One of my biggest bookish New Years resolutions for 2014 was to tie up loose ends and try to finish off some of the series I had begun a million years ago. I think of all the series I have ever started, the House of Night books by P.C. and Kristin Cast are the ones I’ve had ongoing the longest. I came across the books during the height of my teenage vampire obsession (post Twilight but pre over saturated market) and was quite obsessed with them for a while. Since, I have developed a somewhat love hate relationship with them (which you can read more about here) but I’m still determined to complete the series. I’ve invested too much time to stop without seeing how it all ends! Because it had been so long (3 years, JEEPERS) since I’d read any of the books and my brain was rusty, I decided to pick up one of the House of Night novellas, which aren’t technically key to the story, in the hopes that it would jog my memory. So it was with much trepidation that I began reading Dragon’s Oath!
Please Note: For those who haven’t read up to book 6 (Tempted) in the House of Night series, this review will contain spoilers about the characters Dragon and Anastasia. This review will not however, contain any spoilers from Dragon’s Oath.
Had I chosen differently those many years ago, perhaps I could have kept all this from happening.
Strength tempered by mercy was a mistake.
Do you not remember, my love?
I do. I will never forget.
Dragon Lankford wasn’t always an instructor at the House of Night. Once he was a student: young, talented and in love. But the mistake that cost him everything might be the key to helping Zoey and the rest of the vampyres in their fight against darkness…
Although I was a little nervous about returning to this series, Dragon has always been my favourite House of Night teacher (of the martial art fencing) so I was interested in finding out more of his back story. For me personally, the most important element of a novella like this is that it enriches your enjoyment of the main storyline it’s tied to, that it adds a new facet or level of understanding about a character’s decision making process. Even though Dragon’s past had been heavily hinted at in the main House of Night books, I do feel like Dragon’s Oath gave me further insight into his character and caused me to feel more invested in the outcome of his story. For that reason, this book is worth reading. It’s definitely rekindled my interest in the House of Night books in general and it was great to have a break from Zoey and her Nerd Herd’s battle against Neferet which has been getting increasingly yawn worthy, not to mention farfetched to the extreme.
This novel takes place after the events of book 8 (Awakened) in the House of Night series and you won’t want to read it unless you’ve reached that point because it has a MAJOR spoiler at the beginning otherwise. Dragon’s Oath is a story that goes full circle; it begins with Dragon reflecting on recent events and reminiscing with some major angst about the death of his wife, Anastasia before deciding to give up his oath to temper strength with mercy. The reader is then taken back in time to discover how the couple met and why Dragon swore his oath in the first place before returning to present day.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this story; it felt traditional and old-fashioned which was oddly comforting. It had all the typical elements you would expect from a romance, love, revenge, idealistic views of right and wrong, good vs evil. Clichéd to the extreme, but fun, and it managed to get a few dorky smiles out of me as well. Add in the vampire and wiccan elements, plus the saddening knowledge that you know the love story takes a turn for the worse in the future and you’ve got a pretty interesting story!
And now for the downer: in more adept hands, this could have been an awesome story rather than okay one. The writing in this book was beyond awful, it’s the one thing that let the novella down. The authors clearly had some great ideas but the writing distracted from them and I found myself being catapulted out of the story numerous times because of it. I kept mentally editing every other page in my head – ditch that word, replace that one, drop the exclamation point etc., and this is coming from someone who doesn’t even have a great amount of grammar or writing knowledge! The aspect that annoyed me most was the excess use of exclamation points, (at one stage I spotted 4 on ONE page) it stunk of armature which sounds harsh, but it’s the best way I can describe it. Picking up on this particular aspect of the writing may sound hilarious because I have an unhealthy relationship with exclamation points on this site, but that’s because this is MY blog; it’s informal and it’s for fangirling but I would never use that tact in fiction writing.
I enjoyed getting to know some of the characters better in this novella. There’s not a lot of depth because the story is only 145 pages and that includes some random full page illustrations (which I didn’t like the style of to be honest), but there was enough to grab onto and as I mentioned earlier, it was fun to discover more of Anastasia and Dragon’s back stories. I loved how they had misconceptions about each other when they first met, and how Anastasia’s compassion evened out Dragon’s arrogance and hotheaded nature. It was fun to watch them dance around each other and grow.
The secondary characters were pretty non-existent. There was a bad guy that had flimsy motivations that I didn’t find believable, and I feel like the writers were lazy with his development. There was also a High Priestess who didn’t really have enough page time to become interesting. For the most part, the story focuses primarily on the two main characters, which I was satisfied with. They were, after all, the ones I really wanted to hear more about!
I was pleasantly surprised by Dragon’s Oath and I do think it was a worthwhile novella so I would recommend it to fans of the House of Night books. The writing is ridiculous, but if you’ve made it this far in the series then you already know that. 😉
While you could technically read this novella if you hadn’t read any of the series, it would be less interesting and the mythology would seem odd and underdeveloped, I don’t think there would be much point!
Have any of you read the House of Night series? Are you still trudging along with it or did you give up halfway though? (I was tempted!) Would you consider attempting the novellas?
Writing Style: 2/5
Character Development: 3/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes.