradicting crap that lets them have their vampires be “misunderstood” targets of hate while at the same time having them be everyone famous or cool or powerful who ever existed ever unless stated otherwise. Really? Vampires are so suppressed and yet every celebrity, up to and including country stars who normally appeal to a mostly conservative audience, is one? What is logic?

    You guys have twelve more books to slog through. May heaven have mercy upon your souls, for you face great evil, and its name is House of Night.

    • Cyna Cyna

      December 22, 2015 12:20 am, Reply

      Yep yep and yep, like everything about this book and its worldbuilding are awwwwwwwful and really fucking malevolent if you think about it for more than a minute.

      Two more to go this month! And then we can take another year or two-long rest. xDDD

  5. Artemis

    December 20, 2015 9:05 pm, Reply

    “Mary’s Grotto is the seat of our power.”

    I know that other non-Catholic denominations of Christianity argue that devotion to Mary is kind of idolatrous, but seriously? This is, like, 100% not at all how you Catholic.

  6. Ruin

    December 21, 2015 4:52 pm, Reply

    By ‘that’s the way vampyres are made’, the wording is weird, but I think what she’s saying is ‘vampyres are biologically/hormonally set up to get horny when they drink blood’ rather than ‘you’re made a vampyre via blood-drinking, not Marking as we stated in book 1’. In the companion book, there’s a chapter on ‘vampyre biology’ which tries to poo-poo the magic with science, which states that vampyres get hot and heavy over blood-drinking ‘and that’s perfectly natural’.

    ‘Made’ doesn’t refer to the process of being vampyre’d, but to the sum of their parts.

    That’s the only issue. Your reviews are perfect, otherwise.

    • Cyna Cyna

      December 21, 2015 11:39 pm, Reply

      Ahhhhh okay okay okay, I see what you’re saying. Er, what Zoey’s saying. What you both are saying. That makes sense, I feel kinda dumb for not realizing that sooner xDDD

      Thanks<333333

      • Ruin

        January 15, 2016 5:27 pm, Reply

        It’s totally cool. The Casts have a reputation for paying no attention to their own continuity – the House of Night wikia is always pointing out discrepancies, which is one of the most wonderful things to come from the fanon of this shitty series (2nd only to these reviews of yours). :)))

  7. ZeldaQueen

    December 22, 2015 11:34 pm, Reply

    “You were made from them. Fashioned to love me.”

    ‘Kay, if A-ya was created for the sole purpose of leading Kalona into the earth, can someone explain to me why the fuck she was “made” to love him? Her entire job consisted of running AWAY from him. Making her love him kinda puts that plan at risk. PLUS, the people who made her did so knowing he was a creepy rapist… so they made their doll-girl love him without any choice in the matter? Wouldn’t it have made more sense in every conceivable way to have her be repulsed by him?

    I suspect the only answer is that the Cast ladies like their self inserts drooling over “bad boys” who are utterly evil.

    • Cyna Cyna

      January 4, 2016 1:25 am, Reply

      THAT’S THE MILLION-DOLLAR QUESTION, RIGHT? Who did it serve for A-ya to even be sentient? The whole way A-ya shook out rests on the assumption that the Cherokee women didn’t want Kalona to suffer in his trap, and THAT makes zero goddamn sense given the context.

      Option number 2: generally shitty hacktastic writing. Gotta find a way to tie Kalona and Zoey…uhhhh PAST LIFE! YEAH. SOUNDS GREAT!

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