This chapter was physically painful to read. It offends me as a writer, as a folklore nerd, as a Lit major, and as a human being.
I’ve been actually putting off sporking it, because I wanted to maintain a professional demeanor when doing it, and I hate it just that much. At least Granny Redbird isn’t here yet.
Zoey begins complaining about how hard the trip up the bluffs is, regardless of the fact that she really could have just stayed in the house, and it probably would have been better for her. She drops a reference to a movie called French Kiss which I’ve never seen that had Meg Ryan in it.
Now, I would caution writers against the habit of making references to movies or actors. It dates your work. In a few years, someone reading the thing will go ‘who?’ and not get so much of a hint of what you were trying to say. The same thing goes for slang. Unless you are actively trying to date your work, this isn’t a good idea. Not only that, but while I appreciate the attempt to have Zoey have interests, the only thing she seems to really think about it is that one of the actors was ‘hot’.
So, for the first time in about three chapters of wangst, the fact that Zoey is going to die if she doesn’t go to the House of Night is brought up again.
“I couldn’t believe how badly my chest hurt! I tried to remember what it was that officially killed the kids who didn’t complete the Change into vampyres. Did they have heart attacks? Or was it possible that they coughed and snotted themselves to death?” (33)
Zoey, I know that you’re trying to be funny, but stop.
Now, the fact that she immediately tells herself to stop thinking about it after that is actually pretty good. Since it gives a reason for just why Zoey hasn’t brought it up before, but I just can’t get over the fact that while she could have thrown the biggest attack on the Strawman Christian, she didn’t. So, again, I think that this is an editing/co-author issue.
Now, I’m not completely sure how this was co-authored. You see, some people will do it so that different people do alternating chapters, often from different points of view, so that changes in style and voice are attributed to changes in character. Other times, you get what I’m doing, where we’re both writing together, so that the styles blend together into, hopefully, one. I’m wondering if this is an issue that they’re kind of doing both. Like PC writes some segment and Kristin writes another. As such, there are points where the writing shifts in quality and cohesion. It’s also why I’m skeptical of the ideas that some have that Kristin didn’t do a thing. PC’s style, regardless of my personal feelings on it, isn’t this level of jagged or flawed.
And then things get…strange.
“I needed to see Grandma Redbird. If Grandma didn’t have the answers, she’d figure them out. Grandma Redbird understood people. She said it was because she hadn’t lost touch with her Cherokee heritage and the tribal knowledge of the ancestral Wise Women she carried in her blood.” (34)
No, I’m serious here. What answers are Zoey looking for? So far, everything’s been pretty cut and dry. If you don’t go to the House of Night, you’ll die. There are no questions. There are no ways around it. I’m sure people have tried to find ways around it already. (That’s also a real problem, but I’ll talk about that later)
Next of all, I regret to inform the Cast ladies of this, but the Cherokee Nation didn’t have ‘wise women’. They had medicine men and women. Which wasn’t hereditary in the slightest. It was something that people studied very, very hard to do, consisted of acting as both an herb doctor, which was the only thing that they would have, as well as someone who intervened with the supernatural, particularly the Little People.
One thing that people need to understand is that most ancient religions were not particularly spiritual in the modern sense of the word. They were very practical. Rather than being concerned with the shared life off all things in a sense of ‘we’re all connected, let’s hold hands’ they were concerned that in terms of how to survive. Which makes sense. Our modern spirituality comes from a situation where needs are met and we don’t particularly worry about if spring is coming next year.
Turning this into a reason for Zoey to be a special little snowflake is taking a good crap on the work, effort and skill that these men and women had in the name of a stupid little Mary Sue fantasy.
I really hate the Magical Native American trope.
But, wait, there’s more!
“…it made me smile to think about the frown that came over my Grandma’s face whenever the subject of the step-loser came up (she’s the only adult who knows I call him that). Grandma Redbird said that it was obvious that the Redbird Wise Woman blood had skipped over her daughter, but that was only because it had been saving up to give an extra dose of ancient Cherokee magic to me. (34-5)
Alright, I’m going to remind you that this woman is talking about her daughter. She is essentially saying that her daughter married a man who she doesn’t like and therefore she’s just not special. A man who the Casts are clumsily trying to imply is controlling her. Remember children, if you end up with a bad relationship, it’s your fault for not being special, and you’d better forget about your family trying to help you.
So, I’m going to admit right now, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. Grandma Redbird reminds me a lot of my maternal grandmother, who was, to put things lightly, not very nice to my mother. She even did something similar with me, saying how she was the only one who understood me, and my mother was not special enough to. This was, of course, a way to get back at my mother for…something, and it didn’t work, but I recognize the tactic. This is an attempt from Granny Redbird to hurt her daughter, likely because she either made some bad choices or, given the level of tolerance that this series shows, marrying someone who Granny didn’t agree with.
Now, this could be written off as personal bias, and maybe it should, but when the only relationship that you’re trying to portray as positive in your protagonist’s life happens to be with someone who makes me immediately think of an emotional manipulator, you’ve got a problem.
Also, yay for more Magical Native Americans and their speshul Ancient magics that the boring plebs just don’t understand.
We got a long, rather dull flashback in which Zoey recounts all the stories that Granny Redbird told her. Such as one about how the stars were made when a dog was beaten for stealing cornmeal and the meal was scattered, or Great Buzzard making the mountains and valleys, and Sun and her daughter, who became the redbird.
Now, all of these are actual stories. However, all of them are only one explanation for things. The one that I want to really make you pay attention to though, is the last one.
Here’s a full telling of it. It’s not a good site visually, but most of the primary sources that I usually use don’t include it, so I’m a little leery of it’s being kind of an outlier that the Casts decided to run with.
So, this is one of the times where the folkloric sun is a woman, while it’s usually associated with the Apportioner, who’s usually male. I’m pretty sure that this is a variant of tribes though. (It’s really hard to call something a ‘Cherokee’ myth, since the nation was, while united under a similar language, divided into smaller tribes, each with their own customs and variations.)
But the thing to really notice is that the Sun is the antagonist of this story, and it’s following a general trend of ancient mythology: the gods don’t necessarily like your face, and if you retaliate against their completely unjustified hatred of you, you’re going to regret it. Now, this is completely ignored by the Casts, and just there to show how special Zoey is. Seriously, this doesn’t even really come up. Other than Zoey whining about being the daughter of the sun and having to live in darkness.
What annoys me is that this would be a great way to introduce the concept of older religions. If we were going to introduce Nyx, we could have introduced the concept of her not necessarily being good towards humanity, but loving her children. Much like the Sun in the myth. She loved her daughter, but honestly didn’t like people much.
Naturally though, that’s just too much to ask. We’re not getting an ancient mother goddess; we’re going to get one that’s essentially Crystal Dragon Jesus.
And now things are going to be annoying. So, Zoey is going along, being stupid (for a page and a half of flashbacks) when she hears drums. Like the powwows that her granny took her to as a kid. Suddenly she sees the trees around her swaying and doing weird things that might be magic but might also just be the fact that, since she collapses, calling for her grandmother in a moment that would be interesting if weren’t so utterly contrived.
So, fair warning, things are going to get really annoying from here on out.
She calls out for her grandmother and suddenly hers a random voice telling her that “the spirits of the land are nothing to be frightened of” (35) from nowhere. Since Zoey is confirmed as not be very bright, she still thinks that it’s her grandmother, despite the voice literally coming from nowhere.
She suddenly hears the voice say ‘the Cherokee work for wind’ for no reason other than the fact that the wind is picking up. Alright, I know that I’m supposed to see that the voice summoned the wind, but honestly, there’s no reason for Zoey to think anything other than that she’s starting to hallucinate. Not only that, but it doesn’t ACTUALLY have anything to do with anything. From the wind, Zoey smells a camp fire, hears “Cherokee voices” (which are different than other voices apparently) chanting, and starts to see the shapes of dancers all around her. They call her daughter, and tell her to join them, and Zoey, for once being intelligent, hurries along.
She runs up the hill, wondering if she’s dying, and this is what happens when she dies, then she trips, falls and blacks out.
Zoey comes to, feeling “like I had just slipped into a bubbly hot tub on a cold night” (36) and is rather surprised. She looks around to see that she’s looking up at a “soft rain of candlelight filtering down from above” (36)
“I’m going to heaven. Well, that’ll shock come people.” (36)
Don’t be silly, Zoey. Everyone knows that when they die, Sues return to the abyss from which they came.
She realizes that she’s been separated from her body, which has a very impressive looking cut and will probably die if she doesn’t get medical attention. But, regardless of that, she’s not scared, why:
“Actually, instead of being afraid, it was more like I was an observer, as if none of this could touch me. (Kinda like those girls who have sex with everyone and think that they’re not going to get pregnant or a really nasty STD that eats your brains and stuff. Well we’ll see in ten years, won’t we?)” (37)
Where did that even come from? Mommy Cast, did you think that it was time for a PSA? And what’s the point of it? I mean, it’s just awkward, shoehorned in with no grace, adds nothing to the description. If I was grading this as a short story, I’ll say that this was going off on a tangent, which is one of the things that we’re always warning students against doing. Not even looking at the slutshaming aspect of this, which is kind of ridiculous and hypocritical judging by what Zoey gets up to in the next few books.
On a pure craft basis, this is a terrible, awkward way to write. Not only that, but it sounds like some forty-year-old mom lecturing her daughter and…
I’m going to assume that PC Cast has no clue how to write YA.
So, moving on. Zoey attempts to explain the weirdness of looking at herself, and we’re treated to this.
“I was breaking in short, shallow pants. Well, my body was breaking like that, not like that was me…And I/she didn’t look good. I/she was all pale and her lips were blue. Hey! White face, blue lips, and red blood! Am I patriotic or what?” (37)
First of all, I ‘love’ how, Zoey is able to completely disassociate herself from her own body, to the point of using ‘she’ when talking about it. Like her body is a completely separate entity. I’m not sure what the Casts are trying to do other than to show me that Zoey doesn’t really connect with anything, including her body.
Also, that last bit, I assume that it was meant to be funny, but I’m going to remind you of something, gentle reader, Zoey is looking down on herself as she is dying. She is looking at her dying body, and joking about it. Now, we could look at it that the dead don’t have the connection to their bodies and stuff, but we all know that Zoey’s not dead. Not only that, but this is an experience which is supposed to be dramatic and frightening. We are supposed to wonder what is happening. We are supposed to have some investment into this.
So, I ask you again, Cast Ladies.
Because not only was that joke on par with the ‘albino joke’ for sheer unfunniness, but it was utterly inappropriately used.
Zoey, meanwhile overwhelmed by her own cleverness, starts laughing, claiming that she can “see my laughter floating around me like the puffy things you blow off a dandelion, only instead of being white (there should be a comma here) it was birthday-cake-frosting-blue”
And she does wonder if this is what it is to be high.
So am I, Zoey. So am I. Only I’m not thrilled about the idea.
Now, this is supposed to be a spiritual experience. The problem is that it’s badly placed, and while Zoey feels high and happy, we are the readers do not. As such, when we read this, we see Zoey more or less sociopathicly laughing at her own possible corpse. It’s not that she thinks that she’s dead, and just kind of ignores her body, she actually looks at it, laughs at it and goes on to her experience. This is jarring.
She hears someone, from a fissure in the ground, calling for her to come, and claims at the words are ‘sparkling silver’. Now, I know that there are people whose senses will associate words and sounds with color. Zoey is not one of these people, and it doesn’t seem spiritual. Just really weird. Zoey, since she’s an idiot, thinks that it’s her grandmother, and describes her words as bright purple.
The voice tells her to come again, and Zoey…makes assumptions.
“Somehow, like the spirit guides the Ancient Cherokee people have believed in for centuries, Grandma Redbird was telling me I had to go down into the rock.” (38)
So, according to Ancient Cherokee beliefs, from the Cherokee Nation’s own website, they didn’t have spirit guides in this sense. Technically speaking, it was more like the idea that every living thing, and some nonliving things had spirits. There were spiritual beings, such as the Little People or ghosts. The Little People shared the world with humanity, but they weren’t fond of being disturbed, and seem, from what I’ve researched, to have mostly only interacted with medicine men and women, and Zoey hasn’t devoted her life to the study that it would require to be one.
From a few questions I asked around, it seems that the concept of ‘spirit guides’ is actually a more modern idea that was attributed to them. It’s popular in some New Age circles, but I don’t see any older references to it. One more disgruntled person basically said that it was the invention of white people who wanted to be trendy and ‘shamanic’.
Next, there is no indication that this is her grandmother. Unless Granny is dead. Which I sincerely wouldn’t mind.
So, since Zoey in spirit mode has about all the attention of a goldfish, she goes underground, and gets distracted by the colors of a bubbling underground spring. I swear, if I wanted to read about a drug trip, I’d probably be able to find something a little better. The voice, apparently doesn’t want to be ignored and reminds Zoey that it exists.
She follows the voice to a wall that contains symbols that Zoey finds familiar but ‘alien’ as well. She turns away from it, notes that there isn’t another way towards where the voice was calling her and turns around.
“Whoa! There was a woman sitting crossed-legged in front of the wall! She was wearing a white fringed dress that was beaded with the same symbols as the wall behind her. She was fantastically beautiful, with long straight hair so black it looked as if it had blue and purple highlights, like a raven’s wing. Her full lips curved up as she spoke, filling the air between us with the silver power of her voice.” (38-9)
Meet Nyx. She’s our Mother Goddess. We’re…not going to be seeing that much of her in the first few books. Just some…really annoying drop ins, Deus ex Machinas and everything else that readers usually hate and such. The relevance of the fact that she obviously exists doesn’t seem to really hit anyone. I mean…this would kind of blow to John’s entire…everything. Unless we wish to take on the much older, Jewish understanding of God which was essentially that all gods were real, but they didn’t worship them.
I mean, if you’re going to preach about the fact that only your religion is valid, you really should do it better.
Still, moving on. Nyx speaks. And it’s terrible.
“Tsi-lu-gi U-we-tsi a-ge-hu-tsa. Welcome, Daughter, you have done well.” (39)
I’m going to go through a recap of Zoey’s actions since she was marked:
1. Nearly eat her boyfriend
2. Tell her mother that she doesn’t care about Zoey or anyone else
3. Whine at her stepfather
4. Sneak out of house to talk to her grandmother rather than just go to the school herself.
5. Go rock climbing even when she was getting sicker.
Tell me, everyone, what has she done well? Because I really can’t find a single thing that would not have either gotten her killed or at least called out in any other universe.
Next of all, I kind of want to mention the use of Cherokee here. First of all, it’s really superfluous, since she needs to repeat the same thing in English or else we the readers wouldn’t understand it. Next, it’s probably wrong. Cherokee has their own letter system, and I honestly am not sure that it’s even been transferred right. The only book that I read where Cherokee was used Pushing the Bear (which was written by someone who was Cherokee, had the use of the actual letters and then would translate them.
If anything this reminds me of some of my books of Japanese and Chinese folklore written in the late Victorian/Early Edwardian periods by British travelers who didn’t really know that language.
Zoey, showing her usual level of intelligence, states that the woman isn’t her grandmother.
Alright, moving on.
Nyx mentions that she knows Grandma Redbird well, which is not a recommendation as far as I am concerned, but also tells Zoey that she isn’t dead, but rather that she’s accidentally traveled into the domain of the Nunne’hi, which Zoey refers to as the ‘spirit people’.
Now, credit where due, this is close to being right. The Nunne’hi, along with the Little People, who seem a little more commonly talked about, where essentially like the Fair Folk in Irish legend. They were a supernatural race, which mostly partied off on its own, but weren’t gods. They liked mountains and places without trees, and they were big on drums. There is, however, one problem. Since the Casts wish to talk about how much research and how…accurate they are, the Nunne’hi aren’t from Oklahoma which just so happens to be where this story takes place. The Nunne’hi came from the Appalachians and seemed pretty content to stay there.
When the Cherokee were removed from their ancestral homes in 1838, and forced down what was later known as the Trail of Tears, several of them expressed sorrow that they would never get to see their family who had gone to stay with the Nunne’hi again.
Even when I can tell that they did some research, they’re still wrong.
The fact that Zoey knows some basic folklore, or at least listened to her mom/grandmother’s stories is apparently a big deal, since is pleased. She mentions that Granny has done a good job teaching her and
“You are a unique mixture of the Old Ways and the New World—of ancient tribal blood and the heartbeat of outsiders.” (39)
First of all, Nyx is claiming that no Cherokee in the history of ever has had a child with a white man, and taught them about Cherokee religion/beliefs. Now, grant it, it was a lot more common for them to convert to Christianity and then marry, but even then they still told the stories to their children. There is even an offshoot of Christianity that is designed to marry the two belief systems together because some Native Americans really liked Christianity, but wanted to keep some of their beliefs as well.
Next of all, on a purely meta level, Nyx is an outsider herself. Nyx is a Greek Goddess who is being forced into a religion that those who worshiped her never even had contact with.
But oh, we’re about to get into that.
Zoey asks, for the first time, the right question: who she is.
“I am known by many names…Changing Woman, Gaea, A’akuluujjusi, Kuan Yin, Grandmother Spider, and even Dawn,” (39)
Ladies and Gentlemen, ready your glasses, because I am an angry folklore nerd, and this is not cute. It’s time for Random People in Folklore and Mythology 101!
Changing Woman: was the wife of the sun in Navaho myth. She’s often identified with the moon, which at least keeps to the night theme, and she was able to change from an adult to a baby to an old woman whenever she wanted to. She was supposed to have helped in creating the sky and the earth. However, she’s just one of many deities. And, note the ‘wife’ bit.
Gaea: Literally the earth. Gaea would actually be a mother goddess in as much as she literally gave birth to everything that moved on land, with the help of her husband/lover/consort/something Uranus. She also gave birth to a lot of monsters. She’s also from Greek myth, so her and Nyx both being children of the same father would be…confusing.
A’akuluujjusi: An Iniut Creator Goddess. In some stories, she’s said to have created animals through her clothing. The stories are a little confused with her making humans. Some say that she did, some say that it was Raven. She has no association with night at all.
Kuan Yin AKA Guanyin: She’s an East Asian figure who is usually referred to as the Goddess of Mercy. The Taoists have her listed as one of the seven immortals (and the only female). She’s very popular in Buddhism and other religions in the area, and she’s a Bodhisattva, and she’s sometimes depicted as a man for…reasons. She’s got very little to do with creation, but she’s known to be a figure of compassion that sound stories claim she refuses to fully reach nirvana until everyone is freed from the cycle of rebirth. She’s sort of a patron of mothers, but that’s as far as it goes with her.
Grandmother Spider: another Navaho goddess who’s accredited with creation (don’t get too worried, some say that Coyote did it, myths are like that). Some people connect her and Changing Woman, which doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. There are string games associated with her, weaving (obviously) and the stories that don’t accredit it to Coyote say that the stars are actually dew on her web. She sort of adopted the Navaho people.
Dawn: This one…really confuses me. I’m going to assume that she’s talking about the Greek Dawn as opposed to a lot of other Dawns. Greek!Dawn has one story. She found a guy hot, and asked Zeus to grant him immortality so she could marry him. Zeus, being a jerk, said ‘sure’ but didn’t give him eternal youth, so eventually he turned into a grasshopper. The moral of the story was either ‘make sure you are really specific in your wishes’ or ‘Zeus is a jerk’.
So, these women are…a little unconnected. Yet, somehow, these are all the same person.
Even though, while they were mother goddesses (some of them anyways) they did have different personalities.
Not only that, but they’re all Nyx. Nyx, who is not a modern goddess, who had literally nothing to do with creation, who was known to be, at best, neutral towards humanity, and who didn’t have a consort. These goddesses aren’t even all mother goddesses. Nyx isn’t really even categorized as a mother goddess. They have very little in common other than Grandmother Spider and Changing Woman. There is no reason to lump them together.
Well, other than the idea that all religions were secretly worshiping Nyx. Because…that worked so well in the Middle Ages when monks were doing the same thing.
The Casts are essentially taking the religious beliefs (some of which happened to still be practiced) of another, and actually quite marginalized in some examples, group of people and warping them around so that they fit into their story. There is no explanation of why things are different, no mention of where the sun happens to be in all of this. It’s just “everyone was totally worshiping Nyx this entire time”, and honestly, it’s kind of insulting.
Also, unlike the monks in the Middle Ages who were honestly trying to draw parallels and build bridges, rather than claim that everyone before them was evil, the Casts should know better.
Seriously, guys, don’t do this will alcohol, it’ll kill you.
Zoey identifies Nyx as the “vampyre goddess”.
There is literally nothing that even suggests this in mythology. Greek vampires were completely different from more European ones (though still very, very dead). And, Casts, if this was world building, this should have been something John brought up. I mean…you missed another chance for him to be a bigot and for us to learn more about the world.
Nyx’s response is…confusing.
“In truth, it was the ancient Greeks touched by the Change who first worshiped me as the mother thet searched for within their endless Night. I have been pleased to call their descendents (misspelling intentional) my children for many ages. And, yes, in your world those children are called vampyre. Accept the name u-we-tsi-a-ge-ya; in it you will find your destiny.” (40)
Did they mean Echidna? She’s the mother of monsters. And, if there is a big cult to Nyx in this world, the Casts really need to mention it. Because, otherwise, this just sounds wrong. There wasn’t a cult to Nyx. Ever. Nyx was mostly just sort of there. Next of all, Nyx mentions that the vampires were already changed and marked before she accepted them as her children. This could have been an interesting bit of info, even possibly hinting that there was a scientific explanation for the change, but Nyx had had pity on them. However, so far, it’s been treated as if Nyx is selecting and Marking people herself up until this point.
Finally, Nyx mentions something about ‘accepting’ the name. So, do people die because they don’t accept Nyx? Zoey doesn’t have a choice if she wants to live.
This so stupid.
Zoey whines a little bit about how she just wants to fit in, which is a kind of awkward transition, and manages to hit every single button on my Mary Sue radar, but Nyx speaks to her in a voice like her mother’s “only more”.
More what, Zoey? More motherly? More like her mother’s voice? More how you think that your mother should have talked to you? Work on your clarification.
Nyx decides to throw all attempts of subtlety to the wind, and point blank tells Zoey that she’s special, and how she has “true power in her uniqueness”.
“Within you is the combined magic blood of ancient Wise Women and Elders, as well as insight into and understanding of the modern world.” (40)
So, Nyx, you’re claiming that not one of the Medicine Men and Women has had kids who had a descendant who happened to be biracial? Blast it, most people who live on reservations are pretty normal people, and have plenty of insight into the modern world. What makes Zoey so special?
You know, they could have played it that Nyx just likes Granny, and decided to work with her granddaughter for her sake. It wouldn’t be that unusual for a god/goddess to do this, and it’s a decent enough reason. If you wanted to be a jerk to Mommy, they could even say that she rejected this honor somehow.
But this reason that Nyx is giving makes no sense.
But Nyx isn’t done yet. Not by a long shot. Apparently Zoey is so special that Nyx cups Zoey’s face in her hands, in a kind of uncomfortable motion, and proclaims that Zoey is going to be her “eyes and ears” from now on.
Why would you do this? Why would anyone do this?
What’s even worst is that ZOEY agrees with me. ZOEY. Even she has the sense to see that this is a terrible idea. I don’t care that their trying to play it off as being humble. She is aware that this is a completely stupid thing to do.
When ZOEY is saying that your idea is stupid, you really should listen. It’s like the five-year-old councilor on the Evil Overlord’s List. If she is aware that this is a bad idea, maybe you should consider that this is a really bad idea.
Nyx is not one to be discouraged. Clearly angry self-righteous teenagers are just the thing that Nyx needs in order to make her will known to the world. She calls Zoey “zoey-bird” like her grandmother, and then claims that Zoey is old beyond her years.
I’ve yet to see any evidence of that. Unless you count that weird moment when she started talking about STDs and managed to sound like someone’s mother.
“Believe in yourself and you will find a way. But remember, darkness does not always equate to evil, just as light does not always bring good.” (41)
Yeah, that last bit should just be ignored. It leads to nothing and goes nowhere. While I’m pretty sure they originally meant to play this straight, they eventually went the Dark is Evil route.
Then Nyx kisses Zoey on the forehead and she passes out, and I get to put this abomination of a chapter behind me.
This is, so far, probably the worst of the chapter’s I’ve gone over. Yes, things happen, but the action is weird, Zoey’s character is weird, and the world building has so many errors in it that it’s not even funny, but, thankfully this chapter is done, and hopefully, now that this one’s over, I can move along a little faster.
Next Chapter: we meet people, particularly Grandma Redbird.