Gone into vampire withdrawal yet? We've seen "New Moon" a hundred times, "Vampire Diaries" is in reruns, and "True Blood" is on hiatus. Take that Jasper grimace off your face and relax; we're here to help. Peruse through past Book Report recommendations for your supernatural YA fix, and get sucked into yet another vampire series this week: P.C. Cast and daughter Kristin Cast's "House of Night" books, which have also been optioned for a movie adaptation.
If I wanted to be lazy, I'd call this book "Twilight" meets "Harry Potter." And sure, it's definitely got elements of both: vampires and a boarding school for very special students. But it has one very unique element: main character Zoey Redbird, who is basically the most relatable vampire — sorry, fledgling vampyre — I've ever read about. She starts off as a regular girl from the suburbs of Tulsa with a flaky mother and an oppressive, Christian fundamentalist stepfather. And even when she turns into an extraordinary supernatural being charged with saving the school (or the world, as the series goes on) as three guys fight for her love, her down-to-earth attitude and relentless inner monologue keeps her likable.
In this world, when select teenagers begin to change into vampyres — because of a combination of hormones and genetic predisposition — they're tracked down, "marked" with a magical tattoo and then sent off to special nocturnal boarding schools, called Houses of Night. These vampyres seem a lot more like witches than the undead: They worship the goddess Nyx and practice magic with the five elements (air, fire, water, earth and spirit). But they're constantly haunted by the fact that not all fledglings survive the change; many die suddenly, in the middle of class.
When Zoey is marked in the first book (called "Marked"), her mother and stepfather flip out, so she runs off to visit her Cherokee grandmother, Silvia Redbird, who has taught her a lot about Native American spiritual ceremonies all her life and is actually thrilled to learn of her granddaughter's change. And that heritage may be partly responsible for why Zoey starts to develop into a vampyre and high-priestess-in-training almost immediately after she's marked.
But amid all this magical stuff, there's also a whole lot of typical teenage drama and fun in Zoey's life. She's the new kid in school, but she quickly joins a quirky group of lovable misfit friends who love to hang out and watch movies in the common room when they're not helping Zoey battle the forces of evil. The popular mean girl, Aphrodite, immediately targets her for humiliation. Zoey's human, football-playing ex-boyfriend, Heath, is still in love with her. Aphrodite's cute ex, Eric, is into her too. (Don't hate her because she's beautiful!)
The first three books of the series are its strongest. The most recent installments — including the sixth, "Tempted," which just came out in October — are suffering under the weight of an increasingly complex plot and often-repeated peripheral stories that seem to be going nowhere. There are six more books to come, however, so I'm hoping the Casts have something new up their sleeves. In the meantime, "Marked," "Betrayed" and "Chosen" should quench your bloodthirst for a while (and once you're into the story, it's hard to stop there).
Have you read the "House of Night" series? Let us know what you think!