The story begins with an excerpt of Hesiod’s Theogony discussing “the Greek personification of night”, Nyx.
“There also stands the gloomy house of Night;
ghastly clouds shroud it in darkness.
before it Atlas stands erect and on his head
and unwearying arms firmly supports the broad sky,
where Night and Day cross a bronze threshold
and then come close and greet each other.”
It’s hard to fail on your literary quotation, but they managed it. I’d be impressed if I wasn’t so annoyed.
The Casts are claiming that this is a poem to Nyx specifically. This simply isn’t true. The Theogony doesn’t have much to do with Nyx at all. The name means “birth (or origin) of the gods”. Hesiod is essentially recounting the entire early saga of the gods, starting with Gaia, and moving on to the current crew of Zeus and company. Nyx, or Night, is certainly mentioned, usually as “gloomy Night” and other such ominous titles, including evil in one translation, but she bares little importance on the main poem. Night is the daughter of Chaos, who along with Earth, and apparently Eros (seriously, look it up) was without origins. She was a primordial goddess, and therefore, she would have been seen as scary powerful, but at the same time, she was pretty uninterested in humanity and even the things that Zeus was up to. She doesn’t really show up, doesn’t influence that event.
If you’re wondering how that fits into the idea of Eros as the son of Aphrodite, don’t ask. A lot of gods have multiple origin stories. Kind of like how Hesiod claims that Cerberus has fifty heads. Multiple origins is a staple of a lot of Polytheistic religions.
While Nyx appears through the poem, mostly because she is the mother of Day, Aether, Death, Sleep, Doom, Dreams and Fate, and she is certainly an important goddess for the origins of the world, she isn’t really a big focus. The majority of the poem details the rise and fall of Cronos, leader of the Titans, at the hand of Zeus, his youngest son and how the world was set up. Hesiod was more interested in discussing the gods who directly affected him.
Night herself disappears about halfway through, and even this mention of her gloomy house, is in reference to how the world will be set up, with Atlas holding the sky so that Night and Day may pass and order be maintained.
But we all know perfectly well why the Casts are using that line: “House of Night” sounds cool. I mind that a lot less than the sheer academic dishonesty of the Casts claiming that Theogony is a poem to Nyx, a very minor goddess in the Greek pantheon.
We didn’t even make to to the first chapter.
This doesn’t overly bode well on how they are going to justify Nyx as a major goddess, but it is time to jump into the plot proper.
Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse, I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker. (1)
Credit where it’s due, this is a good hook. It shows that something is about to happen, makes the reader wonder how the speakers day stank, and why there is a dead guy standing at the speaker’s locker as well as what will happen next. It also implies that this isn’t as terrifying as it would be in the real world.
It goes downhill quickly.
The speaker, after this interesting hook, goes on to complain about how their friend, Kayla was talking so much that she didn’t notice him, which is
more evidence of my freakish inability to fit in (1)
for some reason.
This is pretty common in YA, since readers often feel alienated from their peers. The protagonist is usually pointed out as being something of an outcast, and not like all the other people. Everyone’s written this. Honestly, even I have and continue to do so, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the trope as such. It can be used well, and it can lead to interesting characters. People side with an outcast. The problem is how this is handled. It’s just flat stated less than a paragraph in. What’s more, there is no evidence for why Zoey isn’t able to fit in. We don’t even get the age old ‘she doesn’t like shopping’ as a justification.
While I have no problem with this trope at all, you have to justify it. If Zoey was a huge nerd who liked to collect anime stuff or play video games or read less popular fantasy, I could see it. If she was into woodshop or liked to design things, I could see it. As a rule, things that made it hard for people to fit in during high school often are connected to interests.
Right now, all the evidence speaks of her being just like every other teenager in existence.
In the next bit Kayla is complaining that Zoey is being too hard on her boyfriend, Heath. She claims that he didn’t get “that drunk” at some party. Since she is dating and clearly has friends, as far as I can see, Zoey fits in with her general society just fine.
Zoey ignores Kayla and mentions that she feels sick, but brushes it off and makes a joke about her biology teacher probably saying that she was suffering from the “Teenage Plague”.
No, I don’t know what this is supposed to imply or why it’s supposed to be funny. As a general rule, in jokes are bad humor. The Casts are doing a good job in explaining just why.
Kayla continues her rant about how Heath has been being mistreated since
he only had like four—I dunno—maybe six beers, and maybe like three shots. But that’s totally beside the point. (1)
No, no it really isn’t. Of course, this is to show that Zoey is in fact totally justified in her anger towards her boyfriend. The problem is that no real person would not see this as a problem, which makes Kayla’s being irritated with Zoey actually really strange. This is likely an attempt to show how bad the Kayla actually is, and thereby justify the treatment that she’s going to endure later. The problem is that no one acts like this, and making characters act in over the top ways in order to either make the protagonist look better or to justify later treatment is sort of like waving a sign around saying ‘I have no idea how to make a character likable’.
Kayla goes on to state that he wouldn’t have drunk so much if Zoey’s parents hadn’t taken her home right after a game, and thus leaving little Heath alone without a girlfriend to entertain him or watch his beers for him.
Here, Zoey agrees about the
latest injustice done against me by my mom and the Step-loser she’d married three really long years ago. (1)
I’m sorry, Zoey, parents making their underage daughter come home when a party clearly has alcohol is not an injustice. Maybe not fun, but certainly not an ‘injustice’. Grow up.
I’d be a lot more sympathetic if it was clear that we were supposed to think that Zoey was being over dramatic. As it is, it’s supposed to be taken as the truth.
Moving on from spite for her stepfather to spite for her friend, Zoey complains that Kayla is talking again (she calls it K-babble) about how it was totally ok for Heath to drink since he’d just won a game and since Zoey’s “almost boyfriend” who clearly thinks that he’s her boyfriend but is being specified as ‘almost’ so that when Zoey treats him like crap later, it’s totally justified, is the quarterback, it’s right for him to celebrate. By getting drunk underage.
Zoey’s dislike of it, isn’t the fact that it’s apparently the fifth time that he’s drunk, nor is it that he’s clearly starting to become more and more of an alcoholic and forgetting all of his ambitions. No, the real reason to be unhappy is
he’s going to get fat from all that beer. (2)
This is something that Kayla agrees with, since clearly having a beer gut is far more important than anything else. It gets aggravating since despite already complained about the beer gut, Zoey decides to whine about Kayla’s “typical shallowness” and Kayla, completely unaware that her friend is indulging in her superiority complex, jokes about her looking crabby while sick.
We’re two pages in, and I honestly would like Zoey to die and be replaced by just about any one else. And this includes Bella Swan.
Then we, finally, get back to the fact that there is a dead person standing by the locker. Zoey corrects herself, which sounds strange in the narrative, admitting that he’s not really dead, but rather he is undead, and gives us this description:
There was no mistaking what he was and even if I hadn’t felt the power and darkness that radiated from him, there was no frickin’ way I could miss his Mark, the sapphire-blue crescent moon on his forehead and the additional tattooing of entwining knot work that framed his equally blue eyes. He was a vampire, and worse, he was a Tracker. (2-3)
So…he’s a more girly version of Sesshomaru from Inuyasha.
Also, note how the Casts have a thing with Capitalizing random Words. It’s supposed to make them more important, but it makes me wonder why ‘Mark’ is capitalized when ‘tattoo’ is not. As they are both clearly significant to his being a vampire.
And no, I’m not using the ‘y’. I have my dignity.
I’m not entirely sure why Zoey is aware that this dude is a Tracker, since Zoey doesn’t actually state how she knows. Is it just that vampires don’t like to hang around with humans?
So, since Trackers are apparently significant in a bad way, though we haven’t had any explanation of that while we were focusing on an off-screen character’s beer gut, Zoey freezes up. Kayla doesn’t seem to see him. Which raises questions. Are trackers only seen by the person that they Mark? Is there a reason? Does that mean that the Trackers are real or just figments of Nyx?
Sadly, the answer to these questions remains an unknown.
The vampire talks, and…well, look at this.
The vampyre spoke and his ceremonial words slicked across the space between us, dangerous and seductive, like blood mixed with melted chocolate. “Zoey Montgomery! Night has chosen thee; thy death will be thy birth. Night calls to thee; hearken to Her sweet voice. Your destiny awaits you at the House of Night!” (3)
So, anyways. Yeah. This has…problems. So, the description of the voice as blood and chocolate is both cliché by this time and also kind of nonsensical. I assume that the Casts are trying to show the dangerousness of it with the seduction that can be associated with chocolate, but in reality, the simile just sounds lazy and completely unnecessary. It’s also strange since Zoey is aware that this is ceremonial.
Finally, the actual speech, if you read it, is both poorly written and kind of creepy. Given that we’re attempting to use Early Modern English (AKA how Shakespeare talked), ‘will’ doesn’t work here. The correct word would be ‘shall’. If you’re going to rip off King James Bible English, at least do it properly.
As far as creepiness goes… Well, note that Zoey has absolutely no power over her transformation at all, and given that it’s got religious undertones, it’s a lot like a kind of forced conversation or being kidnapped by a cult.
So, Zoey faints, and the next thing she knows is waking up to a very upset Kayla. Kayla, who ignores Zoey’s obnoxious comment about her looking like a fish tells her that she’s been Marked, while crying. Kayla’s reaction is PC Cast’s work most likely, and it works well. Her tears and reaction are nice world building, showing that, to the human world this is not only a big deal. It’s seen as a tragedy. The problem is what happens right afterwards. Zoey, being a jerk, whines that Kayla is crying and tells her to stop. When Zoey reaches out for her she
automatically cringed and moved away from me. (4)
This could make sense, if we had any kind of indication that she was suddenly terrified that Zoey would try to attack her and drink her blood. The problem is that so far, Kayla has not treated Zoey any differently until this point. It doesn’t seem like something is just dawning on her either. It comes from nowhere.
Zoey is hurt by the cringing and Kayla complains about how she’s turned into a vampire and that’s horrible because “who am I going go to football games with?” (4)
Kayla, your friend just became one of the legions of the undead. I think that you need to be worried about a lot more than just that. Of course, this is just to make Kayla seem more shallow and all, but it doesn’t feel natural. Even the shallowest of shallow characters needs to be able to react to problems in a way that feels natural. It would be more natural if she had acted very upset and confused, and talked about how terrible that it had to be for Zoey, but also ran off the second that she could with a poorly veiled excuse, but the selfish comment here just sounds as if the Casts wanted to show that Kayla was shallow, but not build on it, which really is a shame. It would have made Zoey slightly more sympathetic if she truly felt isolated from humanity.
As it is, it more seems like either Kayla’s babbling at this point, and if I had a better sense of her, it would be honestly sad, or it’s just badly thought out. I’m betting on the second on.
So, Zoey whines about how she wants to cry, since Kayla isn’t moving closer to her, but doesn’t. Then, in the tone of the greatest of martyrs comments
I was good at hiding tears. I should be; I’d had three years to get good at it. (4)
Well, aren’t you the tragic little princess.
As this is completely given no context for, it again sounds like a whiny, over dramatic teenager being whiny and over dramatic.
Since we’ve been making Zoey sympathetic (or at least trying to) we can listen to her judging the plebs. Essentially she spends a paragraph talking about how she doesn’t have to take a certain test, now, and if she hadn’t been studying for it like a good girl, she’d have been waiting for the bus, and listening into people’s private conversations. Her “stupid, Barbie clone” (4) sister who doesn’t seem to have a name is mentioned once, and Zoey is grateful that the only one who has seen her getting Marked other than Kayla is, and I quote
a tall thin dork with messed-up teeth, which I could, unfortunately, see too much of because he was standing there with his mouth flapping open staring at me like I’d given birth to a litter of flying pigs. (4-5)
Now, I remind you, this is our heroine, who we are supposed to support. Who is supposed to be a kind person who represents the average ‘good girl’.
But that’s none of my business.
Zoey spends a good page wondering if vampires are going to be as stereotypical as the people at her highschool are (don’t worry, Zoey, you’re going to get a nice, PC group of friends that exist to show how open minded the authors are) such has having preppy vampire cheerleaders or vampire dorks. Personally, I might find it amusing for a Mary Sue like Zoey to be turned into a vampire and find that everyone is a mega nerd and that the school has organized D and D tournaments, LARPs where the only race forbidden is vampire, there are school trips to conventions, and suddenly the people that she spent her life judging as less than her are the mainstream.
Of course, that would be vaguely interesting, which this book is not, and Zoey, our outcast heroine who can’t fit in, whines about how Emos and Goths have an “aversion to soap and water” and how she doesn’t have a desire to wear too much eyeliner.
So, moving back to the plot, Kayla asks if she’s ok, but she’s scared of Zoey, and we randomly get the information that Kayla and Zoey had been best friends since third grade, which they sure don’t sound like, and Zoey tries to convince Kayla that it’s still Zoey.
I have a theory that Kayla just realized what a jerk you are and being a vampire has nothing to do with anything.
So, Kayla’s cell rings (and the ring tone is ‘Material Girl’ in case you wanted more proof that she’s shallow) and it’s the plot calling in the form of Kayla’s boyfriend. The Casts again shoot themselves in the foot by having Kayla asking Zoey to call her, and she vanishes from the plot for the moment. She’s not going to be mentioned again till later, so feel free to forget about her. I’ll remind you of her existence when it matters.
Which means that we have a few pages of Zoey thinking about herself, and some very clumsy world building.
So, we are informed that when you are Marked, you have two options, you will either become a vampire, or you will die. If she survives she has to go to the House of Night, which her friends call “Vampyre Finishing School” (6) where she learns how to be a vampire.
Of course, there’s another problem right here. This isn’t a finishing school. This is a prep school. There’s a difference. A finishing school is, one, usually all female, and two mostly concerned with getting out ready to face society. Given that Zoey and her little cronies never actually go through the polite way to ask someone for permission to bite them or how to excuse yourself from a fancy party before the sun comes up, I see very little of that.
So, while the idea of a classy school were vampires go is…stereotypical, it doesn’t work in this context.
She whines about not wanting to do either (which is understandable for once) but manages to lose that when she complains about the “burden of my mega-conservative parents, my troll like brother, and my oh-so-perfect sister” (6) and how she wants to be a vet and fit in (which again she’s actually doing a very good job of). After tragically whining about her home not being home anymore she complains about having to leave her friends.
This would be a whole lot more convincing if she clearly didn’t even seem to like her ‘best friend’.
So, woe is Zoey. She decides to move her hair so that it covers her new mark, but stops at the entrance of the school where she sees Heath, her boyfriend standing there with a bunch of other people, who Zoey doesn’t like because they’re not interested in her. We are introduced to characters who we’ll never see again like “Kathy Richtar, the biggest ho in school” who hasn’t really done anything other than flirt with Heath, and since Zoey does not admit to dating him, there’s nothing wrong with this behavior.
This is actually a depressing frequency in these books. Zoey refers to other girls, usually the ones that she doesn’t like, as ‘hos’. Particularly if they actively pursue a man and show interest in them. Because somehow, this makes them stupid. Now, this is, in my view, one of the strangest aspects of the Casts’ brand of feminism, possibly coming from them apparent intense hatred of and desire for men.
“While men are stupid and anyone who likes them is stupid, how dare this girl be competition for the men that I so rightly deserve.”
At least, that’s what I think that they’re doing.
Since she’s done crapping on her schoolmates for not being as good as her, Zoey reminisces on the last time that she saw a Tracker at the school. Apparently, they caught an unnamed guy in first period, who Zoey saw running from the school in tears and
“I never forgot how crowded the halls had been that morning, and how everyone had backed away from him like he had the plague as he rushed to escape out the front doors of the school. I had been one of those kids who had backed out of the way and stared, even though I’d felt sorry for him. I just hadn’t wanted to be labeled as that-one-girl-who’s-friends-with-those-freaks. Sort of ironic now, isn’t it? (7-8)
No, Zoey, it might be proof of Karma, but it’s not ironic. What’s ironic is that you were one of the faceless masses backing away and yet you get mad at Kayla for doing the exact same thing. You just admitted that she would face societal stigma for associating with you now that you’re a vampire, and you will hardly be around for long enough to do anything, but you’re angry with her for reacting in a way that you’ve admitted is normal.
So, because we haven’t had this happen yet, and the Casts are trying to get some kind of bad writing bingo, Zoey goes to the bathroom and we get a page of Zoey describing herself.
So, as a friendly note to my first time writers: don’t let your character describe herself in a mirror unless she’s doing something that requires a description or has literally never seen herself before.
I’m going to spare you the purple prose, so here’s your sentence description: hazel eyes, long dark straight hair, and pale.
Since she’s a Sue, you can probably bank on it that she’s petite and pretty and has a nice, slight figure.
There is a lot about how she inherited a lot of features from her Cherokee grandmother, and I’m going to call the Casts out on their poor research. Native American Genetics 101: Most of their genes are actually recessive, meaning that since Granny presumably married a white guy, Mommy would look a whole lot more like her father than Granny, and Zoey, who also had a dad who was a white guy would be even more white.
This is how, in the past, kids who were half/a fourth Native American were able to pass quite well. Zoey would most likely not have “olive” skin, like she claims, and if she did inherit Granny’s hair, it would be big and thick. Very pretty though.
How did I know this? My family has a good bit that’s Chippewa. My mom inherited the thickness of the hair. It doesn’t look “exotic”.
Now, there is nothing wrong with having main character who has a Native American heritage and is proud of it. Actually, if done well, it would be rather refreshing. The problem starts when Zoey starts calling her features ‘exotic’. As if the Native Americans aren’t Othered enough in our society.
Also, this line is…rather racist:
I stared at the exotic looking tattoo. Mixed with my strong Cherokee features it seemed to brand me with the mark of wildness…as if I belonged to ancient times when the world was bigger…more barbaric. (8)
From this day on my life would never be the same. And for a moment—just for an instant—I forgot about the horror of not belonging and felt a shocking burst of pleasure, while deep inside of me the blood of my grandmother’s people rejoiced. (8)
Did you know that the Cherokee Nation had vampire legends? One of them is the Jumlin. Look it up. It’s spooky.
I highly doubt that they’d be overly thrilled about some girl becoming a vampire.
So, that’s the first chapter. While it starts strongly with action and a good quick event, it quickly grinds to a halt with pointless dialogue, description and the introduction of what even some fans of the series call the most obnoxious POV character in existence.
In our next chapter will be reinforced that men are in fact evil, and so are Fundamentalist Christians (and maybe Mormons)!