House of Night Series Review: Burned

House of Night series review banner We’re back with our fourth and last book in this Month of House of Night, Burned. Praise Jesus and high-five Jenova you guys, this is it! One more review and we’re done for as long as I can keep putting a return to this series off. Let’s get this shit over with!

Burned by PC and Kristen Cast
Y’all need to get yourselves together. Here’s a newsflash from the only High Priestess you have left at this dang school: Zoey isn’t dead. And believe me, I know dead. I’ve been there, done that and got the fricken tee-shirt.

Zoey Redbird is the youngest High Priestess in House of Night history and is the only person — vamp or fledgling —that can stop the evil Neferet from raising all kinds of immortal trouble. And she might just have a chance if she wasn’t so busy being dead.Well, dead is too strong a word. Stevie Rae knows she can bring her BFF back from her unscheduled va-cay in the Otherworld. But it’s going to take a lot more than hoping to bring Zoey back. Stevie Rae will have to give up a few secrets of her own…
So when we last left Zoey, her soul had been inexplicably “shattered” upon witnessing the death of her childhood boytoy, Heath. In a refreshing change of pace, Burned picks up not moments after the end of Tempted, but moments before! Woo, shaking up the formula!

We open on Kalona, giving a boring mental monologue as he prepares to snap Heath’s neck.
[Kalona] would not allow anything or anyone to get in his way, and this human boy was standing between him and what he desired. He didn’t particularly want to kill the boy; he didn’t particularly want the boy alive, either. It was a simple necessity. He didn’t feel remorse or regret. As had been the norm during the centuries since he’d fallen, Kalona felt very little.
crawling in my skin Christ, Kalona, get a journal.

I’m also side-eying that “didn’t particularly want to kill the boy” line – I feel like it’s meant to soften the blow of what he’s doing, as though a supposed lack of active malice on Kalona’s part somehow makes killing the target of your sexual aggression’s boyfriend less terrible.

Anyway, he means to murder Heath on the dl, but as we already know, Zoey shows up. She knocks him off the wall into the ocean with her big ball o’spirit, and for a moment, Kalona considers letting himself drown and bringing this terrible series to an end, because oh no, Zoey knows he killed her boyfriend and really for real hates him now, what a completely unforseeable consequence of his actions!

But of course, we’ve still got like six books to go, so before he can do us all a favor, he feels Zoey’s soul shatter, and–
Not Zoey! He’d never meant to cause her harm. Even through all of Neferet’s machinations, through all of the Tsi Sgili’s manipulations and plans, he’d held tight to the knowledge that, in spite of everything, he would use his vast immortal powers to keep Zoey safe because ultimately she was the closest he could come to Nyx in this realm — and this was the only realm left to him.
And this is where even Kalona starts actively participating in the “let’s blame Neferet for everything” sham Cast is trying to shape this into. In fact, if this chapter had a subtitle, it would be: No Really Guys, Even Kalona Thinks This is All Neferet’s Fault, and Also She is the Worst.

It’s all about attempting to illustrate the dynamic between Neferet and Kalona – that Kalona is a sad, wounded woobie who’s making bad choices out of the completely sympathetic motivators of defiance, bitterness, and frustrated sexual longing, while Neferet is the root of all bitchy-bitch evil who’s scheming and machinating and in league with the devil and in over her head.
“No, I don’t imagine any of them felt it,” Neferet continued, in her coldest, most calculating voice. “None of them are connected to Darkness, to you, as I am. Is that not so, my love?”

“We are uniquely connected,” Kalona managed, though he suddenly wished the words were not true.
That’s the dynamic in a nutshell: Neferet, so ~cold~ and ~calculating~, plying Kalona with her ~love talk~ and Kalona squishing himself up against the door on the opposite side of the car like “I AM REGRETTING MY DECISION TO RIDE WITH YOU SO HARD RIGHT NOW.”

It’s meant to make us more sympathetic to Kalona, I guess, because he’s just an angry child going along with Neferet’s plan, but really it just makes him a less respectable villain.

On the flip side, this chapter got damn close to making me Team Neferet. Seriously, I could get down with Neferet as a villain, for the exact traits that Cast is using to try and demonize her: she’s aggressive, she’s calculating, she’s power-hungry and sexual, and she has no problem using the narrative’s precious woobie as a tool to further her ambitions. She’s everything that House of Night tells us a ‘good woman’ shouldn’t be, and you know your series morality is fucked when the much-maligned epitome of evil is easier to root for than your goddess-blessed protagonist.

Clearly Neferet has just recently recognized how utterly fucked this world is. I’m sure if I had to spend centuries among these idiotic characters, serving this terrible goddess, I’d want to burn it all down, too.

That said, even putting aside all of Cast’s awful evil-woman coding, I still can’t bring myself to completely get on board with Neferet as a character, mostly because of her romantic rivalry with Zoey. Fighting with a teenager over who draws the biggest boner out of some piece of shit immortal rapist? You can keep it. That’s one misogynistic trope too many.

Anyway, Kalona explains that Zoey’s spirit is shattered and she’s basically dead, forget about her, baby, but Neferet isn’t buying it.
“One would think it would be a death sentence,” Neferet spoke calmly as she drew more and more of the inky threads to her, “but Zoey has a terribly inconvenient habit of surviving. This time I am going to ensure she dies.”

“Zoey’s soul also has a habit of reincarnating,” he said, purposefully baiting Neferet to try to throw off her focus.
I mean, once, it’s done that once, and it took thousands of years. I wouldn’t call that a ‘habit’.

Neferet wants to make sure Kalona finishes the job, so she takes advantage of his weakened state and uses ~the power of Darkness~ to send his spirit into the Otherworld to end Zoey once and for all.

See what I mean? Relatable motivations and goals, man.

Kalona’s not super thrilled, because being in the ~spirit realm~ too long could damage his body or some shit, but Neferet has zero fucks to give.
“Then you will have to be sure you finish your task soon, so that you may return to your lovely immortal body before it is irreparably damaged.” [Neferet] smiled seductively at him. “I would very much dislike it if anything happened to your body, my love.”

“Neferet, don’t do this. You are putting into motion things that will require payment, the consequences of which even you will not want to face.”
Yeah, that’s the other thing. They’re bringing up this idea that Neferet has bitten off more than she can chew, and that it’s going to come back and bite her in the ass in the end, because god forbid we have a female villain who’s competent and in control and at the top of the food chain. Nah, she’s gotta be a naive little girl who’s ~playing with forces she doesn’t understand~. Ugh, you can keep that, too.
Kalona stared at her, understanding that Neferet was utterly, truly mad, and wondering why that madness only served to feed her power and intensify her beauty.
Okay 1) gross, and 2) do you get it yet, guys? Neferet is so evil that even KALONA thinks she’s lost her shit! I hope you understand now who the TRUE VILLAIN of this series is, because it’s definitely not the immortal rapist, nope! It’s the nasty lady who uses her vagina for sex!

Moving on, we get this awkward-as-fuck motivation dump from Kalona, while somewhere in Hell, the Robot Devil sobs.
Kalona knew she was playing on his weaknesses. Silently, he cursed himself for allowing her to have learned too much about his deepest desires. He’d trusted her, so Neferet knew that because he wasn’t Erebus he could never truly rule beside Nyx in the Otherworld, and he was driven to re-create as much of what he’d lost here in this modern world.
Neferet uses it to prod Kalona into action, evoking his one respectable line in the entire chapter:
“I choose to rule. I will always choose to rule,” he said without hesitation.
Seriously, I’ll take ambitious, remorselessly evil shithead villains over pity-me woobies any goddamn day of the week.

Finally, he and Neferet make the poorly-worded contract that will undoubtedly factor in to his redemption endgame.
When Neferet continued, her voice was magnified, swollen with power. “It is your own choice that I have sealed this oath by blood with Darkness, but should you fail me and break it—”

“I will not fail.”

Her smile was unworldly in its beauty; her eyes roiled with blood. “If you, Kalona, Fallen Warrior of Nyx, break this oath and fail in my sworn quest to destroy Zoey Redbird, fledgling High Priestess of Nyx, I shall hold dominion over your spirit for as long as you are an immortal.”
loop, meet hole I think we can all see where this is going.

Thus concludes our time with the villains, catapulting Kalona out of the story until literally the last couple of chapters. Yeah,despite what the set-up would have you believing, Burned isn’t so much about Zoey re-assembling the shattered fragments of her soul in the Otherworld as it is giving Cast the opportunity to retcon a bunch of bastardized Celtic and vaguely Taoist concepts into this already mythologically confused world, via dual plotlines that follow Stevie Rae&Co in Oklahoma, and Stark et al. in Italy and Scotland.

We kick off the story proper in Oklahoma, where Stevie Rae is roused from sleeping off the rooftop deep-fry she got at the end of Tempted to hear the “bad” news about Zoey.
“Zoey’s not dead, but she saw Kalona kill Heath. She tried to stop him and couldn’t. It shattered her, Stevie Rae.” Tears had started to leak down Lenobia’s porcelain cheeks.

“Shattered her? What does that mean?”

“It means her body still breathes, but her soul is gone. When a High Priestess’s soul is shattered, it is only a matter of time before her body fades from this world, too.”
Okay, I know House of Night is a series of ass-pulls and hand-waving when it comes to why and how things happen, but seriously, did we get ANY foreshadowing or background whatsoever on this whole “shattering” thing before it happened to Zoey? All I remember was that one line from the poem about being shattered and believing or some shit, so I feel like I’m pretty justified in feeling like this phenomenon came out of nowhere.

Yet according to all the good vampires of House of Night volume seven, this is a relatively normal occurrence. It happens often enough that everyone knows what it is and what it means, and there’s an established history with several case studies to refer to. People’s souls just rip themselves from their bodies on a regular basis, price of being a vampire, right?
Dragon Lankford spoke from the open doorway to the infirmary room. His strong face was drawn and haggard with the newness of the loss of his mate, but his voice was calm and sure. “It’s about the fact that Zoey faced a grief she could not bear. And I do understand something about grief. When it shatters a soul, the path to return to the body is broken, and without the infilling of spirit, our bodies die.”
Also, can we just all take a moment to appreciate that Dragon Lankford saw his wife of literal centuries murdered in front of him and didn’t explode into a million pieces, but Zoey saw her high school boyfriend killed and hit the eject button immediately?

At any rate, Stevie Rae decides that her first course of action is to talk to Rephaim, because when she was super-sadfaced and crying over Zoey’s situation earlier, he used his vaguely-defined immortal birdman powers to comfort her and call her to him. Plus, as Kalona’s right hand man and a former spirit himself, she figures he’s her best source for gathering some useful spirit-world-and-Darkness-related information.

This is the Default Excuse that the book gives Stevie Rae so that she can continue her relationship with Rephaim, which plays out almost exactly the same way every time she gets a chapter. She sneaks away from House of Night against someone’s wishes, and meets up with Rephaim to pump him for “information”. They get a few lovey-dovey scenes, fight over something or another, and then one or both leave in a huff, acting like they’ve broken up forever. Wash, rinse, repeat every three chapters.

But for this particular meeting, Stevie Rae is content nursing her horrifying birdman fetish.
Rephaim continued to stare at her until it felt to Stevie Rae as if he was looking through her body and directly into her soul. She couldn’t look away, though, and the longer their gazes met, the harder it was for her to hold on to her anger. His eyes were just so human.
BUT HIS BODY IS JUST SO BIRD!

I love love love how the book very pointedly avoids mentioning Rephaim’s bird torso. They talk about his eyes, his human arms and legs, even his wings sometimes, but there’s jack shit about the beak, the creepy bird tongue, or his horizontally-oriented, bird-shaped body. Nada. Because then we would realize even more clearly that this is fuckin’ weird.

Anyway, they get to chit-chatting, and Rephaim jumps hard on the “blame Neferet” train.
“Neferet seduces my father and pretends to be his mate, but the only thing she really cares for is herself. Where he is filled with anger, she is filled with hatred. Hatred is a more dangerous ally.”
Christ, what a meaningless differentiation to toss in there. “Oh, sure, Kalona’s angry and a rapist, but That Bitch Neferet hates people, that’s super dangerous.” WE GET IT, NEFERET IS WORSE THAN KALONA, YOU CAN STOP MAKING UP BULLSHIT JUSTIFICATIONS FOR THAT NOW, THANKS.

Together, they suss out what Neferet’s done with her poorly-worded genie contract, Rephaim just happening to have all of the relevant information to lead him to the correct explanation, because fuck it.
Rephaim shook his head. “Father will never believe Zoey won’t eventually choose him. A-ya did, and part of the maiden still lives within Zoey’s soul.” He paused, and before Stevie Rae could ask her next question, added, “But I know how you can be certain. If Neferet is using him, she will have Father’s body bound by Darkness.”
And then, and then you guys, Stevie Rae has what is quite possibly the dumbest line in this entire fucking series.

Are you ready for it?
Rephaim shook his head. “Father will never believe Zoey won’t eventually choose him. A-ya did, and part of the maiden still lives within Zoey’s soul.” He paused, and before Stevie Rae could ask her next question, added, “But I know how you can be certain. If Neferet is using him, she will have Father’s body bound by Darkness.”

“Darkness? You mean like the opposite of light?”
Darkness, you mean like the opposite of light? Darkness, you mean like the opposite of light? Darkness, you mean like the opposite of light?

I’m dead. I’m dead, my brain has shattered, and I’ve gone to the Otherworld, a magical land where things are heavenly and perfect and House of Night doesn’t exist, and people don’t say such extraordinarily dumb things, and I can die in peace don’t come for me.

sigh


Anyway, Rephaim explains that no, Stevie Rae, it’s Darkness like a sentient force, because we needed to put forces on this mythological flow chart that’re above Nyx, for, just, goddamn reasons, okay.

Rephaim tells her to find someone who can see spirit stuff and they will be able to 100% confirm that Kalona’s had some bad juju sent his way, and if that person has any fucking contextual awareness whatsoever, they will know that that bad juju came from Neferet. And Stevie Rae is like–
“Well, there’s a whole gaggle of powerful vamps on the High Council. One of them has to be able to do that.”
And I’m like YEAH, YOU WOULD REALLY THINK SO, WOULDN’T YOU? YOU WOULD THINK THAT A GOVERNING BODY OF VAMPIRES WHO ARE AWARE OF THE EXISTENCE OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF MAGIC AND LIGHT AND DARK WOULD HAVE SOMEONE ON STAFF WHO WOULD HAVE THE ABILITY THAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. THAT WOULD ONLY MAKE SENSE. THAT WOULD ONLY BE HOW A SENSIBLE GODDAMN MAGICAL GOVERNMENT RAN.

But no, because we live in the land of incompetent centuries-old vampires–
She spoke with much more confidence than she felt. Everyone knew the High Council vamps were chosen because of their honor and integrity and basically their all-around goodness, which didn’t so much go with being familiar with Darkness.
Nope! They’re all good! All bathed in Light, ain’t got shit to say about Darkness magic, nuh-uh! Why would they? It’s not like there’s any kind of tactical advantage to being familiar with your enemy!

How this vampire council has endured for centuries while being so woefully unprepared and uneducated is a goddamned magical mystery.

Meanwhile, Zoey gets the first of her handful of perspective chapters in this book. She’s running around in the Otherworld, bumping into different versions of herself, and having Convenient Knowledge Parties of her own.
“I think all of them are you—pieces of you. Something’s happened to your soul, Zoey, and you gotta get out of here so that it can get fixed.”

Suddenly I felt dizzy and sagged in his arms. I don’t know how I knew, but I did. The words I spoke were as true and as final as his death. “I can’t leave, Heath. Not unless all those pieces of me are me again. And I don’t know how to make that happen—I just don’t know!”
Oh my god, I love this. She “knows”, by the grace of Nyx’s bowel movements that she can’t leave until she’s whole again, putting her up to speed with the rest of the characters without any effort on her part, but she doesn’t know how to make that happen, because otherwise the book would be over.

This series has been about as transparent as cling wrap, as far as characters knowing things Because the Plot Said So, and yet it still manages to amaze me with its willingness to rely on that that deus ex constant interference and micromanagement.

At any rate, Zoey’s chapters are almost nil in terms of importance to the plot. She jabbers at Heath a bit and basically just makes an obligatory appearance before being chased into the next zone by Kalona’s shadow. This happens maybe three times, and each is as irrelevant as the last, until Stark finally shows up to rescue her at the very end.

Back in the real world, Stevie Rae contacts Aphrodite, who naturally, being a human teenager, is competent in a way that an island full of ancient magical vampires aren’t. She confirms Rephaim’s theory about what Neferet’s done, which leads them to conclude that sending a Warrior – Stark, of course – to the Spirit realm to protect Zoey from Kalona is A+ the best course of action.

Again, I’m just sort of flabberghasted, because the assumption that this is even possible comes out of nowhere, and is contrary to everything the Council and, like, logic, has told them.

“But that doesn’t work. I’ve been remembering somethin’ from The Fledgling Handbook 101. There was that whole big story in there about a High Priestess and her Warrior who died when her soul was shattered and he went after her into the Otherworld.”

“Please, dork. It’s in the 101 handbook because it’s meant to scare the crap out of retarded third formers, like you, so that hot young fledglings stay away from sexy Sons of Erebus Warriors. The stupid thing was probably written by some dried-up old hag of a High Priestess who hadn’t had sex in, like, a hundred years. Literally. Stark needs to follow Zoey to the Otherworld, kick Kalona’s spirit’s ass, and then bring her back here.”
THERE’S NO EVIDENCE FOR ANY OF THAT! Also, yeah, Aphrodite is slinging around the ableist slurs hardcore in this one.
Protection! I’m Zoey’s protection! A small quiver of hope moved through his body. “I’m her protection!” he said quickly. “I don’t care if it’s in this world or the next. Just show me how to get to where she is, and I’ll be there for her.”

“That does, indeed, sound logical, Stark,” Thanatos said.
No it doesn’t, you can’t just say that you can do a thing when you have no idea how this thing is done–
“If you try to do that without the right preparation, you will have no chance at all of succeeding, young Warrior.”

Stark’s eyes followed the voice to the doorway, where Thanatos stood, looking tall and grim and way too much like death personified.

“Then tell me how to prepare!” Stark wanted to shout his frustration from the rooftops of the world.

“To do battle in the Otherworld, the Warrior in you must die to give birth to the Shaman.”
Except, you know, this is House of Night, featuring Zoey and her group of specialer-than-thou friends, so of goddamn course it’s possible.

This next part is where we get our major mythological retcon, and I’m going to be quoting a lot of it, because you really have to read it to understand how fucking stupid the whole idea is.

So Thanatos, this vampire on the high council who is apparently capable of seeing through Neferet and Kalona’s ruse, has studied the ancient mythologies of Darkness and Light, and worships death, but is apparently incapable doing anything about it, barges in on Zoey’s friends’ meeting, and begins explaining this latest addition to the House of Night mythological hierarchy.
“So from the beginning this has been a battle between Light and Darkness, only until now it has been fought mostly in the physical realm.”

“Light and Darkness? It sounds like you’re using those two words as titles,” said Damien.

“Very astute of you, young fledgling,” Thanatos said.
Yeah, strap in, because this entire fucking researching-Light-and-Darkness sequence is like this.

Aphrodite and the Twins point out, in the most offensive way possible, that nobody’s ever mentioned this shit before, and Thanatos explains why.
“Why? What’s wrong with it?” Aphrodite asked.

“It was based on struggle and violence and the clash of the raw powers of good and evil.”

Aphrodite snorted, “You mean guy stuff.”

Thanatos’s brows lifted. “I do.”
Oh Christ.
“Hang on. What’s so guy-stuff-like about believing in good fighting evil?” Stark said.

“It’s more than a simple belief that there is good and that it should fight the evil in the world. It’s a personification of Light and Darkness at their most elemental level, as forces that are so absorbed with themselves that one cannot exist without the other though they constantly try to consume one another.” Thanatos sighed again at the blank looks the kids were giving her. “One of the earliest representations of Light and Darkness was of Light being a massive black bull and Darkness being an enormous white bull.”

“Huh? Shouldn’t the white be Light and the black be Darkness?” Jack asked.

“One would think so, but it is thus that they were represented in our ancient scrolls. It was written that each creature, Light and Darkness, carried something for which the other would always long. Think of the bulls, swollen with the power they wield, meeting in eternal combat, each struggling to get something from the other it could never attain without destroying itself. I saw a depiction of their battle once when I was a young High Priestess, and I’ve never forgotten how raw and violent it was—disturbingly so. The bulls’ horns were locked. Their powerful bodies strained to reach the other, blood spewed, nostrils flared. It was a deadlock that was frightening in its intensity—the painting itself seemed to vibrate with power.”

“Masculine power,” Darius said. “I’ve seen that depiction, too, when I was in training to become a Warrior. It decorated the cover of some of the ancient journals written by great Warriors from our past.”

“Masculine power. I can see why the vamp leaders let that bull stuff fade away,” Erin said.

“Seriously, Twin.” Shaunee nodded. “Too much guy power when vamps are mostly about girl power.”
Oh Jesus Tap-Dancing Christ.
“But our belief system isn’t about female power suppressing male power. It’s about a healthy balance between the two,” Darius said.

“No, Warrior, the truth is our belief system is not supposed to be about female power suppressing male power; but as with Light and Darkness, it is an eternal struggle to find a balance between the two without one destroying the other. Think of the images of Nyx that we see about us every day, with their feminine beauty and appeal. Contrast that to an imagining of the raw power unleashed in the form of two great, battling, male creatures. Do you see how a world trying to contain both would be in conflict, and thus one must be suppressed in order to allow the other to thrive?”

Aphrodite snorted, “That’s not so hard to imagine. I can’t imagine the uptight High Council wanting anything to do with something as messy as two giant guy bulls and any beliefs they represent.”
Is she– is this goddamned novel trying to say that MISANDRY is the reason that nobody knows about these ridiculous goddamn bulls? Are we really going to do the “suppression of male power” bit in a novel about a society that purports to be matriarchal?

This is fucking mind-boggling. I mean, what Burned is asserting, in the most take-everything-the-book-says-at-face-value sense, is that this “matriarchal” society has become unbalanced and made itself vulnerable because it’s placed too much emphasis on the inherently feminine tendency toward civility and diplomacy over the inherently masculine tendency toward brutality, conflict, violence, and self-protection. Basically, “them uptight women been forgetting them animalistic menfolk and that’s fixin’ to bite them in the ass.”

I mean first of all, way to go, Cast, it’s super empowering to have a “matriarchal” culture taken down a peg because it didn’t take the masculine into consideration enough. I mean, we’re not even talking like New52 Amazons here, House of Night treats its men just fine within the confines of its own stupid (patriarchal) gender roles, but we don’t worship any male deities or have enough bulls in our art, so fuck it, right? MISANDRY. I know that’s the major failing I want my matriarchal cultures to have when I read speculative fiction!

The most annoying thing about all of this is that, for all the talk of feminine power and whatnot, this society isn’t even a matriarchy in any meaningful way. It still enables and supports a shitton of patriarchal norms, ideals, and standards for women and men, presumably because the series has no goddamn idea what it’s talking about. It’s probably asking too much from the House of Night series to actually sit down and think about how a culture run by women for thousands of years would be different from the culture we have right now, but making the sole societal repercussion be the disregard of a vitally important mythology because it’s too “violent” and messy and “masculine” is — well, fuck, I guess it’s about exactly as shallow as you’d expect House of Night to be.

Ugh, anyway, the point is that the sheer existence of these opposing forces means that there is definitely totally positively a way for Stark to make it into the Otherworld to retrieve Zoey without dying.
“What does this have to do with gettin’ Zoey back?”

“I think it might somehow open a door for Stark to the Otherworld, without him actually dying because, apparently, that doesn’t so much work for Warriors protecting their High Priestesses there.”
Why? There’s no reason to think that one will lead to the other, not even any visions or rumbly tumblies. They’re just racing down this road because that’s what the plot requires them to do, and Aphrodite has clearly read the script.

“The cows can do that? How? Cows can’t even talk.”

“Oh, for shit’s sake! They might and they might not—they’re super old magick, stupid! Who the hell knows what they can do? Just get this: to make it to the Otherworld, Stark can’t be civilized and modern and all nicey-nice. He’s got to figure out how to be more than that to reach Zoey and to protect her without getting both of them killed, and this olden-time religion might be a key to that.”

“I guess that makes sense. I mean, when I think about Kalona, I don’t exactly think of a modern guy.”
No it doesn’t, none of that makes even the least bit of sense, what are you people smoking?

We flip back to Stevie Rae, and she decides a visit to Rephaim is in order, because that’s her solution to any and all problems. Before she leaves, Kramisha shows up to drop a plot riddle on her, because it’s been a whole book and we haven’t gotten one of those yet!
The Red One steps into the Light
girded loins for her part in
the apocalyptic fight.

Darkness hides in different forms
see beyond shape, color, lies
and the emotional storms.
Ally with him; pay with your heart
though trust cannot be given
unless the Darkness you part.
See with the soul and not your eyes
because to dance with beasts you
must penetrate their disguise.
This is really just a roundabout way of telling Stevie Rae to realize that the white bull is the Dark evil one, a pretty important detail that Aphrodite failed to communicate, and to divinely prop up her relationship with Rephaim. It comes to absolutely nothing, though, since Stevie Rae doesn’t figure it out, and ends up summoning the wrong bull, anyway.
Fine. Okay. She’d check on him. She’d also ask him questions about Light as well as Darkness, and about two cows. She scowled. Well, bulls. But she should do some digging for herself without Rephaim. She really should evoke her element and see what info she could get on the cow/bulls. That would be using her good sense. Then Stevie Rae grinned and slapped the steering wheel.

“I got it! I’ll stop at that cute old park that’s on the way to Gilcrease. Do a little earth magick, and then check on Rephaim. Easy-peasy!”
Why she thinks she can interrogate a goddamn metaphysical concept for information is beyond me, but summoning an element has become the other go-to solution for any and all problems these characters face. I wouldn’t be surprised if Zoey calls on spirit the next time she needs help changing a tire.

Anyway, Stevie Rae makes it to the park, love interest Dallas reluctantly in tow, and casts her circle. She calls her element, but shock of all shocks–
But nothing else was going on.

Sure, she could feel earth there, surrounding her, willing to do her bidding.

But nothing was happening.

At all.
YES BECAUSE AN ELEMENT IS NOT REFERENCE MATERIAL, STEVIE RAE.

So she tries again, but this time she specifically summons the white bull for guidance, thinking that it’s the “good” one. Darkness shows, because fuck it, this sixteen-year-old noob is asking, so why not? Stevie Rae asks it for advice on Stark’s behalf, and the bull responds with ANOTHER GODDAMN PLOT RIDDLE AUGHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
The bull’s black eyes bored into hers. The voice that filled her head was deep and powerful and unimaginably malicious. “You had the power to evoke me, vampyre, and that has amused me enough that I choose to answer your question. The Warrior must look to his blood to discover the bridge to enter the Isle of Women, and then he must defeat himself to enter the arena. Only by acknowledging one before the other will he join his Priestess. After he joins her, it is her choice and not his whether she returns.”
Naturally, the bull wants payment for that sweet sweet plot riddle that he just dropped on us, that you would think Nyx could have provided in the form of a poem or vision or prophetic fart, but whatever. The bull starts attacking Stevie Rae purely so that Rephaim can respond to her panic, because what would a paranormal romance be without a woman being rendered helpless so that her reluctant romantic interest can prove his love by rescuing her?
Rephaim leaped to his feet. Dark pinions completely extended, he looked like a magnificent sculpture of a godling, suddenly come to life.
Maybe an Egyptian godling.

Rephaim…

Stevie Rae would never, ever forget what he looked like when he’d confronted Darkness for her. He’d been so strong and brave and good. It didn’t matter that Dallas and Lenobia and the whole dang world believed he was on the side of Darkness. It didn’t matter that his daddy was a fallen Warrior of Nyx who had chosen evil centuries ago. None of that mattered.
There it is, there is the exact moment where Stevie Rae decides that however many people Rephaim has murdered over the past few centuries mean jack shit in the face of her ladyboner.

Anyway, Rephaim saves Stevie Rae, and she ends up divinely tying her fate to his in order to summon the black bull so that they can escape. NEXT!

Back in Italy, Damian and the Twins have been enthusiastically Researching Things so that it could seem like they were doing something while Stevie Rae retrieved her plot riddle and OH MY GOD, if you thought the book was bad already, welcome to the Most Inane Fucking Thing You Will Ever Have to Read.
Damien ripped out a piece of paper from the yellow legal pad he’d almost filled with notes. At the top of it he’d drawn a big, open umbrella. On one side of the umbrella he’d written LIGHT and on the opposite side, DARKNESS.

“The umbrella of Light and Darkness is a good image,” Thanatos said. “It shows that the two forces are all-encompassing.”
Please kill me.
“That was my idea,” Jack said, turning a little pink.

Damien smiled at him. “Well done, you.” Then he pointed at the column beneath Light. “So under the force of Light I’ve listed: good, the black bull, Nyx, Zoey, and us.” He paused, and everyone nodded. “And under Darkness I have: evil, the white bull, Neferet/Tsi Sgili, Kalona, and Raven Mockers.”

“I see you have Sgiach placed in the middle,” Thanatos said.

“Yeah, along with onion rings, Hostess Ding Dongs, and my name,” Aphrodite said. “Just what the hell does that mean?”
Please, please just put me out of my misery.
“Well, I don’t think we’ve decided if Sgiach is a force for Light or Darkness,” Damien said.

“I added the onion rings and Ding Dongs,” Jack said. When everyone just stared at him, he shrugged and explained, “Onion rings are deep-fried and fattening, but an onion is a vegetable. So aren’t they good for you? Maybe? And, well, Ding Dongs are chocolate, but they have cream in the middle. Isn’t that dairy and healthy?”
goodbye cruel world
“We added your name,” Erin said.

“Yeah, ’cause we think you’re like Rachel on Glee,” Shaunee said. “Super annoying, but she has to be in the show ’cause sometimes she comes up with good stuff and kinda sorta saves the day.”

“But we think she’s still a hag from hell. Like you,” Erin finished, giving Aphrodite a sugary smile.”
Oh my god this is hell. There is House of Night, and they’re talking about Glee, and these are literally the two worst things in the world, and it’s created some kind of awful fiction singularity and sent me to Hell. This is Hell, I’m in Hell.

Sgiach, by the way, is the One Female Vampire who embraced the “barbaric” notion of physical goddamn self-defense, a Warrior Queen who was responsible for training all vampire Warriors until the council became too ~civilized~ for her to deal with. She shut herself away on the Isle of Skye, a real-life place with a real-life history that Cast has replaced with this garbage.
“Hang on, Sgiach had more than one Oath Sworn Warrior?” Stark interrupted.

Damien nodded. “Apparently she had a whole Clan of them. Only they didn’t call themselves Sons of Erebus. Their title was . . .” Damien paused, flipping pages. “Here it is. They were called Guardians of the Ace.”
Aw yeah, hold out your bowl so we can add that sweet sweet Celtic mythology sauce to your House of Night shit sundae.
“What was your grandfather’s last name?”

“MacUallis,” Stark and Damien said together.

“How did you know that?” Stark asked.

“It was the Clan MacUallis who were the Guardians of the Ace.” Damien grinned victoriously, holding up the page of his notes that held the words: CLAN MACUALLIS = GUARDIANS OF THE ACE for everyone to see.
YEAH THAT’S RIGHT, Stark is an EVEN SPECIALER snowflake on his human side, a descendant of an ancient clan of elite Scottish Warriors and oh my goddddd why haven’t any of you killed me yet?

In Tulsa, Stevie Rae is dealing with the “repercussions” of love interest Dallas catching glimpse of Rephaim during the bull fight.
“No, I’m not going to let him get you!” Dragon shouted. […] “That Raven Mocker who killed my mate! That’s why you can’t go out alone until we track that creature down and destroy it.”

Stevie Rae tried to ignore the hollow feeling Dragon’s words gave her and the horrible sense of guilt she experienced as she faced him, seeing his heartbreak and knowing that even though Rephaim had saved her life, twice, it was also a fact that he had killed Anastasia Lankford.

He’s changed. He’s different now, she thought, wishing she could say the words aloud and not bring her world crashing down around them.
He killed her less than a week ago, by the way.

I mentioned in the last review that Stevie Rae was developing her own terrible love triangle, and it’s been kind of excusable up until now because neither she nor Rephaim have been willing to admit that they were in to one another, and I can understand the internal struggle to admit to yourself or anyone else that you’re romantically and sexually attracted to a horrifying bird monster. But that excuse has officially run its course, because both Stevie Rae and Rephaim have basically come to terms with their feelings for one another. And yet Stevie Rae continues to pursue her relationship with Dallas, letting him believe that he’s the only one she’s seeing.

And then this happens:
“You and me, we don’t have to be together anymore,” Dallas said, all in a rush. [..] Dallas crossed his arms over his chest and looked super uncomfortable. “I mean we were goin’ out. You were my girlfriend. You don’t want to be anymore, and I get it. You were right, I couldn’t do shit to protect you from that bird thing. And I just want you to know I’m not gonna turn into an asshole about you and me. I’ll still be here for you when you need me, girl, ’cause you’re gonna always be my High Priestess.”

“I don’t want to break up!” she blurted.

“You don’t?”

“No,” and she didn’t. At that instant, Dallas was all she could see, and his heart and his goodness were so obvious that Stevie Rae felt like losing him would be like getting punched in her gut. “Dallas, I’m so sorry for what I said before. I was hurt and mad, and I didn’t mean it. I couldn’t even get out of the circle, and I cast the dang thing. There’s no way you, or anyone else, not even a Warrior, could’ve gotten in there to me.”

[…]

“You really don’t want to break up?”

She shook her head.

“I’m glad, ’cause I don’t want to either.”
Dude STRAIGHT-UP gives her the opportunity to end their relationship free and clear without even having to hint about Rephaim’s existence and she doesn’t take it. Nor does she take the opportunity to come clean. She just fervently assures Dallas that she’s into him and carries on her merry way, pretending like she’s never seen a situation like this go badly before!

Even Kramisha has had enough of this nonsense.
“That boy’s gone on you,” Kramisha said, as Stevie Rae pulled out of the school’s parking lot, leaving behind Dallas, who was looking more than kinda pitiful. “You know what you gonna do ’bout that other kid?”

Stevie Rae braked the car in the middle of the blacktop that led to Utica Street. “I’m too stressed-out to deal with guy stuff right now. So if all you wanna do is talk about that, you can stay here.”

“Not dealing with guy stuff just causes more stress.”
Man, fuck Stevie Rae, right? She’s straight-up being told that this will end up terribly and is like “NOPE, NOT GONNA TALK ABOUT IT.” Are we meant to empathize with her AT ALL in this situation?

Anyway, she ends up seeing Rephaim again, because of course, and they talk about her physical attraction to him. And if you thought the rampant NO HOMO lesbi-phobia ended with Stevie Rae and Aphrodite’s Imprint, you’d be wrooooooong.
Finally, she shrugged, and said, “I don’t imagine it’s possible for a vampyre to be repulsed by someone they’re Imprinted with. I mean, I was Imprinted with Aphrodite before I drank your blood, and there was a time when she seriously grossed me out—she just wasn’t very nice. At all. Actually, she’s still not very nice. But she kinda grew on me after we Imprinted. Not in a sexual way, but I wasn’t grossed out by her anymore.”
SHE STOPPED GROSSING ME OUT. BUT NOT IN A SEXUAL WAY! NOHOMONOHOMONOHOMOOOOO.
Stevie Rae’s thoughts trailed off because she didn’t want to go there. She didn’t want to admit, even silently to herself, how Rephaim had looked to her standing there, framed by the moonlight, powerful and whole.

Nervously, she twirled a blond curl. And anyway, they were Imprinted. He was supposed to look a certain way to her.

But Aphrodite hadn’t affected her like Rephaim had started to.

“Well, I’m not gay!” she muttered, and then shut her mouth again because the thought had crept through even though she hadn’t wanted it to.

Stevie Rae had liked the way Rephaim looked. He’d been strong and beautiful and, just for a moment, she’d glimpsed beauty inside the beast, and he hadn’t been a monster. He’d been magnificent, and he’d been hers.
I’M DEFINITELY NOT ANYTHING GROSS LIKE A LESBIAN, I’M JUST SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO A HORRIFYING BIRD MONSTER.

SEXY RAVEN MOCKER
It was too easy for him to unfold his arms and press his palms to hers. He looked down at their joined hands, and he suddenly realized that, except for Stevie Rae, he’d never touched a human for any reason except violence.
“Except for Stevie Rae, he’d never touched a human for any reason except violence.” OUR HERO, FOLKS.

Rephaim is hurt, so Stevie Rae heals him with her Earth powers, then gets upset that he healed himself with the power of Darkness so that he could saved her from the bull. They fight, and storm apart, again. NEXT SCENE.

Now in Scotland, Stark, Aphrodite, Darius, and Zoey’s Lifeless Body arrive on the Isle of Skye.
Then the helicopter landed, and Darius was helping him unbuckle Zoey. Stark dropped to the ground. Darius and Aphrodite carefully handed Zoey to him, and he cradled her in his arms, trying to shield her from the worst of cold, wet wind whipped up by the helicopter’s massive blades. Darius and Aphrodite joined him, and they all hurried away from the helicopter, though the pilot hadn’t been exaggerating. They weren’t even on the ground for a minute when the copter took off.

“Pussies,” Stark said.

[…]

“Are you two coming? Or are you going to run screaming like girls away from here.”
matriarchy

They approach the ‘isle of women’ and run into why haven’t I died yet?
“Sgiach isnae concerned with uze wains, even if it be a matter of life or death.”
Yeah, yeah, that’s right, PC Cast hates us SO MUCH that our guide to the Isle of Skye speaks in a thick Scottish accent that she writes out phonetically.
“Stad anis!” the Warrior commanded, and with otherworldly speed, the vampyre whirled around and leaped forward, landing directly under the archway and blocking Stark’s path. “Are yie stupit or a feckn’ fool, man? You havnae permission tae enter the Eilean nan Sgiath, the Isle of Women. Should yie try, ’tis yer life yie will forfeit, aye, make no mistake about that.”
what have i done to deserve this

Stark asserts his RIGHT as a SCOTTISH MAN to be on the island, and The Accent calls his manager.
She was tall, with a broad-shouldered body that was muscular, yet entirely feminine. There were lines at the corners of her eyes, which were large and beautiful and an amazing shade of gold mixed with green, the exact color of the fist-sized piece of amber that hung from the middle of the torque around her neck. Except for a single streak of cinnamon red, her waist-length hair was perfectly white, but she didn’t look old. She didn’t look young, either.
“Muscular, yet entirely feminine” – because muscular can’t be feminine, of course, and GOD FORBID we have a woman in this story with a body type that doesn’t conform to this OUT OF CONTROL matriarchy’s rigid beauty standards. did you mean "patriarchy"?
Even Google Docs knows this is bullshit!

Sgiach quizzes Stark on his motivation for coming to the island, and he says some shit that Nyx’s farts tell him to say, and she grants the lot of them access before teleporting away.
“Sgiach’s affinity isnae limited tae any element. Sgiach’s affinity is with this island. She commands everyone and everything on it.”

“Holy shit! Are you saying she can transport, like an undorky version of Star Trek? Not that it’s possible to be undorky about Star Trek,” Aphrodite said.
Teleporting, it’s just fucking teleporting.

They make it into the castle, and Sgiach explains that Stark needs to become a shaman, something they kind of equate to a priestess without giving any specific examples of the things they’re capable of – aside from, presumably, traveling to the spirit world and coming back alive. But lo, only one Warrior has ever been able to become both Warrior AND Shaman, which are apparently incompatible for reasons they also never go into BUT LOOK IT DOESN’T MATTER, IT’S REALLY DANGEROUS AND SUPER RARE, OKAY?
“Ach, ’tis quite simple really. The Warrior within must die tae give birth to the Shaman.”

“Great. Either way I have to die,” Stark said.

“Aye, so it would seem,” Seoras said.

In his imagination, Stark could almost hear Zoey’s “Ah hell!”
ugh


She’s not even narrating and we’re STILL ending chapters on that line.

Back in Tulsa, Stevie Rae learns the those evil red fledglings that she’s been letting run around unsupervised have – SURPRISE! – killed some people for funsies! Lenobia and the other teachers in the House of Night confront her about it, pushing her to take action before the humans connect the murders to vampires, and Stevie Rae agrees.

The other vampires suggest that the fledglings need to be killed, which – uhhhh, if they’re actively going out to kill people for thrills when they have easy access to the blood they need to survive, yeah, it’s probably time to put an end to this. But Stevie Rae has a BETTER IDEA.
“I do plan on givin’ them an ultimatum—shape up or ship out—but if I take outsiders down there, I won’t have a chance of any of them deciding to give up Darkness and come with me.”
Yeah, she’s gonna give them an ULTIMATUM. The same ultimatum she gave them last book, you know, when they tried to roast her alive. AND IF THEY TURN HER DOWN?
“If they say no, I’ll make sure they can’t use the depot tunnels as their cushy hideout anymore, and I’ll make sure they’re separated. As individuals, I still don’t believe they’re all bad.”
She’s going to force them out of their nest and onto the streets. WHAT THE HELL KIND OF PLAN IS THAT? THIS ACCOMPLISHES NOTHING! LENOBIA, TALK SOME SENSE INTO–
Lenobia nodded. “I understand. I don’t agree with you, Stevie Rae, but I do understand. Your plan has merit, though. If you shake them from their stronghold and force them to scatter, those who are left will have to worry about surviving and won’t have time to ‘play’ with humans.”
NO IT DOESN’T! IF ANYTHING, FORCING THESE FLEDGLINGS OUT ONTO THE STREET WHERE THEY HAVE NO SHELTER OR RELIABLE ACCESS TO FOOD WILL MAKE THEM EVEN MORE DANGEROUS AND DESPERATE. THEY MIGHT NOT ‘PLAY’ WITH HUMANS, BUT THEY’LL SURE AS FUCK BE MORE LIABLE TO KILL THEM FOR FOOD AND SHELTER!

Then Stevie Rae realizes that she has an even BIGGER issue if the fledglings agree to her conditions, because they know about her relationship with Rephaim.
And what if some of them actually decided to choose good tonight and stayed here with the rest of them?

Then they’ll have to keep their mouths shut, or they don’t stay, was the grim thought that haunted Stevie Rae as she parked in the depot lot and gathered her fledglings around her.
THEY BEST KEEP THEIR MOUTHS SHUT OR STEVIE RAE IS GONNA BUST SOME KNEECAPS!

With the plan ironed out, 100% foolproof, Stevie Rae rounds up her red fledgling crew like an hour before dawn, which seems like a terrible time to do this, but whatever, and they roll out for the caves.
“You can’t let ’em kill people like that,” Dallas said. “They’re not even street people.”

Stevie Rae blew out a long breath. “Dallas, how many times do I have to tell y’all that it doesn’t matter if someone’s a street person or not — it’s not right to kill anyone.”

“Sorry,” Dallas said. “I know you’re right, but sometimes before gets messed up inside my head, and I kinda forget.”

Before…the word seemed to echo around them. Stevie Rae knew exactly what Dallas meant: before her humanity had been saved by Aphrodite’s sacrifice, and they had the ability to choose good over evil. She remembered before, too, but as she got another day farther away from that dark past, it was easier and easier for Stevie Rae to put it out of her mind. As she studied Dallas, she wondered if it was different for him — for the rest of the kids who hadn’t Changed yet, because Dallas did seem to make little slips like he just had kinda often.
So I’m assuming this is supposed to be some kind of ~foreshadowing~ for Dallas’ turn in the next couple of chapters, but hey, remember that thing Stevie Rae said in Tempted, which was maybe a day or two ago in-world?
Stevie Rae knew it would do no good whatsoever to remind Nicole they shouldn’t be eating people. No, not even homeless people or bad drivers (who they liked to follow and then grab as they got out of their cars).
YEAH STEVIE RAE MADE THE EXACT SAME STATEMENT THAT SHE’S CHASTISING DALLAS FOR MAKING LIKE A DAY LATER. And here it’s used as this big ominous message like “Oh, these kids still clearly have the potential for Darkness, demonstrated by their casual disregard for the lives of homeless people” WHEN EVERYONE IN THIS GODAWFUL GODFORSAKEN WORLD HAS THE EXACT SAME DISREGARD AUGHHHH.

rage explosion


I mean at this point, we MUST be meant to think that Stevie Rae is a borderline evil vampire, right? She’s doing some hypocritical, shady shit.

We get even more ass-pully bullshit, when Stevie Rae’s crew realizes that they don’t know which part of the tunnels the other fledglings will be in when they come to deliver their ultimatum. So Stevie Rae summons earth and does this–
“Please do somethin’ for me. Please take some of this magic, this awesomeness that is us together, and pour it into the main tunnel under the depot. Let it be like I’m there, so much so that anyone who rests within you would know it.”
What? She’s asking earth to make it seem like she’s in the tunnels so that the red fledglings will be lured there by her presence BUT HOW DOES THIS EVEN WORK? Is earth going to fucking emit her pheromones? Construct a dirt silhouette of her and stick it behind a shower curtain? Use its earthy powers to mimic her voice? WHAT? Or is this some sort of magical Jedi mind trick that earth is pulling, just psychically influencing the fledglings so they think she’s there, BECAUSE THAT’S A THING DIRT CAN DO???

They make it to the caves and Stevie Rae’s vampire love interest develops a magical speshul snowflake power, because of course he does.
“Well, you have always been super good with electricity and all that kind of guy stuff,” Stevie Rae said.
Guy stuff.
“Yeah, but it’s never been like this before. Seriously, I can hear the electricity humming through the cables I connected down here.”

“Well, maybe it’s like an affinity for you, and maybe you didn’t realize it before ’cause you were down here all the time, and it just seemed normal,” Stevie Rae said.
YEAH, HE HAS A GODDAMN AFFINITY FOR ELECTRICITY. And if you think the Casts don’t see you opening your mouth to call bullshit, THEY TOTALLY DO.
“But electricity ain’t from the Goddess. How can it be an affinity gift?” Kramisha said, sending Dallas suspicious looks.

“Why can’t it be from Nyx?” Stevie Rae said. “Truthfully, I’ve known weirder things before than a fledgling getting an affinity for electricity. Uh, like a white bull personifying Darkness for one.”
“LOOK, YOU’VE SWALLOWED THE REST OF THE STUPID SHIT THIS BOOK HAS SHOVELED DOWN YOUR THROAT, SHUT THE FUCK UP AND SWALLOW THIS, TOO.”

Finally they confront the fledglings, and it goes about as well as you’d expect. Stevie Rae lays down her ultimatum and, predictably, they’re not any more interested in accepting her as high priestess than they were like three days ago. And then Kramisha reminds them of maybe the most frequently-forgotten world rule.
“Hey, Nicole, like Venus said before, you be lookin’ kinda rough. How you feelin’?” Kramisha suddenly said. Then she raised her voice, talking to the kids over Nicole’s shoulder. “How many a you been coughin’ and feelin’ like crap? Ain’t no vampyre been ’round y’all for a while now, right?”
They’re still fledglings who need to be around adult vampires or they’ll die. What other argument do you fucking need?

Although if you think about it, this just raises a whole host of questions about red vampires and why and how they even exist. I mean, they’re all blue fledglings who’ve died in the natural way that blue fledglings do, and yet once they’re resurrected, the same rules still apply? They still have to be around adult vampires or they’ll die, they can still potentially draw the short stick and die of natural vampire causes again. What is even the point of Nyx (presumably Nyx) resurrecting them in the first place? Is there another tier of potential vampire? Can they come back a third time with purple tattoos?

Furthermore, we’re about to be reminded that it’s canon that red fledglings evolve into their second form when they make the choice to embrace either Light or Darkness. Why is this choice, this evolutionary mechanism, exclusive to red fledglings? Clearly blue vampires are just as capable of serving the Darkness, and yet their adulthood doesn’t seem tied to any particular moral decision. Why put these fledglings on the spot like this, put their humanity on such a tightrope, while blue vampires seem to be able to cruise through their youth pretty easily, provided they don’t die?

Red fledglinghood is a shit deal, is what I’m saying, and these kids are perfectly within their rights to tell Nyx to take a fucking hike.

Anyway, Stevie Rae lays it out, and the main red fledgling, Nicole, pulls out a gun and tells her to shove it. Stevie Rae uses her POWERS OF EARTH to create a barrier between them before she shoots, not by earth-bending a dirt or rock wall like you’d expect, but by projecting some glowing green energy shit, because fuck it, earth can do that now. The fledglings fire anyway and a handful of them get accidentally murdered by their own gun.

Stevie Rae chases the rest of them out a tunnel and splits them up, somehow, because that’s still an awesome fucking idea, and they move on to body disposal.
“Here. Roll them into these sleepin’ bags.” Kramisha picked her way through the rubble and bodies in the kitchen, went to the storage closet, and started filling her arms with sleeping bags.

“Thanks, Kramisha,” Stevie Rae said, methodically taking the bags from her and unzipping them. A noise pulled her attention back to the doorway, where Venus, Sophie, and Shannoncompton were standing, white-faced. Sophie was making little sobbing noises, but no tears were coming from her eyes. “Go to the Hummer,” Stevie Rae told them. “Wait for us there. We’re goin’ back to school. We won’t be staying here tonight. ’Kay?”

The three girls nodded and then, holding hands, they disappeared down the tunnel.

“They’s probably gonna need counseling,” Kramisha told her.

Stevie Rae looked over the top of a sleeping bag at her. “And you won’t?”

“No. I used to be a candy striper at St. John’s E.R. I seen a whole lot of crazy there.”

Wishing she’d had some “whole lot of crazy” experience, Stevie Rae pressed her lips together and tried not to think at all as they zipped the dead kids into five different bags and followed the boys, grunting under the weight of their burdens, out through the main depot building.
Christ, could the Casts get any more on the nose with their awful stereotypes? We’ve got the three fragile white girls crying in the corner, incapable of even removing themselves from the scene distressing them, while Kramisha, the Strong Black Woman, moves right on to body disposal without batting an eye.

Stevie Rae literally opens up a yawning hole in the ground and drops the fledglings in, and then shepherds everyone out, until it’s only her and Dallas left. They decide to take the opportunity to fuck, and because this is House of Night, and all women must be punished for premarital sexcapades, it goes about as bad as it could possibly go.

They get hot and heavy, clothes are shed, skin is rubbing, no condoms are involved, the D is in the V, and Dallas gives Stevie Rae permission to bite him. Naturally, this is suuuper tempting, because sex saliva or whatever, so Stevie Rae contemplates it good and hard.
If I drink from him, my Imprint with Rephaim will break. The thought made her hesitate. Stevie Rae stopped, one sharp fingernail tip pressed against Dallas’s neck. No, a High Priestess can have a mate and a consort, she told herself.

But it was a lie – at least for Stevie Rae it was. She knew, in the deepest recess of her heart, that her Imprint with Rephaim was something unique. It wouldn’t follow the rules that usually bound a vampyre to her consort. It was strong – amazingly strong. And maybe it was because of that unusual strength that she couldn’t bind herself to any other guy.

If I drink from Dallas, my Imprint with Rephaim will break.
Yeah she just knows, by the magic of Nyx’s knowledge-imparting farts, I guess, that if she takes even a sip from Dallas, her connection with Rephaim will be broken. But she and Rephaim just fought and maybe he’s more trouble than he’s worth, so she’s still considering it, and is possibly in mid-thrust, when I shit you not, Rephaim just busts the fuck in and tells her not to do it.

Because this entire time, Rephaim’s been feeling Stevie Rae’s hornyness over their Imprint connection, and he’s been freaking the fuck out. He follows his homing radar straight to her doorstep and busts in like the Kool-Aid man, screaming “BABY NO DON’T THROW AWAY OUR LOVE”, and everything just kind of explodes into full-on soap-opera.
Rephaim stalked the boy, following him as he moved back, pushing Stevie Rae with him. Rephaim saw her eyes widen as she peered around the boy and finally truly saw him.

“No!” she cried. “No, you can’t be here!”

Her words stabbed him.

“But I am here!” His anger was at the boiling point. The boy kept moving back, keeping Stevie Rae behind him. Following him, Rephaim entered the kitchen.

[…]

“Stay back!” the boy cried. Unbelievably, the fledgling made a shooing motion at Rephaim, as if he were an annoying bird that had fluttered into someone’s home.

“Sssstep aside! You are keeping me from what’s mine!” Rephaim hated to hear the bestial hiss in his voice, but he couldn’t help it. The damned boy was pushing him to the edge of his patience.
Yeah, this is some Jerry Springer shit. It’s also like 100x better if you picture Rephaim doing all this shit as a guy in a mascot costume.

mascot Rephaim says BABY NO! Eventually Dallas figures out that Stevie Rae and Rephaim actually know one another, and as Fangs pointed out, because he has to react in the most horrible way possible to keep Stevie Rae on the moral high ground, he gets real nasty real quick.
“All this time I’ve been treatin’ you like you was some kind of queen or somethin’, like you was a real High Priestess,” he interrupted Stevie Rae again.

[…]

“You lied to me, you whore!”

“Don’t you dare talk to me like that!” Stevie Rae slapped him. Hard.

[…]

Totally incensed, the fledgling screamed, “He’s made you a goddamned whore and a liar! You need some sense knocked into you, girl!” Dallas lifted his hand like he was going to hit Stevie Rae.
Yeah, he pulls out all the misogynistic slurs (which I guess are supposed to be worse coming from him than they are any time they come out of Zoey, Stevie Rae, the Twins’, or Aphrodite’s mouths) and is set to straight-up hit her before Rephaim interferes.

Stevie Rae continues to try and explain.
“It’s hard to explain, and I get that you’re pissed. But Rephaim belongs to me.” Her eyes skirted Dallas and met his again. “And I guess I belong to him, weird as that sounds.”
All it took was Rephaim busting in on her fucking another guy for Stevie Rae to commit to their relationship, I guess.
“It doesn’t sound weird. It sounds fucking sick.”
I mean look he’s not wrong.
“You touch it. You probably fuck it, too! Damn, I’m glad it stopped me before we finished doin’ it. I ain’t gonna ever be sloppy seconds to a freak!”
That’s a gross thing to say but for real, Rephaim is a horrifying evil monster birdman, I would be pretty appalled too.

Because Cast can’t ever be satisfied with letting a discarded male love interest just be reasonably angry without going off the deep end, Dallas embraces his anger and hate and jealousy, and Stevie Rae and Rephaim watch while Darkness that only they can see consumes him. He levels up into a full vampire, stupid fucking tattoos and all, and immediately begins using his “affinity” to try and murder them. The two run away, walling Dallas off in the kitchen while they escape to Rephaim’s hideout.

Back in Scotland, Stark is just about ready to undergo the rites of shamanism, and we are almost goddamn done with this book. The vampires lay him out on a stone altar and start an actually pretty gruesome ceremony, carving symbols into his chest and using the blood and pain as a sort of payment for his entry to the Otherworld. He passes out and wakes up wandering around the dark, until he runs into a bull and some real stupid shit happens.
I accept your blood sacrifice, Warrior. Face me and move on, if you dare.

I dare! Stark shouted, accepting the challenge.

The bull charged him. Acting purely on instinct, Stark didn’t run. He didn’t jump aside. Instead, he faced the bull, head-on. Screaming his anger and rage and fear, Stark ran at the bull. The creature lowered his massive head as if he would gore Stark.

No! Stark leaped at the bull, and with a motion that was dreamlike, grabbed his horns. At the same instant the creature threw up his head, and Stark vaulted over his body. He felt like he was diving from an impossibly high cliff as he hurled forward farther and farther, and somewhere, behind him in the black soullessness, he heard the bull’s voice echoing three words: Well done, Guardian…
I’m gonna need you to just take a moment and picture that. Close your eyes, and picture Stark running face first at a bull, screaming at the top of his lungs, leaping up, literally grabbing this bull by the horns, and then being vaulted headfirst over the bull’s back while it runs away shouting about how he’s done an awesome job.

Not only am I ~90% sure I’ve seen Bugs Bunny do that exact thing in those old matador cartoons, but this is the most laughably, parodically ~manly~ thing I’ve ever read somebody doing. I’m surprised Stark wasn’t wearing flannel, sporting a lumberjack beard, smoking twelve cigars, and measuring his dick while all this took place.

Back in the real world, Sgiach encourages Aphrodite to use her powers to help Stark on his journey, so she retires to her room and asks Nyx guidance. Nyx obliges with a guided tour through another apocalyptic vision. There, Aphrodite sees Stevie Rae marshaling a fight between a hot Native American boy and a Raven Mocker, our first glimpse of Rephaim in his human form, because we all knew that shit was coming.

She also sees Zoey making the choice to stay in the Otherworld with Heath, fucking the material world over royally, which is the important takeaway from this experience.
Aphrodite was lifted from her vision. Nyx held her in a caressing breeze as her soul trembled. “Oh, Goddess,” she whispered. “No, please no. A choice made by one teenage girl is able to mess up the balance of Light and Darkness in the entire world? How can that even be possible?”

Consider that your choice for goodness opened a path for an entirely new breed of vampyre to exist.

“The red fledglings? But they already existed before I did anything.”

Yes, but the path to regain their humanity was closed until your sacrifice—your choice—opened it. And are you not simply one teenage girl?
Once again I’m left questioning Nyx’s divinity and involvement with all of these events she’s talking about. I wonder about the necessity of even asking Aphrodite to sacrifice her vampirehood in order to grant the red fledglings the mere opportunity to be good, like, if Nyx is the mother and maker of all vampires, why the fuck didn’t she just make the red fledglings right? Why make them at all, god this makes no sense.

Aphrodite delivers the news to Stark, encouraging him to get Heath to “move on” so that Zoey isn’t tempted to stay forever in the Otherworld, which seems like an unnecessarily roundabout way of achieving the desired results, but whatever.

In the Otherworld, Stark is forced to fight his evil doppelganger in order to finish the tutorial and move on the open-world exploration, and Christ there are two of them.
“You’re wrong, and you know it. You’re what’s bad about me, but you’re still me. The Warrior wouldn’t be able to admit it, but the Shaman in me is beginning to understand it.” As Stark spoke, he drove relentlessly forward, raining blows down on his mirror image. “We’re arrogant. We’re selfish. Sometimes we’re mean. We have a bad fucking temper, and when we get pissed off, we hold a grudge.”
…we’re a rapist. Seriously, this is supposed to be all about forcing Stark to confront and accept his demons, and we get fuck all about him being a sexual predator.

Anyway, he defeats his double, convinces Heath to leave, Heath and Zoey have a ~heartbreaking goodbye~ and Heath promises to reincarnate and find Zoey again. Stark watches from the shadows like creeper until Heath disappears, and then he sets out to convince Zoey to get her shit together. He reminds her of the poem that Kramisha dropped in the last book, and we get another god-awful brain-numbing scene where Stark puzzles out the lines one by one, applies them to the stupid fucking things he’s already done, and realizes that the poem was for him, not Zoey. He interprets the last two lines as some kind of divine urging to pick a fight with Kalona, who’s been hovering around just outside the edge of Nyx’s grove where they’ve taken shelter, and promptly gets his ass kicked.
“Very well, boy. Let the pain this causes Zoey be on your soul, not mine.”

“Yeah, ’cause I’d hate for you to fucking take responsibility for any of the messed-up shit you’ve done!”
…. that’s rich as shit coming from you, Stark.

But of course, seeing Stark being beaten to within an inch of his life kicks Zoey out of sleep mode, and she gathers the scattered pieces of herself with so little difficulty that you’d almost wonder why this didn’t happen sooner if you didn’t know that it was because earlier the book wasn’t ending.
I might not see myself as a queen—or as much of anything sometimes—but Stark believed in me. Heath believed in me. Stevie Rae believed in me. Even Aphrodite believed in me.

And, as Stevie Rae would have said, Kalona was as wrong as manboobs.
Hello Darkness my old friend Kalona kills Stark, the best part of the book imo, but Nyx puts in a rare full-body appearance, and forces Kalona to fix him before booting him from her realm. Kalona is gorily dragged back to the real world, right into the clutches of a waiting Neferet and a plot contract set up to fully absolve him of any and all responsibility for his actions in the coming books. Stark is still fucked up, but Zoey saves him with her blood, and regains her powers and tattoos in a terrible montage.

She and Stark go home, appreciate Stark’s horrifying new ritual scarring, also shaped like arrows, because he’s got nothing else going for him, and BAM, THE END, HOLY SHIT WE MADE IT GUYS, IT’S OVER!

What is there even left to say about Burned? It’s awful. The plot makes as little sense as ever, the added mythology does nothing but complicate and undermine the shit the series has set up so far, nothing feels earned, misogyny and general bigotry still permeate throughout, and though Zoey is mercifully absent for the majority of it, Stevie Rae cheerfully takes up the idiot asshole hypocrite protagonist ball and runs with it.

The best thing you can say about Burned is that it ends.

no stars


ten to go!

TOMORROW: QUOTESPAM!



 

18 Responses

  1. Fangs for the Fantasy

    January 1, 2016 3:07 pm, Reply

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this series is desperate about forcing Neferet as the one true villain
    “you know your series morality is fucked when the much-maligned epitome of evil is easier to root for than your goddess-blessed protagonist.”
    Honestly the villain would have to be Stalin or Himler at this point to make me back Zoey over them
    And they’re going to redeem Kalona. You know it’s coming

    It says a lot about how badly these books are written that it never really occurred to me how ridiculous it was that the Council has no answers but Aphrodite I happily doling out truth and solutions. The House of Night – so terrible that lack of coherence just goes unnoticed

    Then the MISANDRY MAKES US SUPPRESS THE MAGIC COWS and I just go get a drink. A big big drink

    I did laugh at the repeated “I’m going to summon Earth for information” uh… what is Earth supposed to know? The answer is…. Mud. And if you plant the begonias now they’ll come up lovely?
    Your dancing bird monster gif nearly killed me even more than the drawing bear

    “Furthermore, we’re about to be reminded that it’s canon that red fledglings evolve into their second form when they make the choice to embrace either Light or Darkness”.

    This is canon but still makes no sense – I mean, hasn’t Kramisha already made her decision? She’s Nyx’s cryptic secretary after all!

    • Cyna Cyna

      January 4, 2016 2:08 am, Reply

      It says a lot about how badly these books are written that it never really occurred to me how ridiculous it was that the Council has no answers but Aphrodite I happily doling out truth and solutions. The House of Night – so terrible that lack of coherence just goes unnoticed.

      Seriously! I mean Thanatos is there, but not even she can >see< the darkness, presumably. All you can do is chalk it up to Nyx's lack of sense. You'd think that if she had Zoey around specifically to deal with Kalona, she would have incarnated her or whatever SOONER, so that she could be an adult with some actual goddamn power and influence. Then again, thinking of what Nyx could have done/could do to fix this situation is a fucking pit with no end. I did laugh at the repeated “I’m going to summon Earth for information” uh… what is Earth supposed to know? Mud. And if you plant the begonias now they’ll come up lovely?

      RIGHT?????? WHY DID THAT MAKE SENSE AS AN OPTION TO ANYONE??? I appreciate that absolutely nothing happened though. I hope Stevie Rae felt adaquately stupid.

      :DDDDDDDDDD That Raven Mocker is the pinnacle of my life’s achievement, I think. I hope it’s on my tombstone.

      I mean, hasn’t Kramisha already made her decision? She’s Nyx’s cryptic secretary after all!

      That’s a good goddamn point. I’d love it if she defected to Team Neferet just to thumb it in Nyx’s stupid face.

  2. Khitty Hawk

    January 1, 2016 9:09 pm, Reply

    I wonder how much in HoN would make sense if Nyx was revealed to be in a Small Gods-esque situation, except instead of a turtle, she was a tapeworm in Zoey’s intestines.

  3. Clover

    January 2, 2016 4:04 am, Reply

    I have a question. So this book establishes that Nyx is allied with light not darkness. A bit strange considering she is the goddess of night, but I can accept that as Dark=Evil and Nyx is supposed to be good. There is one major issue with this as Nyx’s Consort/Husband/Warrior/Whatever is Erebus. Erebus is the personification of darkness in greek mythology. His name literally translates to deep darkness/ shadow. So Nyx is allied with light but married to the personification of darkness? Can someone please explain to me how this works!?!

    • Cyna Cyna

      January 4, 2016 2:02 am, Reply

      With what a non-entity Erebus has been in the series so far, I’d be real surprised if Cast even knew that about him, tbh.

    • ZeldaQueen

      January 6, 2016 5:45 pm, Reply

      “Erebus is the personification of darkness in greek mythology. His name literally translates to deep darkness/ shadow. So Nyx is allied with light but married to the personification of darkness? Can someone please explain to me how this works!?!”

      As per the HoN wiki (this is a Thing, yes), the Kalona-centric novella explains that Erebus was born from the sun and is all golden, so my guess is that the Cast ladies simply don’t care. These are the same women who openly admitted that they just wrote Nyx as a Mother Earth-type goddess.

      (Of course, the novella is meant to show how Kalona is Nyx’s ~~real~~ true love and she never loved Erebus like she loved him, and Kalona was born of the moon, so I have no clue.)

      • Clover

        January 7, 2016 5:07 pm, Reply

        That is one of my main problems with many of these supernatural series. They take pre-established creatures and characters and twist them until they are unrecognizable. Vampires in particular seem to suffer with this between this book and Twilight. The only similarity that they have to established vampire myth is blood-drinking and the name. To me it feels like the author is saying “Hey we have vampires in our book and they are super dangerous…. only they are completely civilized, don’t like drinking blood, and they are nothing like the vampires you know.”
        The point of using pre-established creatures/characters is draw from and expand their mythology. There is nothing wrong with changing small aspects of the mythology if you need to but if you go against the basic principles of what make that character/ creatures unique it looses all of its impact. If you are going to change some much about a character/creature why not just call them something else instead of rewriting their mythology? All they would have to do is just change Nyx’s name to something else and they would have no problems with the established mythology about her and her husband. Same thing goes for the vampires in the story. Granted in this particular story the misrepresentation of established myth is only one small issues on a list that is ten miles long, but it still gets on my nerves.

        I looked up a bit about this series and not only do they have a wiki they also have an official website with pictures of our characters with totally not photoshopped tattoos on their face and trailers for several of the book. Because we all need more House of Night in our lives.

  4. ZeldaQueen

    January 6, 2016 5:37 pm, Reply

    “This is fucking mind-boggling. I mean, what Burned is asserting, in the most take-everything-the-book-says-at-face-value sense, is that this “matriarchal” society has become unbalanced and made itself vulnerable because it’s placed too much emphasis on the inherently feminine tendency toward civility and diplomacy over the inherently masculine tendency toward brutality, conflict, violence, and self-protection. Basically, ‘them uptight women been forgetting them animalistic menfolk and that’s fixin’ to bite them in the ass.'”

    Yeah, this is what happens when the Cast ladies try to apply Wiccan beliefs (which are supposed to be a balance of femininity and masculinity) and forget what a matriarchal society is supposed to actually BE.

    What gets me, though, is that in some ways, the vampire world IS misandristic. Nobody gives two thoughts to the fact that Aphrodite is forcing a blow job onto Erik in the first book, for example. In fact, Zoey basically thinks ERIK’S going with it (even though he’s pushing Aphrodite off him and saying he doesn’t want it) and nobody pays much attention when it’s casually thrown out that the other Dark Daughters treat the good-looking menfolk the same.

    The same with gender roles. Women have types of jobs expected as “proper” for them, and the same goes for men. Men are expected to be “consorts and protectors”. When any, like Blake, hold jobs outside of that expected position, it’s considered shocking and different. The same with Stark. It’s literally impossible for him to be a Warrior (which is basically the Cast ladies having him embody every He-Man Protector trope) and a Shaman (which has to do with magic and is thus considered Womanly) at once. He can only be one or the other.

    Also? Betrayed makes it canon that Nyx herself gets in on the gender treatment. Yeah, when Damien learns he has an affinity for air, we’re told that Nyx usually gifts men with stereotypically masculine traits, like being good at fighting. The women are the ones given the powers over the elements (which is just one more piece of evidence towards the Cast ladies seeming to think that gay men are women with penises. Lovely).

    So the Cast ladies really aren’t even addressing ACTUAL problems of misandry within their little vampire world. Nobody seems to acknowledge that there’s a problem with the abovementioned issues, because the Cast ladies themselves seem to think it’s fine (as proven by, as I said, Nyx supporting it and Nyx always being right, no questions asked). This isn’t about gender equality, it’s about how the women aren’t properly worshipping their beefcake protectors.

    On other topics…

    So we’re supposed to think Neferet’s all Evil ‘n shit for wanting to bring everything back to the Old Ways… but our alleged heroes are all gung-ho to use old-timey methods to save the day? (Not to mention a line from Betrayed about Zoey criticizing Aphrodite’s rituals for being too “modern and ho-ish”) Cast ladies, you are obsessed with romanticizing the past. Think twice before having us hate Neferet for doing the same.

    ““Yeah, along with onion rings, Hostess Ding Dongs, and my name,” Aphrodite said. “Just what the hell does that mean?””

    The sad thing is, that line could actually have been moderately amusing. It was ruined by Damien and Jack being so dumb, I can’t believe they’re still breathing.

    “Yeah, he pulls out all the misogynistic slurs (which I guess are supposed to be worse coming from him than they are any time they come out of Zoey, Stevie Rae, the Twins’, or Aphrodite’s mouths) and is set to straight-up hit her before Rephaim interferes.”

    That seems to be the favorite method of handling breakups via cheating in this series. I mean, minus the hitting, that’s pretty much exactly what happened with Erik, right? He actually walks in on Zoey lying naked on their teacher and the book goes to tremendous lengths to assure us that HE’S the one being unreasonably angry by having him excessively slut shaming her for no reason (and by assuring us that he was always this way…somehow).

  5. ZeldaQueen

    January 8, 2016 2:27 am, Reply

    Oh Jesus H. Christ, I’m sorry to double post, but this is just… my God.

    My co-sporker for this series just informed me that Sgiach is based on an actual woman warrior character in the Ulster Cycle. Her name is Scáthach, and she’s a badass warrior who lives on the Isle of Skye in a castle called Dún Scáith (Fortress of Shadows) who trained Cú Chulainn (a MAJOR figure in Irish mythology).

    (On the other hand, Wikipedia has the story go on to include Cú Chulainn having an affair with Scáthach daughter, breaking her – the daughter’s – fingers for no reason, defeating the daughter’s lover when he comes in to defend her honor, fighting Scáthach’s woman warrior rival, and sparing said rival only if she submits and agrees to sleep with him and give him a son. Who he apparently kills in battle, not recognizing him. So perhaps it’s for the best the Cast ladies didn’t try to adapt the tale more closely. :/)

  6. Julia A

    January 12, 2016 5:37 am, Reply

    Oh man I can’t wait until you review Awakened. Obviously this whole series is on a downward spiral, but Awakened contained one of the most stupid scene I ever read. I had to give up the whole series at that point; I wanted to tear up my book.

  7. ShoeboxyOne

    January 26, 2016 7:53 pm, Reply

    Fun fact – Birds don’t have external penises. At least, most don’t – some species of duck do – but for the most part no lower pecker for your parrot.

    Now since Stevie Rae’s feathery boy-toy is mostly bird with a few human features – arms, legs, whatever. But you say his torso is mostly bird.

    So…you know. I think calling him a “Dickless, psychotic, evil, worm-eating shitheel (TM)” is not only appropriate in a metaphorical sense, it’s appropriate in a literal one.b

  8. C Byrd

    June 21, 2016 4:44 am, Reply

    No. They didn’t. They COULDN’T have!

    That “Stark’s doppelgänger” scene is ripped STRAIGHT from Persona 4. They took the most beautiful and touching scenes from one of my favorite games of all time and twisted it into a gross parody of itself.

    Why must House of Night pervert the things I love?!

  9. dragonslayingprincess

    January 2, 2017 6:50 am, Reply

    ‘Oh my god this is hell. There is House of Night, and they’re talking about Glee, and these are literally the two worst things in the world, and it’s created some kind of awful fiction singularity and sent me to Hell. This is Hell, I’m in Hell.’

    Yes, yes, yes! I’m glad you said this, I always felt guilty for hating that show, because that’s one of the few shows that has a load of LGBT people- including LGBT people of colour, a trans person and an effeminate gay guy treated as more than fodder for gay jokes, but this show SUUUUUUUUUUUCKS!

    Plus, you know that Damien is their awful shallow, homophobic interpretation of Kurt: the feminine identification of his, the fact he’s a girly fashion accessory, lack of any male friends. The only difference is that Kurt was fleshed out and treated like a human, while their obvious contempt for gay men (anyone who degrades the majority of gay guys as ‘weird, swishy girly’ definitely has a problem with gay men) started seeping through the portrayal

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