Part of what makes Zoey and her servants so unbearable is their unrealistic reactions. Take Zoey’s conversation with Stevie last chapter. She’d just potentially killed two people, drank from Heath and was thinking about boning Loren, all of which she told to Stevie. And the detail which caught Stevie’s attention wasn’t the possible murder but that Zoey has made out with one of her teachers. Both of them were fixated on Zoey’s love life when there are bigger things going on at that immediate moment.
‘Ugh, I tell you Ted, today has been rough.’ ‘Really? What happened?’ ‘I was driving to work today and I’d just gotten my iced coffee, and you know I love my coffee, when this inconsiderate prick stumbled onto the highway.’ ‘Oh my god! What happened!?’ ‘Well I managed to stop after dragging him thirty feet without spilling my coffee…’ ‘Wait, you ran him over?’ ‘I think that was implied. Anyway, I pull over and turn the wipers on and the guy is still hanging on to my hood. So I get out and I think he’s dead at this point…’ ‘You killed him!’ ‘No, I only thought I did. I give him a poke and he starts flopping about and, wouldn’t you know it, he knocked it out of my hands! So I kicked him to the side of the road and drove off.’ ‘Unbelievable.’ ‘I know, I paid six buck for that coffee.’
You can play that kind of conversation for laughs if your character is an unfeeling bastard. Or you can show how that character us being assailed by stress from all directions, from mundane to extraordinary. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child did this wonderfully in Relic, the novel, where Margo is frantically trying to finish a dissertation and secure a grant while killings are going on in the American Museum of Natural History. It adds a sense of urgency to the main plot because their life isn’t stopping just because something big is going on.
Zoey says that “naturally” she got caught sneaking back on campus. She says she floated over the wall, not getting caught and abusing her powers, and tried to stealth her way back. Then Neferet wandered into the scene, dragging Zoey’s slaves around. She managed to smell/hear Zoey and break her concentration by staring at her. Zoey then steps out of the corner she was hiding in while her friends scramble ot make excuses for her.
“She needed to be alone before the rituals,” Shaunee said, stepping up to put an arm through mine.
“Yeah, she always needs to be alone before rituals. It’s a Zoey thing,” Erin said, moving to my other side and taking my other arm.
‘Also, abusing her powers and controlling the minds of people. That’s a Zoey thing too.’ Everyone, from the “twins” to Erik and Damien add to the lie so they don’t risk falling out of her grace. Zoey says she wants to cry because her friends are the best, which is the closest to gratitude that her species is capable of feeling. She says that Neferet won’t believe them but will think Zoey was merely up to “teenage mischief” rather than sneaking out to hide her dead friend.
Wait, Zoey was out hiding a dead friend? She already hid Stevie, so I must assume it was another friend she was saving from the other undeadlings. It was probably Elliott. Nyx figured he was strong enough to come back from the dead that he deserved a second chance. The rest of the books will detail Zoey’s efforts to rehabilitate Elliott while a romance blossoms between them.
Neferet says that she wants Zoey to limit her alone time in the future. Alright, but you’d better remember that when everyone complains about Zoey masturbating with a crucifix in the middle of pottery class. They head to the hall for Neferet’s ritual while Shaunee asks if Zoey broke up with Heath. Instead of having to lie, Zoey is interrupted by Erik putting his arms on her and saying how he missed her today. This causes Shaunee to sputter out one of her token phrases like a vending machine on the fritz.
“I was worried about you today.” Erik had moved up and neatly nudged Shaunee from her place beside me. I expected the Twins to hiss and spit at him, but instead they waggled their brows at us and fell back to walk with Damien. I heard Shaunee murmur, “So damn fiiiiine.” Jeesh, they could face Neferet, but Erik’s hotness totally did them in.
I’m waiting for Shaunee to devolve into saying nothing more than “shit”, “damn” and “that is whack”. And why wouldn’t they be disarmed by Erik’s looks? He’s just a mannequin who can talk back. It’s not like he’ll do anything good or bad. He’s the designated love interest who’s just there to hang off of Zoey’s arm and look pretty.
Zoey says she’s sorry and said she had stuff to do. Erik says that he hopes she got rid of him, or stuff, this time. Zoey is mad because the “twins” told him and she declares them traitors. He says he bribed them with time with his two lesser attractive friends so it’s not their fault. Zoey says that was very sly of him.
“And not very tough to manage. T. J. and Cole think the Twins are dead sexy,” Erik said, using an excellent Scottish accent and proving, again, what an old movie dork he was (hello—Austin Powers).
PCK, just like Paolini, has no idea how to work a reference in. At least the reference would fit, considering the discussion, but you don’t stop and point it out. It insults the intelligence of the audience and doesn’t win you friends, PCK. Though it’s very telling that Erik is quoting a merely passable comedy at Zoey. He’s probably the kind of guy who still does the “whazzaap!” for hours on end among his friends and while they quote Anchorman at each other instead of telling jokes. They banter for a moment before Loren shows up and asks Zoey how she’s doing.
I knew through our joined hands Erik could feel the shock that went through my body at the sound of Loren’s voice.
Is this supposed to be a literal shock or is PCK trying to say that Zoey was startled? Maybe that’s Loren’s power, to send little electrical shocks through people. He’s constantly flinging them at people’s ears and that’s why none of the adults can stand him. He asks how Zoey is feeling and if she slept well, telling Erik that Zoey had a nasty shock the other day.
“Yeah, I know.” Erik’s clipped the words out. I could feel the tension between them and wondered a little frantically if anyone else had noticed. When I heard Shaunee’s whispered, “Damn, girl!” and Erin’s “Um-hum!” I had to force myself not to groan. Clearly everyone else (translation: the Twins) noticed.
And lo, the prophecy has been fulfilled. Shaunee has become the perfect token. Damien is being fast tracked to be the token gay character and soon, Zoey will cripple one of her servants so they’ve got the major bases covered. Sorry Erin, I hope you like the getting best parking in the house because Zoey will put you in a wheelchair. Otherwise you’re not bringing anything to the table.
They get to the not so secret trapdoor and Neferet says they’re to form a crecent around the statue of Nyx, which she had placed at the site of Nolan’s body, which isn’t creepy at all. She says they need to concentrate on sending positive energy to Nolan’s spirit as her soul departs and blah blah blah. She also wants the kids to take the place at the candles which, she says, is unusual but they’re special. They all agree and they gather around the statue which is onyx and pretty. Zoey notices the murder scene is completely devoid of any sign that anyone died there and wonder, albeit briefly, if Neferet let the detectives collect the evidence before she sanitized the place.
Neferet does her opening schtick, calling all the elements. ‘Hello, Wind? Yeah, I was wondering if you could stop by for a vampiric ceremony….great. We’ll see you in a few.’ Now if it was different because Neferet was saying how each element served in death, I would forgive PCK making us read every word that comes out of Neferet’s mouth. Because then we’d get a glimpse of vampire culture and death.
Instead it’s just the usual ‘wind is great, yahoo, so is earth, whoop de doo’ that we get every time. Every chapter where there’s a ritual is a free space on PCK’s bingo card. She can just sleepwalk through it and pretend it’s a legitimate chapter. This takes over a page and does nothing but pad.
Once all the elements are accounted for, spirit was carpooling with fire so they arrived last, Neferet starts talking. Blah blah blah, humans haven’t “openly” killed a vampire in over a hundred years blah blah. They haven’t awakened a sleeping giant, but a leopard they thought was tame. She asks Nyx to take Nolan’s soul and to grant them protection from the human’s ”murderous web”. Then she starts muttering a poem and waving a knife around in “intricate motions”. When it’s complete, Zoey can tell it’s not just to keep people out but will tell Neferet when people come and go.
They head back inside, Zoey whining about nothing, when Loren reminds her of her own ritual. He also reminds her that he’s her “bard” and Shaunee says they look forward to it. The girls talk about how sexy and wonderful he is until Erik says he thinks he’s slimy. Everyone but Zoey argues that Erik is just being jealous and Zoey sneaks of to go change. Her slaves tell her, not to worry, that they’ll handle the details. All she needs to do is show up, wave her arms around and pretend to by mystical.
Once away form her friends, Zoey laments about how much she likes all three of the boys. Then she says she sucks. Yes, but not for the reasons you think, Zoey. And stop trying to sell us on the harem angle, PCK. We’re bored, bored, bored. Unless something is going to happen between Zoey and one of them, then you’re just leaving them in a holding pattern. Stasis does not make for an interesting read.