Awakened is the eighth book in the House of Night series by PC and Kristin Cast. This review may contain spoilers for the previous seven books. If you would like a review of the series as a whole, please see my post here.
I started reading the House of Night series when it was relatively new. I was thirteen, obsessed with vampire novels, and absolutely ate up this combination of witchcraft and vampire lore. The premise of the vampire boarding school (vampyre as it’s spelled in the series) and the unique mythology and biology surrounding the Casts’ world enthralled me through the years. The last time I picked up one of these books, though, was several years ago. While the novel still largely met my expectations, I found that nostalgia couldn’t forgive everything.
Something I’ve enjoyed throughout the House of Night series is the build up of the overall plot. Each novel has its own stand alone plot to provide the necessary action and development for a full length book. Each novel’s plot contributes in some way to the building plot, which becomes increasingly complex and high stakes as time goes on. I was surprised when this first began, considering how “high school” I would classify the first three books of the series and how intense the later plots are in comparison. This book is no exception.
Kalona and Neferet have for a few books in the series now been set up as the primary antagonists, and this novel begins to set them apart. Neferet is angered by Kalona’s failures in the seventh novel and now has him under her control as retribution. Her descent into darkness and his chafing at her control provide an excellent plot foil to Zoey’s return to the real world, and Stevie Rae’s plotline.
I had forgotten, perhaps due to nostalgia, how insultingly stupid the dialogue can be. I remember reading when I was a teenager that Kristin Cast’s primary contribution to the story was to “teenager-ize” the dialogue so that PC Cast’s adult voice didn’t overwhelm the YA audience. Even at thirteen, the dialogue was a little less mature than my friends and I used. As I grew older, the dialogue became more and more grating. It’s also not quite suitable to the characters anymore. Perhaps in the first few books, where fighting over boyfriends and social status were top priority, but now? There are life and death decisions being made in one sentence, and the word “bullpoopie” being said in the next. These are sixteen to twenty-odd year olds, for the most part, some of whom are considered fully fledged adult vampyres. “Bullpoopie” was cute in the first few novels, but now it’s just ridiculous.
Hand in hand with the poorly constructed dialogue are the anachronistic pop culture references. I discuss this in my post on the series as a whole, since this started early in the books. The books themselves take place in a much shorter period of time than they were published, and the occasional pop culture reference pops out as completely out of time. Also, these novels are guilty of using pop culture to try and hook the readers into caring about the characters since they presumably have the same interests. This novel in particular included song lyrics in the text. Yep.
I think the worst thing plot wise that happened this book centered around the deaths. Death is not uncommon in this series, but in the past each death has served some plot based purpose that unraveled in a way that made a lot of sense. Shock value occurred with at least two of those deaths, as I recall, but the deaths still made sense for the plot. One of the deaths in this novel was handled, at least. It was still not entirely justified by the plot’s needs I think, but it did get addressed. The last one was only addressed in the final line of the novel. A cliff hanger death? In this long of a series? Really?
All in all I gave this book a three out of five stars rating. I still enjoyed reading it and remembering the story I enjoyed so much years ago. The magic and mythology are still interesting and unique compared to a lot of vampire fiction out there. My issues with the dialogue are easier to ignore when the real action happens, since the characters do tend to show their more mature sides in those moments (well, most of them). Pop culture references are also easy to push aside.
My biggest issue with this installment of the series was, I think, the cliff hanger ending. The books have previously ended on highly dramatic and borderline cliff hanger notes. I have no problem with cliff hangers. This one, though, was both abrupt and not abrupt enough. Dramatic irony was used improperly, by giving the reader the knowledge of the cliff hanger ahead of time and then still expecting the impact of it to hit when Zoey catches up. The clumsiness of it makes me less enthused to read the next novel in the series, though I might be able to once nostalgia kicks in again.
I recommend if you like YA, vampire fiction, or general urban fantasy to give the first book Marked a shot and see if this series is for you!