Only two more weeks of House of Night: Betrayed after this! So do you think we’ll actually find out who did any betraying? [Ariel says: Erik was betrayed by Zoey – that much we know!]
Yesterday we began the novel’s climax, which we’re spreading across this week and the next because Ariel and I are unfeeling monsters. [Ariel says: We figured everyone reading along needed a break from feelings anyway given how often they drive the “plot” in this series.] Zoey found where the undead-zombie-ghost-vampyres (or maybe they’re just “vampires” now) kidnapped Heath, because every House of Night book apparently ends with Zoey saving Heath. [Ariel says: When we finally write the drinking game for this series, this will be included.]
Zoey awoke one morning from uneasy dreams to find Stevie Rae transformed into a monstrous vermin.
[Stevie Rae] still had her Okie twang, but the soft sweetness that had filled it was totally gone. She sounded like mean trailer trash.
Or, you know, trailer trash. Stevie Rae basically changed from one Southern stereotype to another Southern stereotype. [Ariel says: Her metamorphoses is truly astounding. Ovid would write such beautiful prose about this, I’m sure.]
The Casts continue this emotional reunion with Zoey and her changed former friend with their usual penchant for quality dialogue.
“Stevie Rae, what happened to you?”
Undead Stevie Rae continues to explain that she is not a ghost (which means I can’t make zombie-ghost jokes anymore – must you constantly find new ways to hurt me, Casts?) and that she is “not as simple as I used to be”. Zoey, however, is unchanged in this regard:
“Stevie Rae, is there someplace we can go so we can talk? I need to get Heath home, but I can come back and meet you. Or maybe you could come back to the school with me?”
Zoey maintains that something bad happened to her friend and she needs to try to help when Stevie Rae counters that Zoey really doesn’t get what’s going on. To be fair, Zoey explicitly states to the reader that she’s playing dumb… but does so after the exchange already starts. Sure you are, Zoey.
Another creature steps forward and Zoey observes that she “obviously used to be beautiful”, which means that she obviously used to be Aphrodite’s friend, Venus. She doesn’t really do much outside of just show up and be creepy like the other creatures, which kind of wastes having her show up at all. Even when Zoey recognizes her and Venus questions why, it is immediately dismissed for the rest of the chapter so Zoey can make some one-liners.
“Touch [Heath] and you die. Again.”
Things fall apart really quickly. Not for Zoey, of course. For the scene’s tone.
The pretty blonde narrowed her eyes at me. “How do you know me, fledgling?”
“She knows a lot of stuff,” Heath said […] “And I’m about sick of all of you fucked-up creatures.”
“Why is that speaking?” Stevie Rae spat. […]
“He isn’t a that. He’s Heath. Remember, Stevie Rae? My ex-boyfriend?”
“Zo. I am not your ex-boyfriend. I’m your boyfriend.”
“Heath. I told you before that this can’t possibly work out between us.”
What… what? Aren’t you currently surrounded by bloodthirsty undead murder creatures? Is this really the time to interrupt the narrative with the Zoey’s romantic interests subplot again?
“Oh, Zo, you know you love me.” [Heath] winked at me and I couldn’t help smiling back at him.
“Fine. I love you.”
“What’sss happening…” the gross Elliott creature hissed.
Your own character said it, Casts. Not me. [Ariel says: It says a lot when the grossest thing about the scene isn’t the character deemed “the gross Elliot creature”. Also, seriously, why is Elliot the only one who is hissing? Why has he become so snake-like?]
Even stranger, apparently something actually is happening, and it might be the actual dumbest thing I’ve ever read in a book.
“Tell them what’s happening here. You know. I know you do.”
Steve Rae’s face contorted, and the words sounded like they were being wrenched from her throat. “Humanity! They’re showing their humanity!”
This is actually what is happening in this book. Zoey and Heath are stopping the undead creatures by reminding them what being human is like. Apparently. Seeing Zoey and Heath’s relationship fulfils that requirement. Apparently.
“Heath, un-human-ness isn’t a word. It’s inhumanity.”
“Zo, I’m not stupid. I know that I was just coining a word.”
“Coining?” Had he really just said that?
He nodded. “I learned about it in Dickson’s English class. It has to do with…” He paused, and I swear the creatures were even listening expectantly. “Poetry.”
Despite our awful situation I laughed. “Heath, you really have been studying!”
Remember how bullshit the ending of the first book was, where the antagonist ghosts showed up for the first time during the climax, which was the first time they were even mentioned? The second book somehow has an even more bullshit ending than that. This conversation is the key to victory over the undead creatures? This counts as a conversation? It’s too bad to even be able to tell a bad story! This would be like if they stopped the villain at the end of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones with the “I don’t like sand” scene.
Stevie Rae declares that she’s had enough of this (preaching to the choir, Stevie Rae) and that it’s time to kill Zoey and Heath, because they’ve seen them and cannot be allowed to leave. Zoey summons Shaunee’s affinity for fire (which she can apparently do), which amazingly manages to be more effective than Zoey’s affinity for humanity. The Casts then take this scene that already couldn’t decide whether it was mortal peril or a romantic comedy and decide to throw over-the-top horrifying into the mix:
I turned in time to see one of the creatures launch herself at Heath. I lifted my arms and flung the fire at her […] It was Elizabeth No Last Name – the nice girl who had died last month. Now her burning body writhed on the floor, reeking of spoiled meat and decay, which was all that was left of her lifeless shell.
After creating this unmoving husk of decayed meat and burning flesh now far removed from the vessel for a human life which it once was (dang, I just don’t know if I can top how unsettling the Casts’ actual sentence was – sigh), Zoey leaves it behind as a warning to the other creatures, who promptly follow Zoey and Heath on their way out anyway. Zoey channels Stevie Rae’s earth affinity (because not only can she apparently channel other peoples’ affinities, but they don’t even have to be alive anymore) to cause part of the tunnel to collapse between them and the creatures.
While she does so she sees a vision of another, different Stevie Rae, who is also undead, but “weeping openly, her expression filled with despair”. Zoey gains some comfort from this vision, thinking that maybe Stevie Rae could still be saved somehow, which is actually a nice, hopeful note to end this chapter on. [Ariel says: But what kind of southern stereotype was this Stevie Rae? Was she nice white trash? Mean white trash? This is game changing information.]
[Heath] bent and kissed me. I tasted the dark sweetness of his blood
When my tongue snaked out and touched it, he moaned and pressed my hips closer to his. I closed my eyes and began to lick-
“Kill me!” Steve Rae’s broken voice [cried].
Your own character said it, Casts. Not me.