1/12/2010. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
Marked (A House Of Night series book 1) by P.C. and Kristen Cast. pub: Atom/Little Brown. 348 page enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 5.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-90565-431-4.
check out websites: www.atombooks.co.uk and www.littlebrown.co.uk
Boarding school books were once very popular. Billy Bunter, created in ‘The Magnet’ in 1908 and post-WWII in novels and TV programmes has passed into folk history. Those with fond memories of Bunter may well also remember Jennings and Co. For the girls there were the ‘Chalet School’ books or the adventures of the ‘Abbey Girls’. Then, as society changed, children and young people wanted to read about others like themselves. They no longer aspired to leave home, sleep in dorms or have midnight feasts. Then along came Harry Potter and the idea of the boarding school was resurrected. It was the place where special people go.
PC and Kristen Cast have taken the boarding school story to another level. There is not just magic involved (though not as intense and of a different kind to that practised by Potter and friends) but also vampyres. Though there are many groups who revile them as much as any other ethnic minority, vampyres are an integral part of society. Some of the best known celebrities are or were vampyres. Shakespeare was one, as well as the likes of Shania Twain. When youngsters hit puberty, a few of them start to change into vampyres. They are sought out by a Tracker and marked on the forehead with the outline of a crescent moon. At that point, they are expected to report to the nearest House of Night. If they don’t, they will die horribly as their bodies fail.
Zoey is worrying about an up-coming geometry test and half-listening to her friend babbling about Zoey’s almost-boyfriend when she is marked. Her friends freak out and when she tries to get sympathy from her mother, she fails, and her step-father wants to pray over her so Zoey heads off to find her Cherokee grandmother. On the way, she trips and knocks herself unconscious. In her comatose state, she has a vision of Nyx, the goddess of the vampyres. When she awakes, she is in the House of Night and her mark is unusually coloured in.
As the House of Night is a boarding school there are a number of elements that will be familiar to the older reader. Zoey has all the problems of being a new girl arriving part way through a term. She has to make friends and be picked on by the inevitable bully before asserting herself and dealing out the requisite comeuppance. To the teen-ager that this book is aimed at, most of this will appear fresh and have relevance to any young person in a similar situation. The characters come across as genuine teenagers with all the obsessions and concerns that afflict youngsters the world over. This is a co-ed school. There are boys. Fledgling vampyre boys are ‘hot’ and Zoey soon attracts the attention of one of them. The feeling is mutual though she has an additional problem of her almost-ex-boyfriend who is still human and wants to ‘break her out’ of the school.
‘Marked’ is a slick, action-packed novel that begins the rite of passage that will take Zoey through her change from human to vampyre. The only real concern is that the whole of this story takes place over a very short space of time. Barely a month passes between Zoey being marked and the resolution. It will, however be enjoyed by readers of all ages. It is a new twist on the vampire mythos and smoothly blends legends of different eras.
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