Finally, after months of inactivity, I have a chance to review some of the dozens of books I have read in the last few months. Anyway, since October I have been absolutely immersed in the various YA supernatural romances that are around. Some are good and some are embarrassing and some are simply not worth the paper they are printed on – or a hard drive space on my ebook. In particular I am enjoying the two series, House of Night and Vampire Academy. Although neither of them have the huge following of Ms Meyer, in many ways I think they are far better written with stronger female characters and more original plots.
I started reading the House of Night Series when it became the second favourite book with the ‘tween’ girls, but when asked about why they liked the book so much, giggles erupted. And when 13 year olds start giggling, there is probably something inside the books that they don’t want their teachers to read. That immediately raises the book to the top of the reading list.
Zoe Redbird is a young girl who appears to have a normal life. Her mother and step-father have ‘found religion’ so she is subjected to a lot more rules that make her comfortable, but then she is ‘marked’. A tattoo appears on her forehead that indicates that she has commenced the perfectly natural biological process of becoming a vampire. As a result she is required to attend a special school for young fledgling vampires. From there this book almost becomes a classic ‘boarding school’ novel with bitchy girls and BFFs, and the inevitable love interest. But the supernatural nature of the story makes it possible for the Casts to make the adolescent power struggle magical in nature. Zoe has been blessed by Nyx, the vampire’s Goddess, with special powers and as these are revealed the social structure at the school is overturned.
In many ways this book has much more in common with Harry Potter than Bella and Edward. The theme that solid friendships are the most important path through adolescents is common to both. The real source of strength, magical and personal, is in your relationships with others. Zoe’s grandmother provides the adult voice in her life, much like Dumbledore and Hagrid help Harry. But this is no children’s story.
In all of these vampire novels, it is very important that the author is able to create a believable world where good vampires can exist. The Casts do this by creating Nyx and the religion associated with them. In many ways this reflects a traditional pagan religion, linked into the religious practices of the North American Indians. By modeling an imaginary religion on a traditional belief system, it certainly added credibility to the whole idea.
And fear not – there is the traditional love triangle. Zoe’s one true love from her childhood years, Heath, does not want to lose her, even if he has to provide her with blood. And as always in these romantic fantasy novels there is the new love interest, in this case Eric an incredibly talented fledgling soon to ‘graduate’.
This is the first book in the series, and as such, it is inevitably a slow read in places. Characters must be introduced, the scene set and the whole culture revealed. Fantasy novels are like that. But the Casts manage to hold the reader’s interest through all this with just the right mix of romance, suspense and bitch busting.