House of Night

Marked (House of Night, Book 1)
P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast
306 pages; published 2007

So the good news is that I wouldn't have to take the geometry test tomorrow.

The bad news was that I'd have to move into the House of Night, a private boarding school in Tulsa's Midtown, known by all my friends as the Vampyre Finishing School, where I would spend the next four years going through bizarre and unnameable physical changes, as well as a total and permanent life shake-up. And that's only if the whole process didn't kill me. (6)

Zoey wants nothing more out of life than to feel like she really belongs… well, that and her vintage VW beetle. Ever since her mother married the People of the Faith Elder, John Heffer, Zoey’s life has been miserable. Her new step-father (the step-loser) is both clueless and controlling, and her mother is growing more distant every day. The routine dramas of school (the self-centred gossip of her best friend and drunken exploits of her almost-ex-boyfriend) have become her refuge in life, her only escape.

Until the day the very dead – sorry, ‘undead’ – man, a vampyre Tracker, turns up at her locker and flips her life upside down. She’s been ‘marked’. She’s now a ‘fledgling’ vampyre and, as such, has two choices: die, or move into the prestigious vampyre boarding school, House of Night, and possibly die anyways.

Informing her parents of her fate didn’t go so well and, feeling abandoned yet again, she heads to her Grandmother’s lavender farm for comfort. While there she falls and hits her head, during which she sees a vision of the goddess Nyx, beloved goddess of the vampyres. She tells Zoey that she has chosen her to be her eyes and ears in the new world she is about to enter.

Coming to, she finds herself at her new school, her new home. How well is she about to fit in a new school where she knows nothing about the students?

Do vampyres play chess? Were there vampyre dorks? How about Barbie-like vampyre cheerleaders? Did any vampyres play in the band? Were there vampyre Emos with their guy-wearing-girl’s-pants weirdness and those awful bangs that cover half their faces? Or were they all those freaky Goth kids who didn’t like to bathe much? Was I going to turn into a Goth kid? Or worse, an Emo? I didn’t particularly like wearing black, at least not exclusively, and I wasn’t feeling a sudden and unfortunate aversion to soap and water, nor did I have an obsessive desire to change my hairstyle and wear too much eyeliner. (3)

Things are made all the more difficult when Zoey realises that the mark indicating her new vampyre status indicates that of a fully-fledged vampyre, not of a fledging. She’s a freak amongst freaks.

Turns out that the House of Night isn’t all that unusual, however: dorms, cafeteria (oops, ‘dining hall’), weird teachers, dorks, cool kids… but if everything’s so ordinary, what is it that Zoey’s supposed to be keeping her eye on? and what is it that makes her so special?

I picked up P.C. and Kristen Cast’s Marked, the first in the House of Night series, as I was leaving the library last. They had a ‘If you like Twilight…’ display in the YA section and the cover looked interesting (tsk, tsk, cover picking). When I started reading it, the first couple pages repelled me instantly – it was full of teenage jargon, all gossipy friends and football boyfriends drinking on the back of a pick up truck. And then the vampire turned up, all imperial and old-world threatening in his speech and I started to gag. There was no way I was going to get through this book. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, however, I decided to keep going to the 50-page mark. Next time I looked up it was 3:30am and I was about 200 pages in. Wait? What just happened? Apparently I was hooked and I read it all in one sitting (well, lying, I was supposed to be asleep, after all).

Vampire books are all the rage at the moment, so when reading (yet another) one, I’m really on looking at three things: the writing, the characters, and something that makes it different.

Written by a mother/daughter team, the authors have created an attention-grabbing Twilight-meets-Harry Potter world. As the first book, Marked introduced an interesting – if somewhat clich├ęd – set of characters, and setting (the school) that should pave the way for the next few books. Their treatment of vampyres (spelling aside) had great potential – a genetic process bought on by the hormones found in a teen body, one that not everyone survives – but could have benefited from more than just a couple throwaway paragraphs. I hope they look into it further in the succeeding books.

All in all, Marked was a good FIRST book, it set up a lot for the series and left me wanting to read the next one. 3.5/5

Purchase Marked here.

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Michelle said...

I'm guilty of picking up books based solely on the cover as well. I don't feel guilty about it. There are so many vampire books out there at the moment, and I can't stop myself, I want more and more..

Bobbi said...

I read all the currently published House of Night books - I thought they were good. Not buy the book to re-read good, but good enough to recommend them to others.

I'm 46 and I've been a vampire book lover since I was 11 - way before vampires became cool!

Serena said...

I'm glad to hear you liked this series. I've been toying with the idea of starting this book.

Ladytink_534 said...

I've seen these around a lot and I'm kind of curious. The "if you liked Twilight" displays and blogs captured my attention before I even read Twilight. That's how I found Rachel Caine's Morganville vampire series which I love!

I might just pick this up the next time I'm at the library.

Rebecca said...

Replying to all your comments (thanks guys!), heads up:

Michelle: I know what you mean, it's like Pringles: once you pop...

Bobbi: I agree with that, they didn't make it to my buy list either, but I certainly want to read the rest. I love your comment about before vampires were cool, you made me laugh :D

Serena: Give it a go, I liked it.

Ladytink: Me too! I kept reading all the "If you like Twilight" books so I figured I should actually read the book!