Sunday, March 14, 2010

House Of Night Series

Unless you've been living in cave for the last few years, you're aware that vampires are the thing in teen literature. Enough has been said about The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer that there really isn't much for me to add (though yes I do have opinions, I always have opinions, this is why I write a blog). Teen girls have gone absolutely mad about vampire books; it's my single most requested thing in that age group. One other popular series that I get a ton of requests for is the House Of Night series by P.C. and Kirsten Cast. I've read and will review the first two books in this series. These books, written by a mother/daughter team from Oklahoma, seem to be marketed toward teens and young adults. My library has them in the adult section, but other libraries put them in the teen section, and they seem to primarily read by teens. My quick informal survey of other library catalogs seems that half of the libraries put them in adult and the other half in the teen section. For the record, the book spells vampire as "vampyre", but I find that to be an obnoxious pretense (much like "ye olde shoppe") and refuse to humor them, so I will be spelling it more conventionally. Also, as I review this I'm going to mention many issues that should make it a no-read for Christians, but I'm not even addressing the vampire part.

Book: Marked and Betrayed by P.C. Cast and Kirsten Cast (House Of Night series)

Awards: American Library Association Notable Children's Books (at least one volume)
Vital Stats: around 300 pages per volume, 6 books out with the 7th to be released in April 2010, St. Martin's Press
Marketed Toward: Teens and Young Adults
The Quick and Short of It: I do not recommend this book for any Christian person of any age. (So if you want, you can stop reading the review now, or I'll try to briefly explain.)

Book Synopsis:
In the first volume (Marked), Zoey a "normal" teenager is marked by the vampires. For unknown reasons as some teens go through puberty their body goes through a change. If they reject the change, they die; their only hope is to go to the house of night wherein they will turn into full fledged adult vampires. The process takes years and they spend the time in "vampire finishing school" learning about their new life. So Zoey is marked, and while this is life changing, it also offers her an escape from a home life that she feels is unbearable. Before getting to the house of night, she seeks out her Cherokee Indian grandmother, encounters Cherokee spirits and has a vision of the goddess that created the vampires. This causes her mark to fill in, making her super special. At the school, she makes friends, attempts to settle in to her new life, but encounters vampire politics, runs up against the leader of the vampire girls, etc. Fortunately she has all sort of special powers due to her filled in mark and connection to the goddess and is able to take control of the student group. In subsequent books she faces more adversaries among the vampires and from outside society, discovers more powers, has relationships with various boys, so on and so forth.

My Take:
Before I get into the very obvious Christian issues, let me address the literary merit. It's light fluff and we shouldn't read too much into it. However the Casts do fall into a common trap for young adult literature. Zoey is perfect. She has powers that have never before been seen in any vampire, she's the most powerful vampire every in history, she can do anything, she's amazing. Ugh. (For other examples of this trope see Clan of the Cave Bear (series) by Jean Auel.) Authors shouldn't fall in love with their own character. A perfect character is not a relate-able character. Other than that (majorly annoying in my opinion) flaw, this is no better nor worse than any other escapism teen lit.

Possible Issues of Concern/Christian Connection:
I'm guessing you got a lot of these issues already, but here we go. A brief list of the simple to explain: homosexuality (one of her vampire friends, a very major concern, it's definitely approved of and treated as normal and yes in later book he's in a relationship), underage drinking (which Zoey disapproves of, kinda), marijuana use, and sexual activities (in the first book she witnesses and describes fairly graphically sexual activities between others, in later volumes she begins to participate). There is the casting of circles and calling of the elements and the spirits in rituals that have been lifted word-for-word from new age and pagan websites (see plagiarism accusations here). She contacts the goddess, the goddess speaks to her in a quiet voice only she can here. I could go on, but you get the idea. In later books as she bounces between her human boyfriend and a vampire boy, she also develops an extremely inappropriate relationship with an adult male vampire. I rather just wanted to slap her and explain that no good comes from an adult man being interested in a teen girl.

Perhaps to me the most offensive was the portrayal of the step-father. He is a leader in the "People of Faith" community and is portrayed as overbearing and insufferable. Her mother is in what the writers probably think of as an example of a submissive marriage, but it bears no similarities to the Biblical submissive marriages I have seen. The mother is devoid of any freewill, only nodding mutely at whatever her husband says. This change since her second marriage is what most tears Zoey apart from her family. Over and over again people of faith (no they never say Christian) are shown as villians and a submissive marriage is shown as a trap and completely oppressive. But hey, they don't curse! No bad words! Or I was just so overwhelmed by all of this other stuff that I let the cursing slip on by.

Confession, I read the first two books in full and summaries of the rest of them. I feel that was enough to make a judgment (and I couldn't handle reading anymore), but I had to be honest about it. In case you didn't get my point, I am not recommending this book for ANYONE to read. I only went on for as long as I did to justify it, to give you reasons why you shouldn't read it as a Christian.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:2


Anonymous said...

Not that I would let my children read those books I did see Zoe on display and almost picked it up for me to read. I wanted to see what it was about in my teen section at the library. Thank You for the review.

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