VAMPIRE OVERKILL

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast’s The House of Night series is topping the vampire book charts with its sixth book, Tempted, released in October 2009 while the world waits for the verdict on the fifth book of the Twilight saga to be overturned (the publisher put a hold order on its publication I understand).

House of Night is far from simple than Twilight although both have the formulaic love plot except that Bella knows it’s truly Edward that she loves compared to Zoey who falls in love with almost every new and gorgeous vampire she meets. But the focus of the two series is very different. Twilight centers on Bella and Edward, and the problems they face. The Casts have teenage high priestess Zoey facing a more convoluted situation. She has to battle Neferet and her scheme of human annihilation; wage war against Kalona, a good-looking fallen angel-turned-demon freed from the depths of the earth where he was trapped for centuries by Cherokee Indians; come to terms with her vampire powers  of manipulating wind, fire, earth, water and spirit; and, lastly, deal with her sexually-charged romantic liaisons.

Twilight is a love story with a bit of action when the Cullens locked horns with the Volturis. No vampire overkill here, meaning there are no soap-opera twists that would have readers shaking their heads in disbelief at the turn of events (suspension of belief has its limits after all).

The House of Night series, on the other hand, is not a love story. It set itself apart with the unique developments, which, aside from vampires and humans living together in Tulsa, Oklahoma, include the attention-grabbing twist of humans marked with a tattoo on the forehead signaling a conversion into a vampire. This marking for vampire-transformation is linked to acquiring special magical powers such as influencing the natural elements. Another is the vampires’ spirituality. They pray, like humans, to a goddess named Nyx and follow Her commandments.

Books one to four – Marked, Betrayed, Chosen and Untamed – stayed tight in terms of plot and the boundaries of acceptable suspension of belief. Then you get your nose buried in Hunted where the plot works loose and vampire overkill sets in like congealed oil on greasy fries. Being inside Zoey’s head in this installment was like listening to the same song again and again. Her soliloquies on her problematic relationships and other mindless issues shore up teenage angst as anxieties without merit. Comparing the two, Bella showed more gravity for a teenager plunged into a situation that required more than “I-can-wing-this” attitude.

The storyline gets back on track in Tempted with Zoey facing her nemesis Neferet and Kalona, but what repossession of plotline was gained unraveled quickly with the soap-opera twists of Zoey as Kalona’s reincarnated lover; Zoey meeting with a vampire council based in Italy (reminiscent of the Volturi in Twilight); and the imprinting episodes between vampire and human and vampire with an immortal demon (shades of the werewolf imprinting in Twilight).

Tempted ends with a cliffhanger and a death, which, fortunately, makes up for the vampire overkill. Let’s just hope that Burned delivers a tighter plotline and no soap opera twists.

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