Alright, last chapter, Zoey was a complete and total idiot, nearly got herself killed, hit her head, and had a dream about Nyx who, for some reason that’s beyond me, has decided that Zoey is the specialist little snowflake to ever fall from heaven, so she’s going to be Nyx’s ‘eyes and ears’ in the real world.
This is an idea that even Zoey doesn’t think is good.
This chapter, we’re going to meet some people who I hate and have some smug conversations.
I want to go back and read Twilight.
That is how bad this book is, guys, I like Twilight better than it. Bella is a less obnoxious character. And…honestly…the world has more internal consistency.
So, the chapter begins with some Cherokee song that sounds really, really poorly translated. Now this could be a good touch. For instance, Zoey could say that it was a lullaby that she used to be sung as a child. Or at least we could get the significance of the song at some level. However, we don’t really get a reason why the song is being sung or what the song actually means, just that it’s old. As such, it’s not something that I am particularly invested in. It’s just sort of there to remind us again that Zoey is part Native American, and I’m supposed to be impressed by this for some reason.
“I’d felt so crappy lately…except I couldn’t remember why. Huh. Odd.” (43)
Ok, so this is a POV problem right here. I’ve mentioned it a few times in this blog, but first person, while a strong point of view that allows the reader to get a very close insight into the character, has a few problems. The first is the fact that it’s extremely limiting. You cannot narrate anything that happens outside of the character’s point of view, and another is that, while it’s completely possible to narrate something that happened that a character won’t remember in third person, doing so in first is a whole lot trickier. How is it that Zoey, who narrated the whole thing, not be able to remember what happened to her? If she doesn’t remember, then how are we getting the details of this? When is the story being told? If this was first person, present, it would actually work better, since it’s been told as Zoey is experiencing something.
Get used to it though. This is one of the Casts favorite narrative tricks, and it is incredibly annoying.
Granny’s voice keeps singing, and Zoey finally remembers what happened. Now, I could say that this excuses, the whole ‘forgot thing’ but it really doesn’t. If she’s going to remember, devoting attention when all you’re saying is “for a moment, I couldn’t remember what was going on or why I was there” in a fancy way is a waste of time and the reader’s attention.
It’s also, as always, really awkwardly written.
Finally, Zoey remembers that she’s turning into a vampire and wakes up.
And we are introduced to the character that I hate most in this series, and who I honestly consider the worst human being in it: Granny Redbird. I despise this woman. But you better get used to her. The Casts seem to have decided that Granny Redbird an example of a supportive adult, despite the fact that I could build a pretty strong case to claim that she’s essentially using Zoey to hurt her daughter for deciding that she didn’t want to subscribe to Granny’s weird little variant of the Cherokee religion. Also, when I say “supportive adult” what I mean is “adult who gives Zoey absolutely everything she wants because she’s just that special”.
As I said before, she reminds me of my maternal grandmother, and that’s not a good thing. Still, as a reminder, judge her actions for yourself. I’m biased.
After a touching moment that would likely mean a lot more if I cared a wit whether or not Zoey lived or died, Zoey asked where she is and what happened, and Granny tells her that she found her unconscious covered in blood, and that her grandmother was scared out of her mind and “so pale that [her] dark crescent seemed to glow against [her] skin” (44).
The Casts are subtle!
And then we get into why I hate this woman. In a very abrupt shift in tone, and with absolutely glee on her face, Grandma tells Zoey that she called Zoey’s mother to tell her that she was taking Zoey to the House of Night, but hung up when Mommy started sounding upset.
Without her permission.
Now, if Grandma had been upset and angry with her daughter for putting Zoey in danger and not behaving like an adult to doing what was best for her child, I would understand. If she was angry that Mommy was so concerned with either what they neighbors were going to say or the fact that she was a vampire, it would make sense and have parallels to several parents who have, for some reason or other essentially abandoned their children. But she’s not. Granny’s acting like it’s a joke. She’s pleased that she’s got this chance to rub the fact that she’s a better person in her daughter’s face.
This has nothing to do with Zoey. Given how quickly Grandma’s attitude shifts, it almost seems that, after showing Zoey that she was worried, her real emotion shows. This happiness doesn’t stem from the fact that her beloved granddaughter is still alive, it’s coming from the fact that she’s one-upped her daughter.
Granny asks what Zoey was doing out in the daylight, which is honestly a very good question, but also asks why Zoey didn’t tell her earlier. Thankfully, this particular weird question is there for a reason since after Zoey explains things from her side, Granny says just climbing out the window to look for her doesn’t make sense.
Which is true for reasons that Granny hasn’t said. I’m going to need to pick that little monster apart so we got a long quote.
“I know,” I sighed. “I can’t believe I got Marked, either. Why me?”
“That’s not what I meant, baby. I’m not surprised you were Tracked and Marked. The Redbird blood has always held strong magic; it was only a matter of time before one of us was Chosen. What I mean is that it makes no sense that you were just Marked. That crescent isn’t an outline. It’s completely filled in.” (45)
First of all, the two word sentence ‘why me’ should be banned in fiction. I hated it when it was used by Garion in the Belgariad, I hated it when it was used by Eragon in Eragon, and I hate it now. It is the most self-pitying, whiny drivel for a main character to say. Even in Tolkien, when Frodo Baggins comes pretty close to it, Gandalf, though kindly, tells him not to think like that.
So, next comes the fact that Zoey’s mark is “now a completed crescent moon, filled in perfectly with the distinctive sapphire blue of the vampire tattoo” (45).
Where do I start?
The Casts are trying hard to justify Zoey’s existence as the main character by quickly making her ‘special’. They’re giving her all the trappings of someone who matters, from Nyx praising her to her tattoo, magically being filled in, which apparently means she’s more mature or something. According to the little guild book (which looks terrible, let me tell you) it means that the change is complete, which is something that shouldn’t happen for four years. All of this is to show us how unique that Zoey is. This is actually a pretty common tactic of new writers. They try to show how interesting the character is by giving them interesting powers.
However, the largest problem with this is actually Zoey herself. She’s got all this specialness dumped on her, but at the same time, there’s nothing about Zoey herself that is particularly interesting. She didn’t earn these powers from my view. She hasn’t done anything particularly brave, particularly mature, particularly kind or even noticeably different than anyone else. She’s not even sympathetic.
This is, of course, a problem with Mary Sues in general. One of the things that actually makes them into Sues is that, at some level, the focus is on the cool powers and abilities that the person has, rather than who they are. The Sue herself is honestly a pretty empty character. There is no amount of interesting powers or plot points that make Zoey special that will make me support her. Zoey has to be someone I would support even if she didn’t have those traits.
Another problem has to do with plot related issues. The Fledging Handbook gives a lot of medical jargon that attempts to prove that it’s not just magic, and there are biological things happening. The problem is that if Nyx decided to speed up a biological process that the book flat states will cause damage as her entire physiology is changed, there will be more damage.
And, of course, that’s another major problem with a Sue. They don’t suffer consequences for either they actions or the price of whatever power that they’ve gotten (unless the author thinks it will garner sympathy).
So, yes, there are major problems.
Zoey looks at herself in the mirror, and we get to learn that somehow, Zoey’s eyes look bigger and her skin is paler. So, apparently, Meyer wasn’t the only one accidentally said that being a vampire makes you white. Good to know. We also are told how exotic looking the tattoo looks, which, given a picture of it, either looks like a bad photoshop job or like she put a sharpie on her forehead and drew a moon.
Not particularly exotic. Though she looks more like Sesshomaru now.
She is unhappy about the change and does ask what’s going on. And someone out of the blue says that that is what they were hoping that Zoey would explain.
And it’s a very pretty woman. I know this because Zoey spends a good page telling me just how gorgeous this woman is from her “huge, almond-shaped eyes that were a deep mossy green” (46) to the fact that “her body was perfect” (46). Basically, she’s got red hair, green eyes, and boobs. Zoey is very sure to point out that she has boobs.
Also, because Zoey is an awful person, we’ve got this…charming line:
“She wasn’t thin like those freak girls who puked and starved themselves into what they thought was Paris Hilton chic (“That’s Hott.” Yeah, okay, whatever, Paris)” (46).
*takes a breath*
You know what, P.C., Kristen? You’re both repugnant. This entire sentience and thought is repugnant. The fact that you are not only mocking young girls for having unrealistic standards for their bodies and the fact that they are harming themselves to meet them, but also calling them freaks for doing so is disgusting. You both should be ashamed of yourselves and of your nasty little troll of a character.
The fact that you’ve put this little monster up as someone who should be admired disgusts me.
At least John didn’t insult Zoey or her sister or her mother for their bodies.
So. Moving on. Zoey has a crush on this random woman. That was the point. A crush that Zoey takes pains to insist is 100% straight not-that-there’s-any-problem-with-gay-people-one-of-my-friends-is-gay.
The woman smiles, and Zoey mentions that her teeth are “amazingly straight, white teeth—without fangs” (46) but she’s got the crescent moon on her forehead. That makes her a vampire. Not the fangs or anything traditional.
Cast Ladies…why didn’t you just make your vampires witches? You clearly want to talk about Wicca and magick and such. Why not just go the whole hog?
Or are you scared that if you were too close to Marion Zimmer Bradley, her estate would sue your pants off? Don’t worry. I’ve noticed.
So, the vampire tells Zoey that technically she hasn’t changed, but the completed mark is still on her forehead, which blows everything the manual says out of the water, and should have killed Zoey anyways.
The woman says that having this happen is to be considered an good omen, and while Zoey flounders a little, Granny jumps in and introduces “the High Priestess of the House of Night, Neferet.” (47)
Neferet? You know, Nefertiti? Famed beauty of Ancient Egypt? Wife of the infamous heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten? Or perhaps Nefertari? The Great Wife of Ramses the Great? The vampires of this world sure are humble.
Neferet greets Zoey as ‘Zoey Redbird’ and Zoey points out her last name is Montgomery. But this name is too normal for our Sue. Neferet basically tells her that this is the chance for her to make a new start and make choices she couldn’t before. Which basically means this is a time to choose her name. This also means that she’s legally an adult apparently, but that’s a can of worms I’m going to bring up later.
Now, I’ve seen this idea worked with before in the Skullduggery Pleasant books. When someone started working with magic, they got the chance to make up the name that they’d be known as by the magical community. And the book went into the problems that came from teenagers change their names. Because teenagers choose names that sound cool at the time, and then they need to live with the cringe. This book has plenty of names that their owners will…regret. Zoey, for once, shows some moderate intelligence and just goes by Zoey Redbird.
Zoey gets a melodramatic welcome to her new life, and she tries to shake hands, but Neferet grabs her arm instead, which is “weird but somehow felt right” (47).
Ten bucks says that this is how Amazons greeted one another or something in this world, and Zoey’s just magically in tune with it.
And then we get this paragraph:
“Her touch was warm and firm. Her smile blazed with welcome. She was amazing and awe inspiring. Actually, she was what all vampyres are, more than human—stronger, smarter, more talented” (47). (There’s more but I’ll get to it later.)
First, we get it Zoey. You want to marry Neferet. Second, Note the final sentence. I’ll write it out for you again.
“Actually, she was what all vampyres are, more than human—stronger, smarter, more talented” (47).
Right here is the core problem with this series. It’s not Zoey, though she’s pretty close. It’s not the other obnoxious, insensitive, and otherwise awful things that happen. Right here is the core problem: the Casts have admitted to us that they think that their vampires are better than humanity. Therefore, everything that they do should be seen as superior as well. So, there is no way that we can see anything wrong with the vampires as their own flaws. We’re supposed to see them as an ideal of how we should want to act. After all, they’re better than human. This is not just about a single Sue. This is about a Sue species, and the Casts, like Stephenie Meyer, can’t imagine why we would think that they were anything other than perfect.
And this honestly sets her vampires up for failure since now every flaw isn’t something that can be gotten over, it’s something that I’m supposed to like, and see as a good thing. The fact that the vampire society is actually in some ways more sexist than modern society is supposed to be seen as good. The utter indifference that the vampires have to the potential death of the children that they’re teaching is a good thing. The utter distain for humanity is something that I’m supposed to agree with.
This also is a plot hole. Again, are the vampires an oppressed minority facing unjust biotry or are they so much better than us that there’s nothing we can do about them so that the hatred against them is totally justified? For someone to be oppressed there as to be something that the oppressor has over them. Vampires not only have the desirable jobs, but honestly don’t seem to suffer much other than fear and a lack of understanding. They have magic powers, immortality and influence. People have every reason not to trust them, and if the vampires are smarter, better, and stronger than us, then humanity has a good reason to view them with nothing but suspicion. What’s to stop them from enslaving us as a sort of breeding population for new vampires?
Seriously, given this kind of power, what’s to stop them from using it?
Of course, the Cast Ladies either didn’t think about this or really don’t care.
So, let’s move on the rest of this paragraph, shall we?
“She looked like someone had turned on a blazing inner light within her, which I realize is definitely an ironic description considering the vampyre stereotypes (some of which I already knew were totally true): they avoid sunlight, they’re most powerful at night, they need to drink blood to survive (eesh!), and they worship a goddess who is known as Night personified. (47)
One of these things is not like the others.
So, this is clever. They’re very carefully setting their own little idea of goddess worshiping as part of what makes a vampire a vampire. You notice that it’s in the end of the sentence as well, so it’s sort of being slipped in at the end along with the actual ‘stereotypes’. However, I would say, as a writer, it is dangerous to make religion so important to a species. Are there vampires who are atheist? Who retain their old religion? Why not? Is the religion enforced? Do any vampires who disagree conveniently die?
Since Zoey’s experience seeing Nyx is treated as if it is rare, then the Casts can’t even claim that people convert due to the personal experience.
Now, there are four potential ways to handle this question. The first is that Nyx chooses people who are likely to believe in her to be vampires. The second is that the vampire transformation also involves brainwashing. The third is that there are several underground religions being practiced and people staring emptily into space during services, but the Nyxian religion tends to suppress and oppress anyone who doesn’t believe like they do. The fourth, as I’ve mentioned before is that anyone who doesn’t think that Nyx is the One True Goddess dies.
Zoey finally comes to herself and says it’s nice to meet her, and then Neferet tells Zoey that she’s special.
Or rather she says how she’s never seen a fledgling (as they call baby vampires who haven’t…I don’t know popped or something) come to them unconscious and with a completed mark. I’d buy the completed mark, but unconscious would probably be common, given that this is supposed to be a life or death situation, there are probably cases where the unfortunate kid is far away, and it takes a long time for the parents to get them there.
Neferet asks if Zoey remembers how she got there, and Zoey opens her mouth to say what happened and then
“I got a weird feeling, like someone had just hit me in the stomach. It was clear (there should be a semicolon here) and it was specific,(that comma should be a semicolon too) and it was telling me to shut up” (48)
I hate Feelings.
This is probably one of the standard laziest conventions of writing. Don’t want the main character to divulge information that you don’t want them to but is totally within their character do to so? Have a character thought to be dead, but you want the main character to believe they’re alive for no reason? Want to have the main character trust someone despite their being shady? Just give them Feelings!
The reason that I hate ‘gut feelings’ or whatever isn’t that they’re not real. If you follow things like ‘Let’s Not Meet’ you’ll read about a lot of times where that sinking feeling either saves someone’s life, or is the precursor to a very bad time for the writer. The problem with it in literature, is that it gives the writer an excuse to have the main character peek at the plot’s outline. They just ‘know’ that a certain character can or can’t be trusted, or they can sense that a character isn’t dead and so on. It’s a way to protect the character from bad choices, make them make the right choice, or show how right they are when the writer can’t think of anything that might work.
Because Zoey, normally, would tell Neferet, and then Neferet, being evil, would have done something. This is bad and the Casts can’t have that happen, but the Casts can’t give Zoey any real reason not to.
They’re apparently too lazy to even have Nyx go ‘btw don’t tell anyone ‘bout this for a while, k?’
Now I know that it’s supposed to be a hint that Nyx is working with Zoey, but that’s just as dumb.
Also, I wonder if Neferet is the villain. Uh-oh, I’d better not give away the ‘plot twist’. Seriously, Casts, if you’re going to give me a shocker villain, try not to have the ‘bad feeling’ the moment you meet her.
Anyways, Zoey lies and says that she can’t remember, and:
“I wanted to look away from the sharpness of her green-eyed gaze, but the same feeling that was ordering me to be quiet was also clearly telling me that I had to keep eye contact with her, that I had to try really hard to look like I wasn’t hiding anything, even though I didn’t have a clue why I was hiding anything” (48).
This is just pathetic.
As a word of advice to writers. You don’t need to do this. You don’t need to sit there and bash readers over the head with what is happening. Most readers aren’t stupid. They really did catch the what was happening the first time.
Also, again, twist villains are twist villains because they don’t give any indication, outside of very subtle ones that you’ll only catch on a re-read that they’re twist villains.
What’s dumber is that Neferet has no reason to think that Zoey’s lying. She’s been all but drooling over Neferet from the beginning. This is silly.
Anyways, Granny mentions that memory loss is a sign of head trauma (obviously, though if that’s the cause Zoey should be seeing a doctor, not that these guys believe in those) and Neferet agrees really fast and her face stops being sharp. And she assures granny that everything’s going to be fine, calling her ‘Silvia Redbird’.
Zoey relaxes at this point because clearly anyone who likes Granny is a good person.
It said so in the text.
Morality is now defined by whether or not you like a random old woman who might or might not be a horrible person. Oh. Right. I guess I’m evil now according to this book.
Whelp, I’m a Catholic, so I guess that’s a given.
Neferet asks if Zoey wants to see her new roommate, and Zoey, still feeling misgiving, agrees.
“‘Excellent!’ Neferet said. Thankfully she ignored the fact that I was standing there like a smiling stupid garden gnome” (49).
…I…have surprisingly little to say to that. I just…sort of wanted you to read it. And be as vaguely confused as me.
Granny is a little nervous about this and asks if Zoey shouldn’t be in observation for another night. Given that she’s just said she’s had a concussion and is experiencing memory loss, this is something that should be done. Neferet, being a jerk, dismisses any natural concern and says Zoey’s naturally healing. Because vampires are awesome.
So, Neferet smiles at Zoey and Zoey smiles back even though she’s uncomfortable.
“It seemed like she was genuinely happy that I was there. And, truthfully, she made me think turning into a vampyre might not be so bad” (49).
So, this is the Casts trying very, very hard to make it sound like everything’s fine and this was a false alarm so that they can later claim that Neferet was a shocking plot twist. The problem is that all that this really does is make Zoey sound stupid. There’s no reason for her to trust this woman, she’s been taught all her life that vampires are dangerous. Why does she allow herself to go along with this and trust her other than being stupid?
However, Zoey just assures Granny that everything’s fine, and realizes that, honestly she does feel better.
It took her that long to realize it.
Neferet, for her part, also assures Granny, giving her “solemn oath” (49) that Zoey is safe and gives the information that fledglings are paired with a mentor who is an adult and promises to be Zoey’s mentor.
I wonder if this is part of her plans.
Also, while she acts like this is a good thing, she doesn’t explain what this means. What does a mentor do? Are they supposed to be emotional support? Teach them ethical means of getting blood? Act as a sponsor into vampire communion like in the Catholic Church? What?
But Neferet does a salute with her fist over her heart and bowing. Now, I’ve researched this, but apparently, this doesn’t actually come from anything. I’ve seen it in fiction, as something amazons did, as something Martians did, as something Trojans did. I’m going to bet this is something that the Casts read it in something that Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote and decided that it sounded cool. Granny does the same thing and then hugs Zoey and tells her to call and leaves.
So, I’m going to remind everyone that Granny essentially kidnapped Zoey and took her here without her parents’ permission, and apparently the laws so favor the vampires that there’s nothing that they can do about this. Zoey is now completely cut off from the outside world with only people who believe in the same thing for company.
And this is a good thing.
Neferet asks Zoey if she’s ready for her new life.
I would pay, right now, to see an angry main character. Someone who was taken from a family she was happy with, saddled with a destiny she didn’t want, and angry that everyone seems to think that this is a ‘new life’ and she’s been ‘chosen by the Goddess’. I’d pay to see resentment, fear, but all we get is…this.
“I looked up at her and thought again how amazing she was. If I actually Changed into a vampyre, would I get her confidence and power, or was that just something only a High Priestess got? For an instant it flashed in my mind how awesome it would be to be a High Priestess” (50).
Did you feel that hammer pound your head? That’s called foreshadowing. Usually it’s not so blunt, but the Casts have no idea how to use it.
Now, there are several things wrong with even these few sentences. The first is the simple fact that only a few minutes ago, Zoey was scared of this character. Now, we’re expected to like her again. The second, obviously, is the High Priestess garbage.
Casts, you don’t need to tell us how the story will end on the fifth chapter of the first book. It’s really kind of sad, and a little insulting to your readers. They don’t need this level of spoon feeding. What’s more, even though Zoey claims that sanity returns and she’s just a confused kid, she’s already come off as more than a tad arrogant. Finally, this whole thing comes out of nowhere and doesn’t help to make Zoey’s final claims of being nervous sound true.
If she’s fantasizing about being the High Priestess, she’s not that nervous.
But she claims, when she says that she is that she’s glad that she sounds more confident than she feels.
And that’s the end of the chapter.
This was a necessary chapter, given that it introduced the villain Neferet, but the foreshadowing was far too ham handed, the writing is still painful, and Zoey flips around from being scared to impressed to forgetting that she was scared. I wish I could claim that this was Neferet’s powers or something, but it’s not. Zoey’s just dumb.
Anyways, next chapter we get sexual assault! But that’s fine before it’s girl on boy, and we’re fighting the Patriarchy™!
Wish me luck.