October 7, 2009

Book Review: Marked

*Note:  This review may not be appropriate for all readers.

Marked:  A House of Night Novel

by P.C. & Kristen Cast

Important LinksAmazon, House of Night Series

Recommended Age: WARNING 18+ (due to language, sex, and drug/alcohol content)

After one hundred nine pages, I almost stopped reading. I literally debated for an entire 24 hours whether or not to send the book back…

I didn’t. I decided that not all reviews can glow.  So I read the entire book, and I’ll be honest and let you make a decision for yourselves.

This story portrays a world in which “vampyres” have always existed. Zoey Montgomery is being forced to live with a religious fanatic step-father whose aim is to control her mother so completely that Zoey isn’t allowed to exist in her Marked form, when she comes home with a blue crescent moon “tattoo” on her forehead, the sure mark of a fledgling “vampyre.” He’s an Elder for the People of Faith and would rather see her die slowly than to take her to the school that will save her life and prepare her for the Change into an adult “vampyre.”

Zoey flees to her grandmother’s house, has a religious experience with the Goddess of Night, Nyx, then wakes up at the House of Night where her teen adventures begin as Zoey Redbird, adopting her grandmother’s surname. Zoey faces a buxom blonde bully, shakes an obsessed old flame, starts anew with Erik (the hottest guy at school – which is mentioned several times), and becomes the leader she was meant to be in the group called the Dark Daughters and Sons.

With its spiritual roots right out of a handbook for new Wiccans, this book expresses contempt for “religion,” which seems to encompass any faith that includes the idea of God as a singular. Elements and cardinal directions are encouraged to join in their ritual circle, after each person has had a pentagram drawn on their forehead with oil, and exchanged the proclamation, “Blessed be.” Rituals are a regular part of their schedules. Freedom to choose your faith and beliefs seems to be lost to all who carry the genetic marker for “vampyrism.” They must all worship Nyx, without question. And nobody does question, which totally takes me out of the book’s reality. In the real world people get to choose.  It’s like they’ve all been fitted with mind control chips: I. Will. Worship. Nyx.

My biggest problem with the religious aspect is that it’s so exclusive. As soon as you exclude part of your audience, you risk losing an entire sector of potential readers. If it wasn’t so blatantly hateful toward what they call the “People of Faith,” then I might be able to scrounge an ounce of quality from the writing, which is not entirely ridiculous. If this book didn’t include the dialogue, the overdone teen themes, and could make me care an iota for any of the characters, then maybe I’d consider letting a friend read this. But unfortunately, I can’t.

The teen-speak is insulting to the intelligence of today’s teenagers and tedious to the adult audience it had potential to harvest some readers from, given the success of another famous vampire franchise with a wide range of age-appropriateness. Marked: A House of Night Novel just doesn’t have the sophistication or depth to share air with the big boys.

The swearing was gratuitous: f*** was used quite a few times, as well as sh**, dam*, b*tch, sl*t,and God’s name was taken in vain several times within the first page as well as being littered throughout, h*ll is Zoey’s “favorite word.” There’s more, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

Drugs and Alcohol. There’s talk of kids smoking p*t. The first conversation Zoey has with her first best friend of the book is about Zoey’s “almost ex-boyfriend” getting “drunk” the night before. (In the end, Zoey’s best friend was secretly seeing the drunk-guy and had been with him on the night in question.) Zoey gets rid of her entire life, family and friends with the exception of her too-understanding grandmother, and gets new friends and feels they’re her real family.

Sex. On Zoey’s first night of school, she witnesses a sex act in a hallway. Sex is referred to casually on several occasions. This book also contains scenes of “making out,” but not in the tender way Edward brushed his lips along Bella’s cheek, but in an animalistic bloodlust-induced frenzy.

The specific overall worldview of the author is clear, which doesn’t always bring an audience in, but that is merely the beginning of this book’s many unresolved issues. I guess the most disappointing part for me was the anticipation of receiving this book (which, btw, came highly recommended from a few Shelfari readers whom I must now hunt down), and the subsequent let-down after realizing I had not discovered some great new vampire series, just recycled bits of Harry Potter, Twilight, and Mean Girls all rolled into one