There is another small thing which hacks seem to do which make their characters appear flat. They always appear to lack any agency of their own. For example, Zoey never makes any decisions without being informed by prophecy. Even worse, she never goes anywhere unless the plot drags her along. Instead of living in an organic universe the responds to her actions, just as she should respond to the actions of those around her, Zoey is locked on a rail and pulled along. Like a mine cart, there is only one path Zoey can go down and she won’t move herself.
Take the upcoming scene with Stark. PCK wanted to have Zoey and Stark meet and have another conversation laden with drama. It’s stupid but that’s what PCK loves to focus on. So why did Stark need to appear? Why not have Zoey go seek him out for comfort or because she wants to talk to him. Just having her choose where to go, rather than having people go to her, would make her seem less passive.
We kick off the chapter with Zoey telling Stark that she doesn’t want to get along with the ravens, even if he does. Then she asks him if he saw the illusionary spiders and he didn’t. She suddenly doubts she can tell what’s real and what’s not anymore. Yeah, because seeing Neferet’s visage twice has shaken your world to the core. After all, it’s not like Zoey has seen something or someone who may or may not have been there. Like some undead students or the god she worships.
Stark says that he did see her using fire rather indiscriminately and Zoey sees there are still flames around her hands. So she uses it to melt the ice on the sidewalk and tells it to piss off until she needs it again. She walks over to Stark, he says she’s really something and they kiss.
Zoey says it’s not the possessive kind of kiss like Erik has been giving her lately. How exactly a kiss is possessive, I’d like to know. Maybe PCK should go about showing us? Oh wait, that’s better reserved for real authors. Zoey says she should have been mad but she isn’t and kisses him back “enthusiastically”. PCK is light on the details of what makes it enthusiastic but that’s because harpies only have one way to show enthusiasm and they figured we’d know that Zoey is cawing wildly while spraying feces onto the sidewalk.
Zoey tries to tell us that she’s not being “ho-ish” but rather trying to escape her stress. She then says that’s just an excuse and she really likes him but can’t admit her feelings in public. She says that such an announcement would piss off her friends and a bunch of the “pod girls” around the schools. This makes her think about all the girls Stark has been biting and she suddenly shoves him away.
Then Zoey drags him over to a small equipment shed and tells him to stay at one end so they can talk. He asks why and speculates that it’s because she can’t keep her hands off of him. She says she’s not like one of his pod girls and Stark doesn’t understand.
“You know, from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. That’s how I think of the girls you bite and mess with their minds so that they’re all ‘Oooh, that Stark, he’s just so hot! Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod!’ It’s seriously annoying. And, by the way, if you ever try any of that crap with me, I promise you I will call all of the five elements and we will kick your butt. Count on it.”
So, it’s not ok when Stark does it but fine when you do it to boys? Sorry if I’m too dense to see the difference, PCK. Stark says he wouldn’t do that to her and asks her what has her panties in a bunch. Zoey says that her panties are not bunched but that everything is chaos and she’s falling for him. Stark can’t believe his ears, probably because when a girl you’ve known for seven minutes says she’s falling for you it means it’s time to break out pepper spray and restraining orders.
Zoey whines to Stark about having a boyfriend and Heath, Stark says he can take care of her boyfriend and touches his bow and Zoey freaks out saying that’s not the answer to everything. It’s true, Zoey. You can’t just take force and apply it to every problem you have. People who would use their power, say magic of some sort for example, are probably assholes.
Stark says that’s what he is now and Zoey delivers a heavy handed speech about how some people only have to struggle to get to class on times while other need to struggle to “stay clean and go to rehab”. She’s basically saying that people are only bad because they choose to be and there are no exceptions. They’re not people who make mistakes or anything, it’s just them not struggling with their humanity.
Then Zoey talks about how she won’t be with him if she’s embarrassed to be seen with him. Not that she can’t be with someone who hurts people because it’s morally reprehensible but only because he would embarrass her. Presumably if it was socially acceptable to drink from people forcibly, Zoey would be fine with it. She tells him that she still sees good in him but won’t stick around if he keeps screwing up and Stark says she’s the good one.
So then Stark decides to show his commitment to change by pledging himself to her. Only PCK isn’t content with Stark just making a promise, it has to be a magical vampire promise. Apparently, when “warriors” pledge themselves to a “high priestess” it’s a bond that’s stronger than an “imprint”. Why PCK hasn’t mentioned this until now is beyond me. I mean, they couldn’t just be pulling things out of their collective asses could they?
Zoey accepts and there’s a flash of light and much rejoicing from her. His mark has changed and has arrows on it and Stark can tell he’s changed. He asks if that’s what happened and Zoey nods and cries. Then she sends him off to talk to Dragon about the ritual adults have to go through. She doesn’t know what it is but that he’ll know. That saves PCK from having to come up with it until later.
Then Zoey tells him to keep his new mark hidden until he’s talked to Dragon. She finds a trucker cap and a towel to slap on his head and keep it hidden. Then she says she’s going to plan their escape, that Dragon and a couple others are in on it and they’ll leave soon. Stark says not to wait for her because he can come and go as he pleases. He also says that even if he can’t be with her physically, she always has her heart.
They kiss and he leaves then Zoey starts talking to Nyx. She says she was telling him the truth and that she didn’t plan on it and to look after him for her. Then she stays the next hour in the shed praying to Nyx until the chapter ends.