Have I ever mentioned that PCK has no sense of timing? A lot of hacks don’t but PCK’s latest is particularly irking. It’s important to establish what I mean by timing would probably fall under pacing. Though, for me, I think of timing as when smaller events happen within a story, rather than the overarching plot.
The scene with Zoey lamenting the loss of her virginity was the one that got me thinking. In the space of two chapters, Zoey is seduced—fully—and has a fight with Erik. I get that the confrontation between Erik and Zoey was supposed to be a smaller climax of the book, but should it have been done that way? Why not have Zoey start sleeping with Loren earlier on, before the tenth chapter? Then you have dramatic tension between Zoey and Erik as she sneaks off for clandestine meetings in the library or his room. Finally, Loren takes her in the ceremony hall and Erik finds them. Then you have cheap and easy drama/tension for a good part of the book. And that’s coming from someone who’s terrible at human drama. Given a skilled hand, the human drama could easily overshadow PCK’s many other storytelling faults.
I suspect the reason it came out that way is that’s exactly the order that PCK wrote it. That’s where a good editor would stop her and suggest they shuffle things about to make a better paced story. It wouldn’t even require anything to change, plot-wise. But PCK has an audience and doesn’t care about making anything passable, let alone good. Just as long as the checks from her publisher don’t bounce.
We rejoin Zoey, who’s recovering from a good long cry with her cat. Nala, like everyone else in the series, exists only so long as Zoey needs her. Then it’s back to cryo-storage for another twenty chapters. She hears footsteps coming and dare we guess who it is?
“Well, crap, Aphrodite, you were right. She does look majorly like shit,” Shaunee said.
It’s her servants, freshly awoken and ready to perform their duties. Yes, Aphro went and fetched them because she’s also a slave to Zoey. They talk about how right Aprho was that Zoey looks like she’s having a bad time. Har har, they don’t trust Aphrodite because she hasn’t spent her entire existence licking Zoey’s boots. Those conversations are always hilarious, PCK. You should put more of that witty banter you’re known for. It’s why people read this, after all. Also, Aphro is so cowed that she makes fun of herself along with them.
“You guys make a pathetic rescue squad,” Aphrodite said. “Here.” She handed me a ball of (hopefully) clean Kleenex. “I’m more nurturing than the three of you, and that’s a damn shame.”
Damien instantly knows something bad happened and everyone starts bantering again. Banter, banter, attempt at wit and pause for nonexistent laughter from the audience. This is the thing that PCK sucks at. What she’s good at—which isn’t something to be proud of—is writing Sues like Zoey. Everyone has to know what could make the special and unique master of theirs shed tears. Is it the plight of the polar bears? Cats? Nay, the very beings that are beneath her consideration known as humans? Zoey doesn’t have to say anything until Jack shows up, dragging Erik behind him.
I couldn’t speak. All I could do was stare at Erik. His face was a handsome, unreadable mask. Or at least it was unreadable until he started speaking, then his blank expression changed to disgust. His deep, expressive voice was a sneer.
“You want to tell them, honey, or should I?”
Am I supposed to feel sorry for Zoey, PCK? Because Erik’s not the one who had a secret relationship with one of his teachers and then got caught screwing them. Even if it was a plot set up by Neferet, it required Zoey’s participation. And considering her willingness to throw people around with her vampire magic, I doubt he could have forced her if Loren had wanted to.
When Zoey says nothing, Erik tells them about Loren and her. No one can believe it because, if they do, Zoey will whip them with garlic and sell them as damaged goods. Erik says that he saw it and that’s why she stayed behind after the ceremony. He says she was probably using him and laughing, Zoey says she never laughed at him and Erik says he doesn’t believe her because she’s a lying slut. Aprho tells Erik he needs to shut up and Erik says that’s one slut standing up for another. Then Aprho does her best to earn a place at the foot of Zoey’s bed.
Aphrodite’s eyes narrowed and she lifted her right hand. The branches of the oak closest to Erik’s head swayed down toward him and I heard the warning sounding cracking of wood. “You do not want to piss me off anymore,” she said. “You claim to care so much for Zoey, but you’ve turned on her like a mangy-ass dog because she hurt your little ego. And I can verify for the masses that it is little. You did what you came here for, and now it’s time for you to leave.”
Oh, right. He’s mad at Zoey because she wounded his ego and not because he found Zoey working Loren like a stripper pole. I hope Zoey throws you into a wood chipper, Aphro. PCK seems to think we should all feel bad for Zoey and that everyone else just has to get over it because it’s not her fault. Only one person gets to be upset for being wronged and that’s Zoey. And I love how Aphro too, is threatening people with her powers. Nothing says “hero” like using magic to beat the muggles back in line.
Erik leaves and I wonder exactly what the hell they brought him along for. Probably so PCK could tell us that no one has the right to be mad at Zoey. They ask if Zoey’s really been with Loren, Zoey confirms this, they say he’s super hot and Zoey says he’s an asshole. This causes panic among the slaves because Zoey cussed.
This is just more evidence you suck, PCK. A competent author would just let the swear hang out there. We’d get that it’s a big deal as Zoey doesn’t normally swear without the sign. But no, you don’t trust your audience to have brains. For PCK, the zombie apocalypse has already happened and only she hasn’t had her cranium scooped out and served on a waffle cone. Zoey says that he wasn’t using her for sex but is interrupted by the trapdoor nearby opening up.
Stevie decided that she can’t wait. Everyone marvels that Stevie is there and moving instead of lying in the ground and rotting like a respectable corpse. Zoey asks what she’s doing there and Stevie says that she got a text. Zoey realizes that Loren also stole her phone as well as her chance to be a virgin sacrifice. Zoey whines that her friends aren’t going to trust her because she’s been hiding Stevie and says two points for Neferet.
Zoey then beings the laborious task of explaining that Stevie’s not dead. This takes more time than the foreplay between Loren and her and is just as exciting. Stevie says she’s dead, Zoey says she’s not, the servants say Stevie smells funny and Stevie says they smell like food. Zoey tells Stevie to stop it because they’re her friends. Yes, friends who are also food. There’s nothing like a meal that can provide stimulating conversation and then be eaten when it turns dull. They start worrying that Neferet will know Stevie is there but Aprho doesn’t think so and neither does Damien.
“Aphrodite’s right,” Damien said slowly, as if his brain was just then thawing out and starting to work again. “Neferet bespelled the perimeter to tell her if it’s breached by any human, fledgling, or vampyre. Stevie Rae isn’t any of those things, so the spell wouldn’t work on her.”
It’s a good thing that Damien and Aprho have become experts on the magic of Nyxian priestesses and undeadlings. It’d be a shame if the spell Neferet cast simply warned her when something entered the school and didn’t discriminate based on what creature it was or if it was based on weight and height. Vampire magic must follow the same rules as Paolini’s. If you don’t say it exactly the way you want, it doesn’t work.
Stevie glares at Aphro and asks why she’s there. This is largely ignored by everyone realizing that a “friend” of theirs is alive and present. They all pile in to give her a big group hug. Stevie doesn’t hug them back but Zey sees a single blood tear leak form the corner of Stevie’s eye. What a dramatic way to close the chapter. And here I thought the single tear was the exclusive domain of terrible fantasy. The best part though, is how everyone excepting Zoey is hugging Stevie. Zoey just stands there so she can narrate and not touch the gross corpse of her “best friend”.