Zoey’s normal life has been derailed by her being marked by a Vampyre Tracker. She is now a Vampyre, chosen by the goddess Nyx and entering the private school and vampire compound known as the House of Night
But in the House she finds that the leader of the Elite Group, the Dark Daughters, is pretty much terrible and she finds she needs to replace her. Thankfully she has been granted the greatest and rarest power, never seen before, compared to any other vampyre in history.
I try, I really do, in every review to say something positive about a book. There is usually something, some gem, some nugget, some facet somewhere I can seize on and say “hey, despite all the other problems, this is pretty decent.”
I tried with this book. I really did. But, honestly, I can’t think of one tiny, redeeming feature. It’s a a book that manages to be terrible on just about every level. With many other books I would have thrown it away, deleted it from my tablet and DNFed it after vigorously expressing my contempt. But not only am I now committed to reading this series due to the diabolical machinations of Cyna and Mavrynthia and especially Merriska I am now doomed to read this series – but also this book was so bad, so unutterably, shamefully awful that I felt the need to keep going. It was a combination of watching a terrible trainwreck and you know you should look away but are somehow drawn back to the horror, watching someone about to do something epicly ridiculous and watching them to see if they’re really going to go through with it and just reading in a vague, desperate hope that at some point the author would yell “ha! Fooled you, this is a parody!”
It was not a parody. If it were a parody it would be a bad parody because good parodies are more subtle than this.
So, since there’s absolutely nothing right with this book, let’s tackle the wrong. The oh-so-very wrong.
I will begin with the marginalised characters – on team good guy we have one gay man, Damien, and one Black woman, Shaunee, playing sassy sidekicks to the protagonist (along with two white woman, one of which, Erin shares exactly the same personality as Shaunee because characterisation is hard. We also get the joy of these two characters calling each other twin. The other is just a kicked puppy dog following Zoey around with utter devotion she developed within 10 second of meeting her because characterisation is hard).
Damien is gay, we know this because it is mentioned all the time. Even when mentioning things completely irrelevant to his sexuality – like how smart he is – he is the “gay genius.” We’ve seen this trope before and labelled it the Lesbian Shark. It definitely applies. Like all of Zoey’s “friends” Damien exists for the greater glory of Zoey, being slavishly loyal and obedient pretty much from the first meeting. As a bonus he’s used to excuse using the slur f@ggot. We also have such joys as Damien not counting as a guy because he’s the, direct quote “token gay”. He also takes on the rule as the expert of all things “peniled” because while having no relationship himself, it is the duty of all good GBFs to play advisor and counsel to straight ladies. To top this off we have derision of gay men who are “swishy girly-guys”. And all Lesbians are some kind of like minded cult who spend their whole time in the temple because Matriarchal Goddess = Lesbian devotion.
Frankly, it’s almost insulting when the author has a terribad awful caricature call Damien a “f@g” so Zoey can have a PSDA on how homophobia is wrong – you don’t get to inflict this utterly dreadful portrayal on us and then throw in a paragraph PSA and call it good. Throwing in a “homophobia is bad, ‘kay” speech in the middle of a grossly stereotyped and homophobic portrayal is almost comic.
In the few times Shaunee is mentioned (which is usually so she can speak in the most over the top caricature of a sassy Black friend), or any other Black person, the words “mocha” “cappuccino” or “chocolate” will appear. I think the author may have copy and pasted her Starbucks order every time she described this woman. She’s Like Damien, this dubious racial fetishising is justified by Shaunee herself remarking “thank you for appreciating my blackness.” And comparing her to a beverage, apparently. Just because you have your marginalised characters agree with your poor word choice doesn’t make it ok. Shaunee also has “good hair” by which she means “long, straight hair” which is racially problematic to begin with. It’s further compounded by her deciding a Black woman in the enemy camp with “good hair” is definitely “wearing a weave.” Because she’s subtle like that.
Then we get to the portrayal of women – and before we do that we need to look at the caricatures who are Zoey’s enemies. And I say caricatures for a reason because of her friends are one dimensional sycophants (hilariously, this is how she refers to people who follow the big bad Mean Girl Aphrodite but, really, it’s a perfect description of Shaunee, Erin, Stevie Rae and Damien) then her enemies are such over-the-top terrible people that they may as well have twirly moustaches and black hats and spend their weekends tying women to train tracks. And this is relevant because, except for two (her ex-boyfriend who is a drunken, drug using, inept fool and her father who is a cookie-cutter religious patriarch, neither of whom are that influential in the story) all of these villains are women. This means this book is positively brimming with girl-hate – Zoey (and her minions) hate these terribad women and constantly refer to them in the most misogynist terms – slut, hag, ho, bitch, cow, constantly over and over. With an added bonus of Aphrodite’s top minions being the most blatant Straw Feminists you ever did see (they hate all men and want them to die! Because feminism!)
Aphrodite herself is so unbelievably awful that her special magical power, the one that actually gives her the leadership of the Dark Daughters (a special Mean Girls Clique and super influential), is one she actively suppresses and hides. Why? Because it gives her the power to foretell disasters and stop them. Because she is terribad evil she hides it because she doesn’t want to. No, really. She is that awful that she actually goes to great effort to NOT help people.
This book also has a very simple way to designate evil women as evil – they are even slightly sexual. Sexual women are the worst and this book contains completely unnecessary and ridiculous screeds against blow jobs (because oral sex is evil), Aphrodite is repeatedly attacked for being a “ho” and a “slut” (and she was first established as evil because she was trying to give said blow job therefore making her a slutjezebelhussy and therefore evil). I can’t stress enough how Aphrodite being sexual – from her clothes, from her dancing and, again, to the very first time we saw her being giving oral sex to a man saying no, is shown as evidence of her evil. And this could be a comment on consent, but since that man, the oh-so-over-the-top-dreamy-Eric (who smells like - so apparently Zoey has a thing for decomposing wet leaves) is actually Zoey’s love interest it’s more a comment on how much better than Aphrodite Eric and Zoey are because they are not sex crazy sluthussyjezebels like Aphrodite. Or Zoey's sister - when arguing with her mother, Zoey decides to tell her that her older sister has "slept with half the football team". Classy Zoey.