I’ve had a bit of a slump in my reading of late. Not that I’m slacking in my reading. Instead I just couldn’t find a book that was interesting to me. Either I’d get into a book and just find it was really not worth my time to read or, more often, that I was just not interested enough to want to read it. I find in the case of the latter that when I do finish the book, I have no strong feelings one way or the other and so have no review to write. So being that I have been incredibly quiet regarding the House of Night series, followers of my reading habits may find it odd that I’m writing a review. I certainly do since generally with a long-running series such as this, there would be much gushing.
House of Night is a series of young adult novels coauthored by P.C. Cast and her daughter Kristin Cast about, well, a vampire prep school. It’s set in an alternate reality of the modern world where vampires are known to exist and centers around Zoey, a vampire with some very unique and powerful abilities. Basically she’s going through normal teenage drama with a healthy dose of fighting the never ending good verses evil battle while incorporating ancient mythology from all over the globe. If you’re into that thing, which I am, it’s pretty intriguing. But I do have some issues and I find that I want to like these books more than I do. Thus I am left with not much to say on the subject. In fact, after reading Tempted1 last year I was pretty much giving up. So, no one’s more surprised than me that I read Burned and I actually have some thoughts to share about it.
P.C. has said on her blog that there isn’t a set number of books and she’s telling the story as it goes along, but it seems more and more that the House of Night series is being dragged out. And this has been a growing disenchantment for me with the series. Burned is no real exception to this issue, though, it does have more plot progression than Tempted. But much of this doesn’t occur until late in the book and instead much of the time is spent expositing cryptic information.
Present also is my continued issue with language use in this series. While I’m quite removed from my teenage years, I do read a lot of young adult novels and the ever growing usage of slang in narrative never ceases to irk me. I don’t understand the reliance on such language, especially outside of dialogue. Particularly since the usage here seems far more juvenile than I’d ever expect for high school aged teenagers. I find this even more abundantly annoying given these later books have moved out of being solely first-person perspective. A fact that I also find somewhat of an annoyance given the constantly shifting perspectives the books are being told from. Burned switches perspective on nearly a chapter by chapter basis, which is very difficult to follow at times given the “voice” a character might have. Not to mention, not all of them are as interesting and are clearly being used for the sole purpose of exposition.
Yet, I do find this particular book to be an improvement over the last. The Casts are weaving a very intricate story with their ensemble cast. Stevie Rae and Rephaim have a very unique, almost fairytale-esque, arc that can certainly be interpreted in many different ways that go far beyond the common “forbidden love” idea. I’ve also been very happy with Aphrodite’s journey as it has been continually portrayed throughout the series; it’s not often that a character be given a real ability to evolve and it’s been an enjoyable ride especially since her more entertaining personality quirks are still very much present. And the fantasy lover in me can’t help but eat up the progression the mythology continues to take and what new elements are brought in from around the world.
However, I was sad that this book has the least focus on Zoey, who is the central character in this series and remains one of my personal favorites.2 Understandably this was due to her “shattered soul” situation, but it goes back to my issue with the dragging out of things. And also seems like a concentrated effort to set up proposed spin-off books/series. I’m very much in favor of exploring other parts of this world the Casts have created, but I feel that they are losing sight of what created interest in this particular series. And, I really despise having the main portion of a book I’m reading be an advertisement for another book. I expect a defined and contained story between the cover and I don’t feel these last few books have done that. It’s also very aggravating to constantly see this character backpedal regarding her love life. I fully embrace the idea the Casts have stated in interviews that she’s exploring her options and certainly not bound to finding her true love at seventeen, but the fact is she’s constantly portrayed as stringing along several guys. And the very idea that she would shirk all of her responsibilities and her friends over one and need someone else to finally knock some sense into her makes her seem far more weak than she’s generally shown to be.
While there are still elements of what drew me to this series present and I do think this particular book was an improvement over the last, I am finding the nearly stalled plot has begun to wear my patience thin. Coupled with my other long-standing issues with the series as a whole, I’m more and more reluctant to continue along. I’m sad to say I don’t see myself recommending this to others unless a marked improvement comes with the next book. And, frankly, I’ve no strong desire to even read Awakened at this point.