Last chapter, people talked, we met Neferet, our
villain Dumbledore expy villain, and there was some talking about how special Zoey was. Also, her name is now Zoey Redbird, because that’s way cooler because it’s more Native American and therefore more…special.
This is the sexual assault chapter.
I hate this book.
In recent news there is now a sequel series to the House of Night.
Because the world needed more misery apparently. I haven’t touched it yet, but I suppose when I manage to snail my way through this, I’ll try it. Because I needed more poorly researched crap in my life.
Chapter seven begins as one would expect: conversation.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Conversation is a great way to give characterization and sometimes world building and exposition to a book, but in this case, it just feels dragged out. We had a whole chapter that was nothing but exposition last time, it’s time for something to happen. What is more, I honestly don’t like the characters, I don’t care about their characterization.
Zoey asks what time it is, and we’re treated to a description of the place. It’s stone, vaguely gothic, and doesn’t have windows. Rather like a castle. Zoey, in a rare moment of humanity, is sort of nervously, sort of hopefully looking around for other students since it would feel more real to her if she could see them.
Neferet tells us that it’s four in the morning and classes have been out for an hour, and then gives us the schedule, which is…weird. Just…it doesn’t seem like something that anyone would respond with. If you want to be Harry Potter and give class times, why not just have Zoey have a paper that has the times? It’s not that hard, and the fact that things start at night really isn’t that shocking.
Neferet mentions that “Nyx’s Temple is, of course, open at all hours, but formal rituals are held twice a week right after school.” (51)
Now, I have a world building question here: what if a vampire doesn’t want to attend? In most religious schools, there is a comprehension that not everyone is there because they want a religious education, and as such, church attendance isn’t usually mandatory. The only ones where it is have it very clearly printed out and stated what kind of school that people are dealing with and people have a choice to attend the school or not, but Zoey and other vampires aren’t given that choice. Is that the same with Nyx worship? Taking out Christians, since I think the Casts have a personal vendetta against them, if I was a Muslim, would I be expected to attend? What if I was an atheist or Buddhist?
Again, this could easily be dealt with. Make it clear that the vampires are, at some level, people who chose to be there, or at least were open to Nyx, and thus while there were no obligations to come, would naturally be inclined to eventually convert.
However, this is never mentioned, and I’m pretty sure that the Casts can’t really conceive of anyone not being impressed by their religion or not converting the moment that it’s introduced to them.
No, it’s more important to learn that the House of Night is cat friendly.
Ok, before I get into this, disclaimer: I love cats. My sixteen-year-old cat’s death last year was absolutely devastating to me. I’m sort of in the mindset that (baring allergies) a home is not a home without a cat in it.
That being said, nine times out of ten, a cat in fiction is terribly handled. And halting the narrative so that you can talk about how awesome cats are is one of those times.
As Zoey is talking to Neferet, a big orange cat comes out of nowhere and launches itself at Neferet. Neferet introduces that cat as Skylar, and when Zoey reaches out to touch him, she cautions that the cat bites.
Naturally though, he just lurves Zoey.
“Neferet titled her head to the side, as if she was listening to words in the wind. [this needs to be a new paragraph. Seriously, was the editor drunk or something?] ‘He likes you, which is definitely unusual. He does like anyone except me. He even keeps other cats away from this end of the campus. He’s really a terrible bully.’” (52)
Wow, that was awkward.
This cat that just had a paragraph of introduction is never much going to be mentioned again, just so you know.
This is the problem with animals in a story about ninety percent of the time. Unless it’s one of those cat mysteries where the animal plays a significant role in the story, details like this are sort of a benign tumor. They play no actual role in the story, don’t really advance the plot, and could easily be summed of in much less or cut out entirely without changing the story in any way. What’s more, is that eventually, if too much attention is paid to it, it can become a major problem. It’s a pointless self-indulgence on the part of the author and can lead to more self-indulgence.
Now, can it be done in fantasy? Sure! Look at Crookshanks in Harry Potter. The cat was important to the third book, and showed up, caused problems, and was honestly interesting. However, you’ll notice that in later books, as Crookshanks wasn’t necessary, he mostly vanished. That was fine. He’d served a purpose, and then mostly faded out other than the occasional mention that is usually given to a friend’s pet. He wasn’t a plot tumor because he wasn’t present unless he was there for a reason: either to advance the plot or show characterization.
The Casts don’t seem to understand this.
And the Casts aren’t done. We need to get a long scene about this.
Zoey mentions that she likes cats, and she used to have one, but she had to give it to Street Cats (which the Casts assure me is a real place) because when Mommy remarried, John didn’t like cats.
Which is the first actual awful thing that we’ve heard about John that doesn’t sound cartoony, and he doesn’t even feature in the story anymore. If Zoey had mentioned this right out, it would have made her hatred of him made more sense. As it is, it’s not in Zoey’s character to underplay drama, so the fact that this just comes into mention sounds…like the Casts realized part way through revision that John didn’t sound evil enough.
Now, rather than expressing sympathy or anything over the fact that a child gave up a beloved pet because someone forced her out of some…weirdly culty fear of cats, states
“I’ve found that the way a person feels about cats—and the way that they feel about them in return—is an excellent gauge by which to measure a person’s character.” (52)
I’m sure Lenin would feel gratified that you think he’s a good guy. As would the millions who died in Soviet Russia under the machine that he instituted.
But again, this is a weird writing choice. It just feels like the Casts wanted to preach about the inherent sensitivities of cats rather than bothering to advance characterization or the plot. I mean, how hard would a ‘that’s horrible, I’m so sorry’ be?
Zoey asks if cats are common, but already knows the answer that cats and vampires are closely associated in this universe from school.
“we learned that in the past cats had been slaughtered because it was thought that they somehow turned people into vampyres. Yeah, okay, talk about ridiculous. More evidence of the stupidity of humans… the thought popped into my mind, shocking me by how easily I’d already started thinking of “normal” people as “humans” and therefore something different than me.” (53)
Ok, so there are two things that I want to talk about. First and most importantly, note that the Casts very much point out that Zoey now thinks that humans are stupid, and easily separated herself from them as their better, and do nothing to show that this is wrong. She’s going to go and start asking about cats in the next part. This is intentional. To the Casts, their vampires are, as they said “better, smarter, and more talented” than the measly humans that they came from. This shouldn’t be punished in their mind. This is right and just.
We’ve supposed to be agreeing. Humans are stupid, bigoted and we need the super enlightened vampires to save us from ourselves. Clearly you see how enlightened they are as they talk down to you and call you names.
Next of all, why is this stupid? We’ve got magic in this world. We’ve also got evidence that there is a connection between cats and vampires and the vampires clearly see themselves as humanity’s superiors. We have no clear indication that the knowledge of how vampires turned was common some years ago. For all we know, they thought cats were the cause. It’s dumb, but there are legends that drinking out a pool that a wolf drank from would turn you into a werewolf. Folklore has a lot of dumb stuff. And we have every reason that humans would attempt to stop the transformation from ever occurring as their daughters and sons were turned into, what to them, would be bloodsucking monsters that suddenly thought that humanity was stupid.
I’m hardly supporting cruelty to animals, but the Casts need to explain themselves far better.
What’s worse is that they’re using an actual historic event, or rather a series of them for a backdrop. In the 15th century, the big witch craze took over Europe, which lead to a lot of men and mostly women being hung (burning was usually reserved for heretics) and the torture and killing of cats.
Particularly in what was the Holy Roman Empire.
Even now, Kattenstoet (the Festival of Cats) continues to be celebrated on May 2 in Belgium, which involves a lot of stuffed cats being thrown from belfries and set on fire (they didn’t used to be stuffed). Later, it started to become a bloodsport for the rich and the bored in Europe. It eventually ended as the craze died down, and bloodsports stopped being so popular.
Cats have not always had a good time with us. And honestly, it feels like there is a bit of a downplaying of the real abuse animals as well as completely ignoring the human suffering that it was tied to.
Ignoring the fact that Zoey now sees herself as superior to the species she was a member of the day before, asks about getting a cat.
“If one chooses you, you will belong to him or her” (53).
I always hated that stupid ‘hehe my pet owns me’ crap. Having had cats and having had to call the shot when they were put down, there is nothing more self-deceiving than to pretend that because a cat doesn’t hang on us like a dog, we aren’t the ones who can legally kill them, abandon them, decide whether or not they’ll have children, or whether or not they’ll live outside.
This isn’t to say that a cat doesn’t sometimes seem to show some interest in a particular human, but yes, that ownership thing is a pet peeve.
This book tends to touch on most of mine.
But this moves into the conversation that is actually plot related. High Priestesses have magical powers that other vampires don’t. Neferet does some dancing around this because, like Marion Zimmer Bradley, we can’t have magic in a story about vampires, but that’s what it is. Usually it’s something like predicting the future, reading minds, controlling one of the four elements, or animals.
Neferet is special. She’s got two. And their both rare and special too. She can heal and communicate with cats.
I’m sure you’re deeply impressed.
Now, this should bring a new conversation. How many High Priestesses are there? Is there one ‘big’ High Priestess that the others report to? What’s the difference between a Priestess and a High Priestess? Who rules the vampires? Are there vampire presidents? Queens? Is this an oligarchy? I’m getting the feeling that it’s a theocracy, but there’s no confirmation either way.
I have no idea, and I’m not going to be told. Because the Casts don’t seem to really care about this element of the world building. Vampires exist, they’re Better Than Me, they worship a kind of stupid goddess that I’m supposed to be impressed by, and they have cats. That’s really all I know.
In many ways, this is very similar to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. We’re supposed to have all this world building, but in reality, we really don’t know anything about the world that we’re in. At least nothing other than the fact that I’m supposed to see it as better than the human world.
Neferet says that it’s time to get to her room and that dinner will start in about an hour, since vampires always know what time it is.
Actually, I don’t mind this little detail. It makes sense from a survival perspective. If the sun is deadly, than it would mean that you’d need to know when the sun was going to come up so that you could avoid it. So, yeah, that’s clever. Congrats, Casts, you had a good idea to add to the vampire lore.
But we obviously need to go right back to dumb, because Zoey’s suddenly surprised that classes start at eight at night. Because we apparently need more exposition. Mostly because Neferet needs to explain “vampyres, adult or fledging, don’t explode.”
So, as a question, Casts, where did this myth come from? Vampires exploding in the sun isn’t actually folklore. It’s just the way that people in movies had to find a weakness, rather like silver bullets in werewolves (though there is one single story that gives that story some folkloric background.) Vampires were supposed to be out at night in folklore for the simple reason that people don’t like the vulnerability that we feel at night. We can’t see, and we usually are at our most vulnerable at night. This makes a degree of sense. However, you’ve made it clear that vampires exist, have always existed, and everyone seems to have always known about them. So, where is the myth come from? We don’t make stuff up for no reason.
Humans are sense makers. We only maintain belief in something if we see it working. For instance, given that we’re taking the religious angle in this, religion survives because believers have anecdotal evidence, either personal or not, of it being effective. The only way that we’d have carried on the belief that vampires exploded in the sun would be if there was some evidence of this happening.
Humans are not stupid. We abandon things that fail. It’s just our nature.
Another issue is how dumb that the Casts seem to think that the readers are that the fact that vampires can’t have classes in the day needs to be spelled out to them.
Then again, if Zoey’s any indication, they really think teenagers are dumb.
Zoey makes a joke about Maui Jim sunglasses, decides to explain to Neferet what those are, which Neferet patiently says she knows what they are and Zoey feels dumb, stumbles all over herself in a way that I’m supposed to find funny and has a bit where she considers if ‘God’ and ‘hell’ are appropriate cussing since the People of Faith said that vampires were all going to hell.
You know, this could work, if we had any evidence in the way of Zoey feeling anything towards her family’s faith that wasn’t blatant disdain. Why would she think that the vampires care about what the People of Faith think? How powerful are they in this world?
Sadly, my questions won’t be answered.
Annnd then it’s mood whiplash time.
“Neferet stopped. She put her hands on my shoulders and turned me so that I had to face her.
‘Zoey, quit apologizing. And remember, everyone here has been where you are. This was new to all of us once. We know what it feels like—the fear of the Change—the shock at your life being turned into something foreign.’
‘And not being able to control any of it,’ I added quietly.
‘That, [this comma is unnecessary] too. It won’t always be this bad. When you’re a mature vampire [there needs to be a comma here] your life will seem your own again. You’ll make your own choices; go your own way; follow the path down which your heart and soul and talents lead you’ (55).
There is so much wrong in this whole segment.
First of all, this would be nice sentiment if Zoey had, at any time, expressed fear or dismay or apprehension on anything prior to this. She hasn’t, and the author’s can’t even pretend that she’s hiding it. This is first person. We have a literal window into Zoey’s thoughts and reactions. So far, she’s more excited by the prospect of being a vampire than scared. This is coming out of nowhere.
Next, the Casts just brought up the issue of the loss of control, but stating that if you survive being a vampire, you can do what you want, but that is, of course, so long as you followed the prescribed belief system. Not only that, but the major damage to friendships and familial relationships has been done.
Zoey, for once, points out that it is not ‘when’ it’s ‘if’ she matures. This is the first time that this was really brought up from Zoey’s perspective, and it’s a good fear, and could potentially help to humanize Zoey a little bit.
Of course the Casts aren’t going to let that happen.
Neferet assures Zoey that she’s not going to have to worry about dying because
“Nyx has chosen you. For what, we do not know. But her Mark has been clearly placed upon you. She would not have touched you only to see you fail” (55).
So that talking on page two about how “Night has chosen thee” (2) to the other fledgings didn’t mean anything but this does because the Mark is different. The whole worldbuilding here really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Are some people more chosen than others or something? Or is this a ‘many are called but few are chosen’? Because as a statement, this doesn’t make Nyx look very good.
There’s another problem with this on a writing level. While we as readers are usually sure that our main character isn’t going to die (though that faith is sometimes misplaced) the possibility of death is a strong motivating factor and a strong factor of interest in a plot. The Hunger Games would have been really really boring if there had been no possibility that Katniss could end up either dead or maimed. Same with Harry Potter.
Readers like that possibility of death, even if it’s just in the character’s mind.
By assuring Zoey, and thus the readers, that we don’t need to worry our pretty little heads about the thing that other people are scared of, the story has actually lost something.
Zoey thinks back on Nyx’s words, and how Nyx rather bluntly told Zoey what she wanted, and wonders why she has this gut feeling not to tell Neferet.
Stop lampshading how stupid this is, Zoey. It doesn’t make it look any better.
She lamely states that stuff happened, but before the conversation can continue, Neferet’s cellphone rings, and she excuses herself from the story for a bit while she checks on someone who broke her leg. This is supposed to make us think Neferet is a good person. The problem is that the Casts have been shoving foreshadowing in my face so a potentially clever set up for a surprise villain is pretty much completely ruined unless you take Zoey at her literal word constantly.
So, Zoey toddles off on her own, following Neferet’s directions and complains about being left on her own to deal with the vampire kids despite having wanted to see them before and notes that, in reality, this whole place is honestly pretty creepy once she’s alone. There’s a decent scene with Zoey wandering around, and feeling isolated and increasingly creeped out by the architecture that doesn’t do much to make the place seem more welcoming, but really does help with atmosphere. Even if it’s the wrong atmosphere.
Then she hears a laugh softly in the distance and a soft voice whispering her name. Now, Zoey shows about as much survival instinct as a lemming in a Disney film and moves towards the voice under the impression that this is Nyx calling out to her.
So Zoey turns a corner and walks straight into one of the most infamous scenes of the first book.
Nyx, if she did in fact call Zoey over, either wanted Zoey prove that she had some value (which she failed at) or is…kind of creepy.
Zoey sees two people one, who is a teenage guy “standing with his back pressed against the stone of the alcove” (57) in a position that I’m probably supposed to see as sexy, but in context I just see as defensive. The other is a girl who is “on her knees in front of him. All I could see of her was her blond hair. There was so much of it that it looked like she was wearing it as some kind of ancient veil” (57).
The Casts are making a sexual assault scene look sexy. Both characters are being lovingly described as good looking, the girl is almost shown in a religious light.
The next scene…I need to show it to you. In all of it’s glory. So we can all feel unclean together.
My eyes got huge because of a second I thought he was talking to me.
“You don’t want me to.”
I felt almost dizzy with relief when she spoke. He was talking to her, not me. They didn’t even know I was there.
“Yes, I do.” It sounded like he was grinding the words from between his teeth. “Get off your knees.”
“You like it—You know you like it. Just like you know you still want me” (58).
This is rape.
I’m going to be blunt: this is rape.
The guy clearly doesn’t want it, is repeatedly saying that he doesn’t want it, and the girl is essentially going to force herself on him after backing him into a corner. If this was the opposite, this scene would have been infamous and the character utterly irredeemable.
However, the Casts are showing their double standards in their full glory in this scene. The fact that this is a rape doesn’t even seem to register to them. Because, clearly in their view of things, rape is only something that men can do to women. What’s worse is that they’re trying to imply, through the talking through his teeth, that he really does want it. He’s just resisting.
Cast Ladies, may your literary existence be ranked lower than the Eye of Argon. May it be forgotten, hated, and your names sink into the oblivion for all authors who make the ‘men always want sex’ argument to justify the terrible things that they write.
And they’re just going to continue on blandly through this little horror show.
Zoey can only think of leaving the awkward situation rather than doing something about the rape going on in front of her, but she also decides to complain about things that are utterly beside the point in this narration.
“Her voice was all husky and trying to be sexy, but I could also hear the whine in it. She sounded almost desperate” (58).
So, you see, what she’s doing wrong is be whiny and desperate, not, you know, clearly ignoring the repeated statement that he doesn’t want sex. Clearly that doesn’t matter does it?
So, the girl runs her finger down his thigh, clearly on her way to his jeans zipper but because she’s apparently related to Lady Deathstrike, manages to slash through his jeans and draw blood. Zoey starts focusing on that, and the guy yells ‘No’ again and tries to shove her away without hurting her too bad.
She tells him to quit pretending and how they’re going to always be together, and Zoey mentions that she has a ‘mean, sarcastic’ laugh.
Rape tends to be mean. BECAUSE IT IS A COMPLETE AND TOTAL VIOLATION OF ANOTHER PERSON, BETRAYING THEIR TRUST, AND TAKING AN ACTION THAT SHOULD BE A SIGN OF LOVE, INTIMACY AND EVEN JOY AND PLEASURE AND TURNING IT INTO A WAY TO ASSERT POWER.
May every book every published in this series be eaten by silverfish and may the manuscripts spontaneously combust.
The girl licks some of the blood, and Zoey’s mouth waters.
Now, this scene could work. If the utter horror of the scene were played up in addition to Zoey’s sudden horror hunger. And she standing there torn between running, screaming for help, getting involved, and wanting to eat them. Zoey’s inaction would make tremendous sense in this context, and honestly, it could even work. However, because the Casts honestly don’t see what they’ve written as the vile piece of crap that it is, they can’t.
“Cut it out!” He was still pushing on her shoulders. “I don’t want to hurt you, but you’re really starting to piss me off. Why can’t you understand. We’re not doing this anymore. I don’t want you” (58).
So, he’s said no about five times as well as physically holding her back. This is why I am calling this essentially attempted rape. This girl is ignoring everything that he says and is going to force the issue.
The girl again says that it’s not true, but then the guy sees our heroine in an incredibly inappropriate moment that is either love at first sight, mindless bloodlust, or a mix of both.
Everything just seems to disappear other than her, him, and his blood. Again, I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a sign of their ‘connection’ which will be disregarded soon enough when he gets angry with her for cheating on him which makes him a bad person, or bloodlust.
The girl again decides that it’s rape-o-clock, and gets literally shoved back by the guy with a cry of ‘no’ as he tries to make his way towards Zoey.
Probably looking for help because he’s in a hellish situation, but Zoey backs up, ignores his cry of ‘no’ again, and takes off down the hall, leaving him to his fate.
We are not told the fate of the guy. He’s a main character, sort of, but we’re not told what happened after Zoey ran off.
Oh sweet mother of Cthulhu that was one of the worst things that I’ve ever read.
And Zoey will never feel particularly bad about leaving him to this. No, she’s more worried about what might happen if they chased her down. And how “grossed out” (59) she feels by witnessing what she describes as oral sex, and makes everything all about how good she is.
Here you go.
“Yes, I was aware of the whole oral sex thing. I doubt if there’s a teenager alive in America today who isn’t aware that most of the adult public think we’re giving guys blow jobs [I’m not sure why the space is there, but it’s not my book] like they used to give guys gum (or more appropriately suckers). Okay, that’s just bullshit, and it’s always made me mad. Of course there are girls who think it’s ‘cool’ to give guys head. Uh, they’re wrong. Those of us with functioning brains know that it’s it not cool to be used like that” (59).
She goes on like that for two more paragraphs.
Also, notice she’s talking about girls being used when she literally walked in on a girl forcing herself and trying to use a guy. Because to the Casts, that didn’t count. That was just sex. Nothing more. In otherwords, the Casts have just stated that assault is a one way street, and consent only matters when it’s the girl giving it.
The fact that the guy didn’t want it, fought off the girl, and was being forced doesn’t matter. It’s not even worth a causal remark for Zoey. The girl is bad, not because what she was doing is wrong, but rather because she’s being desperate and sleazy.
And this is supposed to something that we agree with and support.
Ok. Ok. I’m done.
I still wanna reach through this book and slap both of the Casts, but I’ll focus on what happens next. Just so that I can done with this chapter and this walking hemorrhoid of a character.
After talking more about oral sex and how she’s a good girl, Zoey starts talking about the fact that she was essentially wanting to eat him.
Zoey is honestly more worried about the fact that she was craving his blood than anything else. Which was already explored with Heath, but is being treated as new and exciting. This is a clear connection of vampirism to sex and attraction. Speaking folkloricly, this is pretty modern. Vampires were originally considered to be an allegory for sickness and contagion. Hence, the idea of their spreading vampirism through the bite, slowly draining health and life, as well as many of the things that could ward them off, like garlic, actually being really really healthy. I’m bringing this up because the Casts like to talk about how they’re focusing on the older renditions of myths.
Also, I want to focus on something else, and this is as good as anything.
As Zoey is moving on from this topic completely, wondering only what that ‘weird look’ that they shared was as she moves on. Because he was trying to get you to do something, Zoey.
Neferet appears again and asks if Zoey is alright. Zoey decides that she can’t tell Neferet what she just saw for…reasons…and claims that she has a headache. Neferet does some magic and the headache just magically goes away. Neferet remarks that she doesn’t know why Zoey’s headache reappeared so quickly, but also seems to be aware that Zoey is hiding something from her, since she asks if anything else happened.
This is actually a misstep on the part of the Casts. Neferet is supposed to come across as a shock villain, despite the rather clumsy foreshadowing. She should, at least at the start, seem nice and kind and very supportive. But at the same time, she can’t be dumb enough to allow students to lie to her about anything. Having her dismiss Zoey’s behavior as her being slightly dazed from the Change is fine. Having her ask questions and Zoey lying to her along with a hint that Neferet is aware that there is something wrong, and that Zoey is lying doesn’t work for a villain.
But Neferet seems to swallow the lie, and leads Zoey off to her new life.
So, this is the end of part 1. The Casts have given a stupid page break, and this chapter is honestly too large for me to get through in one sitting. So far, this chapter has been mostly mind numbingly dull, swerved into a scene out of hell, and then decided to go back to being boring again.
I’ll have the next chapter up pretty soon. I’m working this year on more reviews, more essays and just generally more. Tune in for more of Zoey being terrible, unfortunate implications, and lots and lots of plot holes.
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