Some things age well with time. Others? Not so much. That's what I found when I decided to go back and read Marked, which is one of the first YA books that I ever read. Regardless of anything that I say in this review, Marked will always have a special place in my heart. Not only was it the book that got me into YA, it was also the book that inspired me to finally sit down and write Moon Dance.
Don't let my sentiments fool you, though. Marked is far from perfect. Read on and I'll tell you what I think, while doing my best to keep focused on this book on its own as opposed to part of the series. (I'm sure I'll fail miserably at that, but I will try to at least cover *both*.)
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
The House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird's world, vampyres have always existed.
In this first book in the series, Zoey enters the House of Night, a school where, after having undergone the Change, she will train to become an adult vampire--that is, if she makes it through the Change. Not all of those who are chosen do.
It's tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny--with a little help from her new vampyre friends.
You see that part where it says "a world very much like our own"? That's what initially grabbed me, and is a big part of what compels me to keep reading the series now. Truthfully, the world of The House of Night is our world, except that 'vampyres' do exist and humans are fully aware of them. I love this about the series. I think it's original, fresh, and cool. And this is what I was talking about when I mention this series inspiring me.
That's not all that Marked (and the rest of the series) has going for it. I love the connection between witchcraft and vampirism here. I also love how the Casts have their vampires worshipping a goddess. I'm sure they're not the first to do it, but it's not exactly a 'default' of vampire mythology. There are nods to modern peganism (circles, calling elements, etc.) as well as reincarnation within the mythos of the Casts' world as well. But you didn't come here for world building 101. So...
I think that the book paces what is happening well. We get to see Zoey go from being normal, to realizing she has been 'marked', to dealing with being marked, to entering and starting to settle in at the Oaklahoma House of Night... My point is, we really get to experience what she is going through and what is happening to her. The House of Night series, as a whole, sticks relatively tight with regards to timeline and Marked is no exception to this.
I think that the Casts did a good job in making sure that the challenge they present Zoey with in book one is within her grasp as a character, considering that she is just discovering who she is and what she is capable of. The series grows much more intense as it progresses, but Marked can easily be read and enjoyed as a stand alone book that has its own conclusion. (They hadn't started with the cliffhangers from hell yet...)
I read all of the books from Marked up to Tempted within a week, so I think its safe to say that the stories held my interest just fine.
Here is where the trouble begins. Zoey Redbird is a pain in the butt. She uses words that make no sense for a sixteen year old, such as "poopie". She makes judgements about other characters' behavior, constantly telling us she doesn't want to be labelled a "ho", but her actions throughout Marked (and they grow worse as the series progresses) do not match what she is saying. She is also very out of touch with the situations that are going on around her. A life ending crisis can be happening, but Zoey will blissfully ignore it in favor of debating which of the many guys she has around her she wants to be with. (This gets very, very old. Forget love triangles, this girl pretty much ends up with a harem.)
My favorite character in the House of Night series, and the reason that I read it personally, is Stevie Rae. She is Zoey's best friend and roommate. There is not much that is really special about her in Marked, but trust me, Stevie Rae becomes fascinating as the books progress.
Then there is ... everybody else. I'm talking about Zoey's other friends here. (Damien, Shaunee and Erin). I liked these three alright in Marked, but as the series continues they really start to become window dressing as the Casts add more and more characters... See? I told you, it's *hard* to talk about one book when I've read 8 within a series...)
Aphrodite is the book's villain and as far as Marked goes she is a total yawn-fest. She's blonde, beautiful and bitchy. The end. (Spoiler: Aphrodite becomes an absolutely fabulous character as the series progresses. She is in my top three, along with Stevie Rae and Rephaim.)
Some of the teachers are pretty cool. Zoey's Grandma Redbird is relatively unique. And Zoey's parents are of the 'evil' variety.
As far as Marked goes its a matter of Erik or Heath. Erik is the popular vampire guy who is really into drama that befriends Zoey once she gets to the school, much to the horror of Aphrodite. Heath is Zoey's human ex-boyfriend who is determined to remove "ex" from that statement; he is totally in love with her.
I recall the romance in Marked being alright. I thought that Heath and Erik were both pretty likable. I think most of my time, honestly, was spent annoyed at Zoey for not knowing what the heck it was that she wanted. Honestly I'm not a big fan of Zoey with anyone, so my apologies if the romance section of my review is unusually short and snarky.
I must admit that I'm slightly embarrassed that I thought Marked was a work of sheer genius the first time that I read it. It's not that the book is horrible and all the copies should be rounded up and used for a big bonfire. Rather, it's that the book is "good" at best based on the variety of stuff that I am reading now. I'm still very glad that I read it and I did enjoy my re-read for the purposes of this review. I just find it sort of funny how things can look the second time around.
So, I bet you're sitting there wondering whether I'm saying you should read this or not. My answer is "Sure!". Despite its faults and flaws, the House of Night continues to be one of my favorite series; books that I am admittedly addicted to and that I buy day one of their release. If you're looking for a paranormal right that is light, fluffy and fun, Marked will definitely fill the bill.