When sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird is chosen as special by Nyx the goddess of night and marked by the Vampire Tracker her mundane existence as she knew it is over. Leaving behind her home in Broken Arrow Tulsa and not to mention her friends and family she must enter the House of Night – a private boarding school for vampyres. Well, vampire is too strong a word. After all Zoey isn’t a vampyre. Yet. She is a vampyre fledging, one who must undergo the change and the House of Night is the only place for vamps to get educated as they do. Except there’s always a catch and Zoey only has two possible futures; either she completes the physical change into a full-fledged vampyre or she dies. But that’s not the only problem Zoey and her friends face as they navigate their new world. In the modern world light and darkness are struggling to find a balance and as an ancient evil is awakened Zoey will need to channel all her goddess given gifts to begin the fight against darkness.
I think my snot-cry could actually put our Z’s to shame – I can’t believe I’ve finally completed this series! WHOO HOO!
It was eighth grade (back in good ol’ 2010) when I picked up my first dogeared copy of ‘Marked’ and from the very first sentence I was hooked. Not only did I fall in love with the snarky, realistic inner babble of the protagonist but I loved how P.C. and Kristin weaved different mythologies into their own vampyre lore. I also fell in love with how this series brought it fans together. In the post-twilight-world teenage girls everywhere were flocking to my high school’s media center to sink their teeth into the next paranormal read and ‘House of Night’ more than fit the bill. Not only did ‘HoN’ give us that dose of sexy vampyres but also another magical school we could all wish we actually attended. It was the perfect mix of ‘Twilight’ meets ‘Harry Potter’. A group of girls from mixed groups and I all decided to read the series together and every lunch and free period we were brought together regardless of our background as we piled into the media center’s couches and bean bags to binge read.
HoN is such an underrated series which needs more fans and recognition. Yes , it is a very long series – twelve books and four novellas to be exact – but it has always been my favorite guilty pleasure. The books aren’t overly long, averaging out at about three hundred or so words a novel but the pages honestly fly by and there is never a dull moment with chosen one Zoey Redbrid as our protagonist (not to mention some of the other characters like Aphrodite another favorite of mine). The Plot is super fun with the mystery/ intrigue not to mention the banter keeping the pages turning.
Zoey Redbird is our protagonist and she brings with her plenty of drama. She is not perfect but flawed (probably why she always questions why Nyx chose her to head the battle between good and evil). She makes mistakes, she can be a little vain and selfish but ultimately she has a good heart and tries to do the right and fair thing. Zoey also has a diverse heritage that P.C. and Kristin weave seamlessly into the story which plays a huge role in later books. Zoey is descendant of the Cherokee people and her grandma (man I seriously heart me some grandma redbird!) is very in-tune with their people’s spiritual rituals and practices which is so interesting to learn about. P.C. and Kristin often have their character’s smudging themselves and usual ancient cleansing rites to help them in their journey though the change and in the battle between light and dark.
Where there is Zoey Redbird there is also the “Nerd-Herd” or the “Herd of Nerd” as Aphrodite likes to refer to them as. Over the course of the series characters are killed off and others are newly marked and make an apparent so it’s really hard to go into too much detail without delving into spoiler territory so I’ll just start with the main five who are present in ‘Marked’. We have our precious bumpkin Stevie Rae from Henrietta Oklahoma who is Zoey’s BFF and roomie. We have the Twins Erin Bates (the self-proclaimed “pretty one”) and Shaunee Cole who are clearly not biological twins but are so close that its actually like they share a soul or brain. Then we have Damien Maslin the “token guy of the group” and very much gay but one of the most sincere characters of the series. Finally you have Aphrodite the very rich and very stuck-up leader of the Dark Daughters who you can’t help but love despite her attitude and snide comments. Together they make up Z’s inner circle though out the many trials faced during the span of the novels.
Apart from the fledglings at the House of Night you also have some seriously cool professors/teachers at the school who are interesting not just because of the subjects they teach but their back stories and sub-plots as well. I should also note that all fledglings are marked with the outline of a crescent moon on their foreheads and once changed will have their mark filled in and added too with beautiful sapphire patterns. You have Neferet the Tulsa House of Night’s High Priestess (basically your more attractive Dumbledore) who teaches Vamp Sociology 101. Her vampyre tattoos are described as exotic-looking swirls resembling ocean waves. Lenobia the House of Night’s horse mistress and general bad ass teaches Intro to Equestrian Studies. Lenobia is one of my favorite characters and not just because of her no-nonsense-attitude but also for her kindness. Her mark is also special and in-tune with her personality, an intricate weave of knots with plunging horses. Anastasia and Dragon Lankford a mated power couple are some of my other favorites. Anastasia is the beautiful Spells and Rituals professor with sapphire spirals and Dragon is the House of Night’s Sword Master with tattoos resembling a dragon. Prof Loren Blake (aka Mr Fine) is the youngest professor at the House of Night at only twenty five years and the youngest Vampyre Poet Laureate in history. He is often described as movie star handsome and has lightening bolt tattoos. Prof. Nolan with her beautiful tattoos framing her brow like a mask teaches drama while Prof. Penthesilea with Celtic knots teaches Lit.
One of the highlights of the series is that though it is ultimately a series based off of paranormal fantasy HoN is still very much grounded in reality. P.C. and Kristin Cast have used a biological hypothesis based on Junk DNA for the basis of their vampyre culture. Not only does this give HoN a realistic vibe but the writing style really captures the teenage voice. There are plenty of Pop Culture references that give the well-rounded characters a foot hold in our world. We see ourselves reflected back in then, we relate to them adding to the reading experience. Also adding on this point is the author’s deliberate move to set the story in the heart of Midtown Tulsa Oklahoma, their own home town. The characters, vampyre and human alike hang at popular haunts such as Starbucks, Utica Square, the Philbroke Museum, Street Cats and the art deco Train Depot which sparks tourism much like ‘Twilight’ did to Forks Washington before it. Even the House of Night is based off of Cascia Hall, a private prep school which uses the very same location and layout. As you progress though the book more famous locations are explored as the world expands including Italy/Venice and specifically San Clemente Island the site of the Vampyre High Council.
Anyway, I can’t say a whole lot more without completely spoiling the plots of the first four books but I can say that one thing I do love about this series besides it’s amazing cast of diverse characters is it’s scope. When you first pick up ‘Marked’ it is basically a coming-of-age story about a girl trying to find her place in a new world. There’s teen angst and plenty of boy and mean girl drama with (obviously) a good helping of the supernatural as well as fantastical elements of mythology and religion (aka the vamp’s heavily matriarchal society and their faith in their Godess of Night Nyx). However, as you continue reading ‘Betrayed’, ‘Chosen’ and ‘Untamed’ dark intentions are revealed and it becomes clear that not everything is always as it seems. Suddenly we are plunged into a world much darker than we originally anticipated. The typical teenage antics and issues are pushed to the back burner as the age long struggle of good Vs evil takes center stage. We have reoccurring themes such as moral dilemmas but also the exploration of humanity, religion, love, family and of course – good Vs evil evoked through the Bulls (Black and White who personify Light and Darkness).
Overall I really heart me some House of Night (as Stevie Rae would have put it!) and hope some of you will give it a chance. Despite my loving this series there are some negative criticism surrounding it but really what book doesn’t have mixed reviews. You either love it or hate it but it’s one guilty pleasure read that I promise will make you laugh out loud, swoon and snot-cry to the point of needing one of Heath’s Kleenex’s. HoN will always hold a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to see where P.C. and Kristin Cast take us in the HoN Otherworld series (released for the tenth anniversary of ‘Marked’ and set a year after the events of the final book in the original series ‘Redeemed’).