Written by P.C. and Kristin Cast

First published in USA in 2007 by St Martin’s Press

First published in UK in 2009 by Atom

Character

Crow character_001I’ve said a lot of what needs to be said about Zoey Redbird in my review of Marked but suffice it to say that not a lot has changed. She’s still a very annoying narrative voice and is still much too stressed about receiving privilege and powers. I get that the author might have wanted to give her the problem all teenagers face: the desire to fit in, but, in this scenario, she just sounds ungrateful rather than relatable. However, as the book progressed, Zoey actually started to improve a little bit. She gained a bit more maturity and pragmatism, enough to put the greater good before personal grudges. The alliance she formed with Aphrodite turns out to be more helpful than her friends’ support. Now, if she could just apply that pragmatism to her love life, Zoey might become likeable.

Speaking of Aphrodite, she’s starting to get a bit of a redemption arc. Thankfully, the author remembers to keep her personality in place. She’s still standoffish and bitchy but she’s learned enough from the last book not to take her emotionally abusive parents’ orders to bring down Zoey and get back on top. She instead allies with her and helps save Zoey’s grandma with her powers of prophecy. Along with her dreadful family, we also find out that she lost her best friend when her body rejected the Change. No wonder she has problems. It’s a good start to her developing character and needs to be kept up.

Aphrodite also helps Zoey realise the big plot twist: Neferet, the motherly High Priestess of the last book, is the big bad of this book. This book does the degeneration of a character a little bit better than the last one. We see it in gradual hints before the big reveal rather than it being dumped on us. Unfortunately, as soon as the big reveal comes along, the author falls into the trap of going out of her way to make her look as horrible as possible. First, she pretends Zoey’s ideas are hers in front of the school and then commits an act considered an abomination in House of Night society. By the end of the book, she is fully established as a villain but, apart from the aforementioned deeds, doesn’t really do anything or show her motives beyond ambition and pettiness.

The last character I’m going to focus on is Heath, Zoey’s ex-boyfriend who simply cannot take the hint that Zoey has no room in her life for him anymore. To give him credit, that is partly the result of an accidental Imprinting and is trying to improve himself by giving up drinks and drugs. Then, he goes and tempts her with his own blood again, even when she flat-out tells him no. Just to cap things off, he then gets himself captured by monsters and Zoey must use this unwanted Imprint to save him. So, Heath really serves as the dumbass-in-distress/inconvenient love interest in this story and he is not making a good impression on me.

Two more characters need to be briefly considered are Loren Blake, the poetry teacher and poet laureate of vampyres, and Stevie Rae, Zoey’s friend. First off, I don’t like Loren. His attentions to Zoey came off as creepy rather than forbidden romance. His fascination with Zoey is at best disturbing and at worst very illegal. As for Stevie Rae, I still like her a lot and I like where her character arc could go. I was genuinely saddened when she seemed to die and, when she came back as something different (which will be talked about later), there’s plenty of potential for more development that sadly wasn’t explored much in this book.

While there were some valiant attempts at character development, they were very hit and miss in this book.

6 out of 10 drops

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Research

Crow character research_001Not much on vampyres that needs fact checking here apart from the assertion that hair and nails grow much more once a person is ‘turned’. This is a little nod to the myth that hair and nails grow on a vampyre after death (the truth is that the skin pulls away during decomposition so they simply look longer).

Regarding the locations, it seems that, yes, there is a large network of underground tunnels under Tulsa made during the prohibition era to connect skyscrapers and transport contraband goods. Ironically, it was also used by rich businessman to avoid kidnapping. The mention of race riots in Greenwood in the 1920s when alluding to attempts to integrate human and vampyre society are also accurate.

Regarding the bomb hoax to prevent a boat colliding with a bride, that really shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. Yes, Zoey and friends took precautions by using the disposable phone (a thing I never even knew existed) but the execution of the threat was so ludicrous that anyone could see it was a hoax. Indeed, organisations are required to determine if they think the threat is genuine before calling the police, especially as it’s in a large city with a lot of traffic where closing a major bridge could cause big problems, but I suppose it’s reasonable to think they didn’t want to take any chances. The major mistake the book made regarding this is allowing the media to freely broadcast the news of the bomb threat before the police had determined whether it was credible. This is a big breach of most bomb threat policies; it could cause unnecessary panic, give the hoaxer the attention they may have wanted and provoke copycat hoaxes. It may have been better to have the news reporter say the bridge was closed for emergency repairs or something equally non-threatening.

The haikus seem to be original and the references to William Blake poetry are accurate too. There are references to Bram Stoker and the gorgon but it’s mostly revisionism for the sake of the fictional world so I can’t really nitpick them.

5 out 10 drops

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Originality

Crow character originality_001Again, the story suffers from some very cliché storylines. The biggest of which is teenagers going missing. I knew from the moment it was announced on the news that they were going to turn up dead. The characters hadn’t been mentioned in the previous book so they were certainly going to turn up dead while the established character was going to be saved.

And, of course, there’s the aggravating love triangle/square Zoey finds herself in with Eric, Heath and Loren. That cliché has been annoying for years and it still is now, especially when the three options don’t really have much to recommend them. The author tries too hard to make Eric amazing-but-relatable, Heath is a nuisance and Loren is creepy. Despite being built up as a big problem, the issue is sorted out (with Eric, at least) frustratingly quickly and easily. Like most of the big problems in Zoey’s life really.

Yes, Zoey is still O.P. and is getting ever more so as the story goes on. She gains powers instinctively and overcomes obstacles much too easily, even if they’re thrown in her way by powerful High Priestesses. Even the ludicrous hoax she and her friends cook up to save a bridge from collapsing works without a problem when it really shouldn’t have. I said it in the last review and I’ll say it again: this is annoying. She needs to have to try a bit harder for her powers. She needs to fail sometimes rather be just handed her successes.

That said, there were a few glimmers of originality here and there. For one, the House of Night organises a ‘parents’ evening’. Or ‘parents’ night’. Unfortunately, this isn’t given much screen time and only serves to remind us who are the good parents (Stevie Rae’s) and who are the bad ones (Zoey’s, Aphrodite’s and Damien’s). The main purpose is to show us Aphrodite’s emotionally abusive parents, who are the classic picture of a bully’s parents. I know a lot of bullies come from abusive families and that it’s quite realistic to make Aphrodite’s no exception but these parents still seem rather caricature-ish. It would have been nice to see them in front of people, perhaps charming Zoey at first, and then nasty in private so we can see the big difference for ourselves.

The big original twist was Stevie Rae ‘dying’. There were a few nicely paced hints that all was not well but they were easy to shrug off as evidence of weariness. It still didn’t diminish the shock of it and, for a few chapters, the grief and rage Zoey and friends felt about it is well described. That’s somewhat weakened by Stevie Rae turning up ‘alive’ but changed later. So, she’s now an ‘undead’ member of the ‘undead’. Strange concept. It also takes the sting out of fledglings rejecting the change. Does this mean that all the fledglings that died are just in hiding as inhuman beings? It’s implied so and yet there are only four described in the tunnels. I’m sure more fledglings than that had died at the Tulsa House of Night. So, does this mean only a few were ‘saved’? Or, that others are hiding elsewhere? It would be nice to explore that in later books. Especially just how Neferet seems to reverse the rejection process.

A lot of potential but, sadly, it’s overwhelmed by the flood of cliché plotlines. But, the author did avoid one annoying cliché: the gay character is not promiscuous and explicitly says he is waiting for Mr Right. Who, it seems, has just come his way. Here’s hoping the author dodges the ‘all-gay-relationships-are-doomed-to-tragedy’ cliché too.

3 out of 10 drops

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World Building

Crow world building_001A lot of the world building was done in the previous book and not a lot has been added. We get to see a little more of the human world outside, which is a bit of a bonus, including the underground tunnels under an old depot. They are described very well and seem very creepy.

The biggest thing the book introduces is ‘red fledglings’: the kids that had ‘died’ because their bodies rejected the Change and, after being resurrected, have lost their humanity. Unfortunately, we don’t know much of how this happens except that a vial of pale liquid is given to them just before death. Was the process painful? How long did it take? What are the ‘red fledglings’ powers and limitations? We know that some of Stevie Rae’s earth powers were passed on past death but how much? There’s frustratingly little information but the biggest question is: if this can reverse the rejection of the Change, can all rejection of the Change be avoided?

We do get a bit more information on Imprinting, the bond formed between a human and a vampyre/fledgling after the latter drinks the former’s blood. We also learn that vampyre fangs release endorphins, giving the ‘victim’ sexual pleasure, and that it gets stronger if the vampyre in question is older. A common explanation but still a neat one. A few strict rules on Imprinting are set out: fledglings can’t Imprint on each other but they can with adult vampyres, even though this is not advisable as this can cause problems in the future. We also know that, the stronger the Imprint gets, the more abilities will come with it. There’s a particularly unsexy scene when Zoey finds she can find Heath and watch him wherever he is. At least, he knows she’s there but the resulting wet dream was rather offputting. There’s a cheeky little note that says Bram Stoker was Imprinted on a High Priestess but, when she chose her duty to her goddess over him, he wrote Dracula out of spite. Certainly not an explanation I’ve heard before.

One last thing. Even though it’s established in the previous book that genetics play a role in who becomes a vampyre and who doesn’t, it seems that even twins don’t share that gene as a police detective tells Zoey that his sister is a vampyre yet he isn’t. Interesting to note.

6 out of 10 drops

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Story

Crow story_001The annoying narrative voice that tries too hard to sound teenager is still present and so is the fact that the books spends too much time on insignificant things. The Twins are the worst for wasting time with pointless conversations put there simply for comic relief. They can be so silly and petty in places that I just want to reach through the pages and tell them to grow up.

In fact, the whole narrative of this books feels incredibly unfocused as there’s too much going on. First, Zoey’s major worry is the ‘parents’ evening’ then she spends half the book on thinking how she can reform the Dark Daughters then she realises Neferet isn’t all she seems then she needs to avert a disaster that could kill her beloved grandma and then there are love problems to wrestle with. Thus, the main plotline (teenage boys going missing and the red fledglings) hardly gets any attention until the end. I always like a subplot or two to have a breather from the main action and to enrich the fictional world but this is just an overload. The parents evening could have been cut entirely and the efforts to avert disaster could have been sorted out within two chapters.

The Dark Daughters’ ritual was a bit more interesting, especially the ending. While there were subtle hints, Stevie Rae’s death still came as a shock and, had it been permanent, would have hammered home just how real the dangers of the Change are. When she came back as a ‘red fledgling’, that was diminished somewhat, as did the fact that she seemed to retain some of her humanity.

I think it’s quite likely that she will come back to herself eventually, probably with the help of Zoey and after not too many problems. Zoey is still too overpowered, as are all the vampyres, and learns new magic much too easily with the help of an annoyingly-all-perfect goddess. It’s a pity that Nyx isn’t shown as flawed yet, like her Greek mythology counterpart. When you have all-powerful-all-loving characters/deities, that produces a lot of unanswerable questions and can make them seem rather heartless if they don’t intervene. Which Nyx is threatening to do in this book.

Betrayed manages to, at once, be too crowded with plotlines and yet too dispersed in the narrative. I’ve said it in the previous book and I’ll say it again: if you take a big pair of editing shears to it, this book could easily be reduced to a third its size and be assimilated with other books.

4 out of 10 drops

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Overall = 24 drops – B Positive

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