Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. This is the first book in the “House of Night” series.
In an alternate version of our world, vampyres develop from human beings in a process known as “the Change.” One day, a Tracker puts the Mark of a crescent moon on 16-year-old Zoey Montgomery’s forehead, symbolizing she has been chosen by the goddess of night to become a vampyre. Zoey is concerned because many kids don’t survive the transition. She also knows her conservative religious mother and stepfather won’t be happy.
Zoey sees Heath, the boy she’s been dating, and he notices her Mark immediately. He and his friends take off in a hurry, and he scrapes his hand against the pavement. Zoey is horrified by her attraction to his blood. At home, Zoey’s mother and stepfather are horrified by the news of her selection. Zoey realizes she will die soon if she doesn’t get to the House of Night, a special school for vampyres. Her stepfather refuses to drive her to the school, instead calling people to come and pray over her for healing.
Zoey escapes out her window and heads for her grandmother’s house. She falls and has an out-of-body experience, in which she meets a beautiful woman. The woman is Nyx, the vampyre goddess of night. Nyx says Zoey has been chosen to be the first true Daughter of Night in this world. She has the wisdom of her ancestors as well as knowledge of the modern world. It is Zoey’s destiny to be a powerful leader and restore balance between good and evil.
Zoey’s grandmother takes her to the House of Night. The High Priestess Neferet wonders why the girl’s Fledgling Mark has been colored in, symbolizing she is already a vampyre. They begin to tour the school, but Neferet gets called to the infirmary. She instructs Zoey to wait for her at a nearby bench. Zoey tries to follow Neferet’s instructions, but takes a wrong turn. She sees a teenage girl on her knees in front of a boy, ready to give him oral sex. The boy’s eyes lock on Zoey’s and the two share a connection. He pushes the other girl away as Zoey flees the hallway. Neferet returns to lead Zoey to her dormitory. There, the same girl Zoey saw in the hallway shows her to her room. Her name is Aphrodite, and she warns Zoey not to mess with her.
Zoey immediately warms up to her new roommate, Stevie Rae. In the dining hall, Zoey meets Stevie Rae’s other friends — Damien, Erin and Shaunee. Damien is one of the few gay vampyres. Erin and Shaunee call each other “twin,” although Shaunee is a black Northern girl and Erin is a white Southerner. Zoey learns Aphrodite is the leader of the Dark Daughters, a group of upperclassman in charge of school spirit. Before Zoey finishes dinner, Aphrodite approaches her table and invites her to take part in a Full Moon Ritual the following night.
While walking to the Full Moon Ritual, Zoey comments on Stevie Rae’s dark mood. Stevie Rae explains that a Fledgling in one of her classes died from the Change. She says it is common for Fledglings to become sick and die suddenly. A female vampyre greets the girls at the Ritual, placing the mark of a pentagram on their foreheads. The students and teachers take their places in a circle in a room that used to be a church. They call on spirits and elements and magic, and Zoey is electrified.
After the ritual, Zoey attends the meeting of the Dark Daughters. Erik greets her at the door and places another pentagram mark on her forehead. He is one of the Dark Sons, the male auxiliary to the Dark Daughters. As the ritual begins, Zoey sees that it is much like the one she just attended, but the Dark Daughters are using incense laced with marijuana. Aphrodite performs a sexual dance and gives Zoey wine to drink. After the ceremony, Zoey sees Elliot, an annoying kid from her classes, slumped in a chair. She questions others and they call him their “refrigerator” for the evening. They have mixed his blood with the wine used in the ceremony. Zoey is appalled to learn that she not only drank his blood, but that she loved the taste.
Zoey escapes outside and vomits. She then hears a cat meowing in a tree above her. In an effort to calm herself, she coaxes the cat down and names it Nala. Heath and Zoey’s former best friend, Kayla, then arrive. They are drunk and prepared to take her home. Zoey asks Kayla and Heath to leave. Heath is reluctant, telling Zoey that she is more attractive than ever. They begin to kiss, and she accidentally scratches his wrist. When he pulls away to suck the blood off, Zoey can barely control herself. Heath seems to be mesmerized by her. The two kiss again, and Zoey is energized when she tastes the blood on his lips. Kayla’s screams bring Zoey back to reality. She forces Heath to leave.
Zoey breaks down in tears, confused by all that’s happening to her. Erik Night finds her and offers her a tissue. When Zoey admits she saw him and Aphrodite in the hallway, he says he and Aphrodite are no longer together. He admits he followed Zoey out of the ritual because he figured Aphrodite hadn’t told her about the blood mixed with wine. He tells her she should mention to Neferet that Heath seemed to be entranced by her. Erik walks Zoey back to her dorm and tells her if she ever wants another sip of blood, he’s the man for her. He takes her hand and softly bites her wrist. Zoey’s body immediately responds to the gesture in a sexual way.
Zoey tells Stevie Rae about some of the night’s events. Stevie Rae tells her that Nyx’s gift to Aphrodite is prophecy, and the girl has detailed visions of the future. The previous week, Aphrodite saw a plane crash and could tell Neferet the airport and plane number so the accident could be prevented. Zoey realizes that Aphrodite invited her to the ritual hoping Zoey would get freaked out by drinking blood and refuse to join the Dark Daughters. Zoey knows she’ll have to join the group or Aphrodite’s plan will have worked.
The following morning Zoey talks to Neferet about Heath and her unnerving lust for blood. Neferet urges Zoey to call her Grandmother Redbird for comfort. Her grandmother reminds Zoey about their ancestors’ Cherokee purification ritual and recommends she perform it right away. Zoey tells her friends, and they offer to help her.
That night, Zoey and her friends purify themselves in the Cherokee tradition and form a ritual circle. The others are amazed and excited when, as Zoey calls each element, they sense her affinity for it. Once all the spirits are called, Zoey says a prayer, hoping that the spirits will carry it to Nyx. She asks the spirits and the elements to help her be strong and become the person she is supposed to be. Later, Erik finds her and walks her home. She agrees to watch movies with him that weekend, and the two kiss passionately.
The following day, Zoey is shocked when Elliot begins spewing blood in their English class. Zoey is upset further when her cell mailbox is filled with messages from Heath expressing his need to see her. On her way to Neferet’s office, she stumbles upon Aphrodite, who’s in a trance. She drags Aphrodite into Neferet’s office. Aphrodite is clearly horrified at what she’s seeing. She keeps muttering about blood and things that are dead, but not dead. Neferet wakens the girl out of her vision and sends Zoey away.
On the way to the Dark Daughter Samhain ritual, Zoey sees Elliot and knows he’s some kind of undead being. He threatens her, but Nala attacks him, and he escapes. Aphrodite leads the group out into the town to a special meeting place in a gazebo. Aphrodite chants a prayer calling for undead spirits to cross into the land of the living. As ghostly figures emerge from the fog, Aphrodite offers them a goblet of the wine/blood mixture. As the spirits start toward the drink, Heath arrives. The spirits leave Aphrodite’s body and attack him. Other members of the Dark Daughters and Sons flee.
Stevie Rae has dropped the cloak disguising her as the “refrigerator.” Damien, Shaunee and Erin also come out of hiding. The four friends use Aphrodite’s candles and form another ritualistic circle. Zoey calls upon the elements and asks the ghosts to accept the offering of blood and wine she pours out at her feet. At first the spirits refuse, continuing to slash at Heath and Erik. Zoey then commands them, in Nyx’s name, to return to the circle for their sacrifice.
Neferet arrives and commends Erik and Zoey for their bravery. She removes Aphrodite from her positions of High Priestess in training and leader of the Dark Daughters and gives the titles to Zoey. On the way back to the school, Zoey separates from her friends to find Nala. Aphrodite approaches her with a warning that they are both being used. When Zoey questions her about her earlier vision, Aphrodite cryptically replies that it’s only the beginning.
Although not specifically referred to as a Christian organization, the values of “The People of Faith” are consistent with conservative Christian beliefs. Zoey’s mom reads Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul. She and Zoey’s stepfather pray regularly for their children. Her stepfather quotes Jesus, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” when he sees Zoey’s Mark.
When she argues that scientists know that vampyrism is a naturally occurring phenomenon, Zoey’s stepfather says that they are not men of God. He plans to call the Elders to the house so they can lay hands on Zoey and pray for her. The custom is belittled by Zoey. She thinks all the Elders of “The People of Faith” are pedophiles and their wives are fat.
Zoey would gladly make a deal with God to be good if it would keep her from the Change. She thinks the fact that she can sneak out of the house with ease is evidence of her sinful nature. When she hits her head and begins her out-of-body experience, Zoey believes she is going to heaven.
The book opens with Hesiod’s poem to Nyx, the Greek personification of the night. The goddess Nyx rules over the society of the vampyres. They worship her, and she grants them gifts. As Zoey looks at the reflection of her Mark in the school mirror, she feels the blood of her ancestors rejoice that she has been picked to be a vampyre.
She whispers a prayer to whatever god or goddess might be listening that her mother would understand about the Mark. Her stepfather believes that Grandmother Redbird is a witch. Grandmother Redbird claimed her blood carried the knowledge of her ancestral wise women. She believed Zoey had been given extra Cherokee magic.
Grandmother told Zoey ancient stories such as how the stars were formed when a dog stole cornmeal and the tribe beat him. As the dog ran, the cornmeal scattered in the sky, and magic turned it into stars. Another story was of Redbird, the daughter of the sun. Zoey wonders how she, a daughter of the sun, could turn into a creature of the night.
Zoey sees and hears spirits as she searches for her grandmother. When she has her out-of-body experience, Zoey encounters Nyx, the vampyre goddess. Nyx claims to have been known by many names over the centuries. She explains that Zoey isn’t dead, merely free at the moment to travel in the spirit world.
Zoey has been chosen because she has ancient Cherokee knowledge, as well as the power of modern vampyres, to become Nyx’s eyes and ears in the world. Nyx also tells Zoey that darkness is not always evil, just as light is not always good. Grandmother Redbird later tells Zoey that they have a long line of tribal elders, medicine men and wise women in their heritage.
The uniforms of the House of Night each have a symbol on them to indicate what year the student is in. Third years (which are the freshmen students at the school) have Nyx’s spiral — a labyrinth representing their new journey with the goddess and future possibilities. Fourth years have wings that represent those of the god Eros, the god of love. These symbolize Nyx’s capacity to love and their continual movement forward into their new lives. Fifth years have the Three Fates, children of Nyx, on their uniforms while the Sixth years have the emblem of the Fates — Atropos holding scissors. This represents the end of their schooling.
In places, the book reads as a step-by-step guide to spiritual rituals. At the first Full Moon Ritual, Stevie Rae explains that the pentagram is not a symbol of evil, like The People of Faith teach, but an ancient symbol of wisdom, protection and perfection. The four points represent the elements, and the fifth stands for spirit.
As they enter the building where the ritual will take place, a teacher uses oil to mark their foreheads with the pentagram and says, “Blessed be” to them. The participants respond in kind. Incense is used to purify the room, and everything is lit with candles. Neferet dances while a male vampyre recites a love poem. Other vampyres represent the points on the pentagram. After the dance, Neferet takes a candle to each point and summons the elements to enter the pentagram and bring with it knowledge or power or healing.
As Zoey looks around the room, she realizes everyone is paying attention. No one is falling asleep in a pew or playing a game. Neferet claims that everything is tied together with spirit and Nyx’s touch. On the night of the full moon the veil between the world of the mundane (humans) and magic is thin. Their prayers to Nyx will be more easily heard.
The adults in the pentagram lift goblets of wine in a toast to Nyx and her consort, Erebus. They ask for the powers of nature, cats and birds before drinking the wine. They then take the goblets to the others gathered in the room so everyone can drink. The ritual of the Dark Daughters mimics this ritual, but on a baser, more sexual level. Their incense is laced with marijuana. They mix Fledgling blood with the wine.
Grandmother Redbird tells Zoey to be sure to think carefully before she acts so that her ancestors and Nyx will look down on her and smile. She reminds Zoey about the Cherokee ritual of purification, usually said as one stands in running water. Since that isn’t available, Zoey can use a smudge stick of sage and lavender or fresh pine. Zoey must start at the feet and work up her body, front and back, as the herbs burn.
Grandmother Redbird tells her to pray to Nyx for help. Zoey’s friends help her perform the ritual. Zoey explains that lavender restores balance to a space. It also calls loving energy and good spirits. Stevie Rae worries that they might draw in ghosts, but Zoey explains that they are really calling on the spirits of her Cherokee ancestors. Besides, as they are not asking for anything evil, merely guidance, they should be rewarded with only positive entities. The friends take their positions in the pentagram and are ecstatic when Zoey is able to summon all the elements into their circle. Zoey then recites the purification prayer and calls on Nyx for understanding, strength and compassion.
After Elliot’s death, a teacher asks Nyx’s blessing on them for comfort, but they must always remember that death is part of life, even for a vampyre. Eventually they all will return to Nyx. At the Samhain ritual, Aphrodite remarks on the Fledglings’ deaths as survival of the fittest. She thanks Nyx that she and the Dark Daughters are not human and says they should be happy Fate hasn’t beaten any of them yet.
Samhain is a celebration of the end of harvest. It is also a time when the veil between life and death is thin and spirits can easily walk the earth. At the gazebo, Aphrodite again prays within a pentagram formed by other Dark Daughters. She doesn’t call for human spirits to come through but magical ancestors. Her prayer is rewarded, and ethereal forms appear within the pentagram.
When Heath arrives, Aphrodite loses control of the evil spirits, and they are able to leave her circle and attack him. Zoey and her friends recreate the pentagram. Zoey then uses her power to command the spirits back to the other world.
Zoey’s father left the family when Zoey was young. She sees her stepfather as hypocritical. He is an Elder of “The People of Faith,” but is only concerned with the appearance of perfection. He made Zoey’s mother leave her old friends. She can only associate with appropriate members of their faith. He approves of Zoey’s brother and sister because they say the right things to him, but they are secretly doing things he wouldn’t approve.
Zoey, on the other hand, doesn’t lie about her dislike of him and his faith and is considered a bad child, even though her actions are more consistent with his beliefs. Grandmother Redbird is a spiritual woman in the Cherokee tribe. She has taught Zoey much about her past and the rituals involved in their Native American heritage.
Grandmother Redbird promises to accept Zoey, no matter what she turns into. Neferet, the High Priestess of The House of Night, is kind to Zoey. She is intuitive, often able to discern what someone is thinking. Even with this gift, she seems to be fooled by Aphrodite’s superficiality, unable to see that the girl is not behaving as a true High Priestess-in-training should.
Aphrodite’s comments at the end of the book suggest that there may be more going on with Neferet than meets the eye. The teachers all turn a blind eye to the rituals of the Dark Daughters and Sons, as long as they don’t disturb the human community.
The dialogue is rife with profanity. The f-word and its variations are used alone and with bloodsucking, faggot and off. faggot. S— is used alone and with bull. The adjective s—less is also used. B—ch is used alone and with slap. H—, c–t and d–n are used. A– is used alone and with kicking and pain in the.
God’s name is used in vain alone and with o my and swear to. The phrase o my dear sweet Lord is also spoken. Holy crap is also used. The crude phrases stuck up her anus, suck c–k, nasty ho bag and suck his d–k appear.
Other objectionable words are penis, penile, fags, turd, faggot, poopie, p—, p—ed, poo, slut, bejeezus, crap, puke, Jeesh, retards, ho, boobs, butt, sucks, darn, heck and frickin.
Elliot’s death is described in detail, complete with coughing up blood and blood dripping from his eyes. One out of 10 Fledglings die during the Change. While in the throws of a vision, Aphrodite speaks of blood coming out of someone’s body. She sees undead beings kill someone in a tunnel.
When Elliot appears to Zoey after his death, he has fangs and blood-colored eyes. He is more animal than human. An intuitive voice tells Zoey that he is an abomination. Evil spirits attack Heath, slashing his body so they can drink his blood. Erik tries to fight off the spirits, but whenever he touches them, his own skin is cut as well.
Before she’s marked, Zoey says kissing Heath is like kissing an alcohol-soaked foot because he drinks so much. She admits they’ve been making out together for most of the year. Zoey and Heath kiss passionately when he comes to steal her away from the House of Night. Zoey’s reaction is sensual as she is consumed with the idea of drinking his blood.
Erik nips Zoey’s wrist, and then licks and kisses the small wound. This stimulates her body in a sexual way. The next time they kiss, it includes some groping. Zoey is surprised at her reaction, as she’s never felt it before.
Zoey sees Aphrodite trying to give Erik oral sex. He says he doesn’t want her anymore. Aphrodite jokes when she unzips his pants that it doesn’t appear that way, but the reader understands that his erection is because he is looking at Zoey.
Zoey thinks that most adults think teenagers are constantly having oral sex at school, but it’s not true. She knows some girls do it, but she doesn’t think it’s cool to be used like that. A boy once asked Zoey to give him oral sex, but she refused.
Zoey comments that Aphrodite is going to break something if she keeps shaking her butt when she walks. At the Dark Daughters’ ritual, Zoey thinks that Aphrodite’s dance is more like a an MTV grind dance than poetic movement.
Kayla tells Zoey that one of the kids at school got her clitoris pierced. Kayla wears a flesh colored tank top that exposes a lot of cleavage. She’s not wearing a bra. Erik tells Zoey that what he felt for Aphrodite was just physical, not love.
Shaunee jokes that she gets to represent fire because she’s so hot. When Aphrodite is possessed by the evil spirit, she touches herself sensually in order to lure Heath nearer. She cups her breasts and rubs her hand between her legs.
Damien, one of Zoey’s new friends, is homosexual. He has his own room because his roommate didn’t want to room with a “fag.” Throughout the book, Damien makes comments about finding Erik attractive. He wonders if Erik would accept his comfort when Zoey first turns him down for a date.
Zoey is angry at the People of Faith who condemn homosexuality because it doesn’t fit in with their version of how the world should be. Stevie Rae informs her that there are a few other gay vampyres, but they’re more “girly” than Damien, who’s just cute. There are a couple of lesbians as well, but they tend to stay to themselves and concentrate on Nyx worship.
Several girls will make out together at parties in order to turn guys on. Neither Stevie Rae nor Zoey understand the attraction of doing that. Erik comments that Heath sounds like a gay soap opera star.
Alcohol: Kayla talks about Heath drinking three or four shots at a party, along with several beers. Heath and his friends drink in the parking lot of the school. Zoey says he gets drunk five times a week. The adult vampyres allow the students to have wine at their rituals. The Dark Daughters are allowed to have wine mixed with blood. Zoey said she once snuck a drink of Cabernet wine.
Lying: Zoey wants her mother to keep her Mark a secret from her stepfather for at least a night. Zoey lies to Neferet when she doesn’t tell the High Priestess why her Mark got filled in. Zoey lies to her friends about the same thing. Zoey knows her little brother lies to their parents about playing violent video games.
Drugs: The Dark Daughters lace their incense with marijuana. Zoey can smell marijuana on Heath and Kayla.
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