Thursday, December 30, 2010

Marked (House of Night #1) by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

Title: Marked
Author: P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
Series: House of Night #1
Published: May 1, 2007 by St. Martin's Griffin
(306 pages, paperback)
Summary: The House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird's world, vampyres have always existed.  In this first book in the series, Zoey enters the House of Night, a school where, after having undergone the Change, she will train to become an adult vampire--that is, if she makes it through the Change.  Not all of those who are chosen do.  It’s tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling.  She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx.  But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers.  When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny--with a little help from her new vampyre friend.
My thoughts: The one thing that I absolutely hated about this book: it was way too obvious (to me, at least) that the Casts had something against religious people. It kind of got to the point where I stopped reading for a couple of days because of Zoey's overzealous hatred for her stepfather's religious group and for basically any group that believed something she didn't believe. The one thing I absolutely loved about this book: the Cherokee heritage parts that the Casts added. I loved how the rituals were described and how connected Zoey was to her grandmother's roots. That being said, it actually took me a while to find something that I loved about this book. I try not to judge characters in novels too quickly, but honestly, Zoey was a bitch for a lot of the novel. It wasn't until the last fifth of the book I actually cared about her, and then it was mostly because if something bad happened to her, the story might get dull again. A lot of this novel was boring to me; I couldn't help but feel like I was reading about nothing in particular, and that nothing was happening. While I can totally enjoy a slow burn type of novel where nothing much happens (like Matched or An Abundance of Katherines, for instance) I needed characters to connect with, or really good writing, and both were lacking in Marked.
Zoey was mean, judgmental, prejudiced, and lacked maturity. Okay, she had reason to be judgmental of some people (as in, Aphrodite, who was even nastier than Zoey) but she was also way too assuming when it came to a lot. For instance, when she sees Aphrodite and Erik in an unfortunate position, she automatically assumes Erik is a player and Aphrodite is a slut. Wait, what? I kept re-reading paragraphs in disbelief because of Zoey's snap decisions and judging. Also, it majorly annoyed me how much she said how Stevie Rae (who I actually liked) was an Okie. One time was enough to get me a little annoyed (couldn't she just say she was from the South?) but by repeating it basically every time she was with Stevie Rae, it was just mean-sounding. Zoey, although portrayed as sweet and shy to her friends, is actually really nasty a lot of the time. I mean, geez, how many times can you say 'blow job' in five pages? And also, she was immature to an extreme level; for a girl who even has a favorite cuss word, it seemed a little weird that she said 'poopie' so much. I mean, if the Casts were going for a realistic teen narrative, how about not using five-year old words?
Okay, I know this is starting to sound like a rant. I'll try being more official in my distaste for Marked. As I mentioned before, it bugged me how obvious it was that the Casts used Marked as a way to make a political statement. I would understand if hating religion was a vital part of Zoey's personality, or if there was a great cause for her to hate them so much, but it really wasn't nessescary at all. What really upset me was how when Stevie Rae even mentions a totally different church than the one Zoey is accustomed to, she automatically blows it off with, "Oh, right, well, if they're religious they must be horrid people who judge everyone." As a reader, I like hearing the character's likes and dislikes, but hardened, unreasonable hatred? It was just a turn off.
A couple of nice things about Marked: the story, while extremely slow to start, was interesting in an off-hand kind of way. The whole "vampyre" thing made me snort and I still think it was a lame attempt to separate their novel from the hordes of other vampire books, but it was kind of interesting how the school, House of Night, worked. I didn't understand the "vampyre marking" thing (it wasn't explained thoroughly at all), but it was still engaging. That being said, a huge amount of the book was spent with basically nothing happening, and it wasn't until the last 50 pages I was interested enough to keep going without pause. Another thing I liked was the secondary characters. While ignoring Zoey's take on them, they seemed like nice (well, except Aphrodite), complex characters. Damien in particular sparked some interest, and I'd like to read more about his backstory. Stevie Rae and the Twins also seemed interesting and I found the Twins hilarious at points. 
Erik didn't really do it for me, because whatever it was between him and Zoey seemed out of nowhere, and totally rushed. Is there something I'm missing, something explained later on? If it is, than I'm interested; if not, it's kind of random how in love they suddenly were. Also, Erik seemed a little stalker-ish. How many times could he have taken a walk and accidently found Zoey on the way? Either way, I'd have liked to see more depth and less "Oh my God he's sooo hot!"
The parts of Marked I really liked was the magic parts and the parts about Zoey's heritage. I enjoyed the intricate details and the way everything was described. I'm still not sure how the whole goddess-vampyre-magic-spirit story lines all fit together, but it was still intriguing. The Casts aren't the most artistic writers (at least in this novel, in my opinion) and they don't really do justice to teenagers, or sound like them, but, depending on how much my TBR pile dwindles, I might read the next book. Overall, not so great, but it wasn't as horrible as it first started out. Sorry for the unprofessional review, I'm still jet-lag-ish and kind of rushed.
Cover: 4/5
Characters: 1/5
Writing: 1/5
Plot: 2.5/5
Overall rating: 2 stars


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