So here we are with more House of Night spinoff novellas, yaaayyyy! (Can you feel the excitement emanating off me?) Actually, that’s a bit harsh. After reading Dragon’s Oath and finding myself pleasantly surprised, I was feeling somewhat positive as I approached Lenobia’s Vow and Neferet’s Curse. Unfortunately, my interest soon took a nosedive when I realised novellas two and three were not as well thought out as novella one, nor as entertaining.
Want to find out why? Stick with me and find out. 🙂
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Before becoming Zoey’s favourite professor and the House of Night’s powerful horse mistress, Lenobia was just a normal 16-year-old girl – but with enough problems to last a lifetime.
In 1788, Lenobia’s mother placed her on a ship bound for New Orleans. An evil bishop, skilled in Dark magic, is making the same journey. His appetite for beautiful young women forces Lenobia to remain hidden, but she secretly visits the ship’s stables, where a handsome young man and his horses capture her attention.
Can they make it to the New World before the bishop discovers her true identity and a powerful evil breaks loose? And will Lenobia follow her heart, even if it puts her life at risk?
My biggest complaint about the first novella Dragon’s Oath was the writing, and I have to say, I think this improved in Lenobia’s Vow. The number of exclamation points were toned down, there were less adverbs and everything in general seemed more polished. Some of the issues remained (the bland feel, the awkward dialogue) and the writing still pales in comparison to the average author, but it was a positive step in the right direction.
Having said that, Lenobia’s Vow did present with some new writing related issues – accents. The story had several French characters and because of this the authors tried to incorporate a few French words and phrases which I found frustrating. I have to admit that this technique in books annoys me and I don’t have a lot of tolerance for it. Why? Because it means the authors just have to explain what the foreign phrase means in the next sentence (in this case, with no subtlety whatsoever). The technique is difficult to pull off well, and in Lenobia’s Vow it failed majorly for me. It was clear the authors didn’t know what they were talking about because they used the same 3 or 4 phrases over and over. Equally, when the characters were speaking English, I found the accents unbelievable.
The plot of this novella revolves around a young French girl named Lenobia who is instructed by her mother to impersonate another girl to improve her chances in life. She boards a ship bound for New Orleans and the majority of the story takes place below deck. Overall, it was pretty lackluster. Essentially Lenobia grooms horses and falls in love with a cute guy, and the conflict in the story comes from an ever watchful sleazy priest (with an ability to control fire) who likes young girls and will do anything to get them, and hey, if it’s against their will then that’s a bonus! Blugh. I read the story over two days; it was easy reading and passed the time well enough but I never became invested in what was going on and found my attention drifting. I didn’t think the story structure worked as well as Dragon’s Oath, instead of going full circle the plot was linear and the vampire and House of Night elements only became relevant in the last 20 pages, it wasn’t as satisfying. I also felt the novella didn’t add anything new. Having recently read Destined, I already had a good idea of Lenobia’s back story, and I don’t feel this novella added any more depth. The whole thing seemed unnecessarily.
As for the characters? Bland. All bland. Lenobia was a boring, painfully innocent and uninspiring character. Lenobia’s love interest Martin was equally blah and uninteresting. Plus, his broken English usage made him sound really dumb and he tended to reuse the same repetitive phrases (although he was supposed to have a creole accent and to be fair, I don’t know what that sounds like). Add the two together and what to you get? BOREDOM AND ANNOYANCE. Let me make this clear, I do not care about Lenobia and her muscly stable boy. It was like a walking Mills & Boon cliché but without the sexy times, and where’s the fun in that? I found myself uninterested in their star-crossed relationship and how it ended up which meant the book was, essentially, pointless.
The secondary characters were also one-dimensional and clichéd, there was a nun who was ‘good’ and purely a plot device and a creepy priest who was ‘bad’ because he just wanted to set fire to ALL THE THINGS. (Not that we’re ever told how he came to have this magical gift.)
Positives? I can’t really think of any which is a bit worrying. Lenobia’s Vow definitely wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read but I was left with a resounding ‘meh’ and it didn’t enrich my life in any way. Overall I’d recommend giving it a miss (unless you’re like me and have a compulsive need to read every damn book in the House of Night series :P)
Writing Style: 3/5
Character Development: 2/5
Would I recommend this book? No. Not even to fans of the House of Night series.
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Neferet, the darkly seductive High Priestess at the House of Night, wasn’t always a powerful vampyre, but she has always been beautiful. Raised in turn-of-the-century Chicago, her beauty makes her the prey of unwanted attention and abuse, leaving her with scars that will never heal – and a Darkness that will eventually need to find its way out.
So when she is Marked and gains strength, both physical and magikal, she turns her anger into power and looks for a way to regain what was stolen from her.
I must admit of all the novellas, this was the one I was most looking forward to. Neferet has been the antagonist throughout the entire House of Night series, and apart from her need for power there seemed to be little explanation about her motivations for going to the ‘dark side’, especially as she seemed to have plenty of power before she became a consort to darkness.
Told through retrospective diary entries, Neferet discloses the terror of her teenage years. After witnessing the death of her mother in childbirth, Neferet is wrought with grief and loneliness. Stuck in the house with her gruff, alcoholic father she is now expected to grow up and become the lady of the house. But as the weeks go on she becomes increasingly uncomfortable with her father inappropriate comments, looks and demands including requests that she wear her mother’s clothes and stop seeing her friends. As time goes on, Neferet’s father continues to alienate, bully and eventually, abuse her.
From the first chapter it’s pretty clear where the story is going to go, that Neferet’s unhinged, abusive father will continue to confuse his daughter with his wife and that the abuse will eventually escalate. Because of this the pacing feels incredibly slow, especially as you know end result will be unpleasant. As a story about sexual and mental abuse it’s a disturbing, horrific and uncomfortable read and I can easily say I didn’t enjoy one moment of. It’s not a story you can call entertaining or interesting, and I was pulling horrified faces for the duration of the novella. However, it does provide a somewhat satisfying and logical explanation of how Neferet’s behaviour and outlook has developed. The strange vibe and undertones of aggression in her household would be enough to warp anyone’s mind. For a while I was concerned that the author was going to go with an abuse = you turn evil angle which would have sent me on an epic rant about dangerous messages in books. However, as the story progresses it becomes clear that Neferet’s eventual alliance with evil comes not just from her situation and how she handles it, but also from her anger at the lack of help from onlookers, the betrayal of those she once put faith in, and her personality and growing obsession with control, power, manipulation and domination over those around her. Neferet’s fate is eventually sealed by a continuation of bad choices and also a lack of compassion and empathy towards others. I also appreciated the foreshadowing when Neferet took comfort in visiting the bull fountain statue that others found hideous. However, I was displeased with a certain element of the ending that I can’t mention due to spoilers.
Although I never connected with Neferet on an emotional or personal level and I didn’t find her likable, the theme surrounding her desperation to be free from the controlling gaze of others and society was interesting. I was also pleased with the realistic development of the secondary characters Camille and Arthur who bowed to the pressures of society picking the easy way out.
While this novella was better than I thought it would be, it lacked a certain depth and complexity because of the writing. I feel like the story lost some of it’s power in the muddle of awkward sentence structures, unbelievable dialogue and the bland, detached narrative style that consisted mainly of telling. While the basics of Neferet’s character development were there, I feel like the authors could have taken it even further in order to make the intended message about handling the after effects of abuse clearer. It may seem strange after everything I’ve said above, but at times I felt the story teetered too close to the line between positive and negative portrayals of abuse – as if it could be interpreted both ways which unsettled me somewhat. If the writing had more clarity, this wouldn’t be an issue. Therefore I would be hesitant to recommend it.
Writing Style: 2/5
Character Development: 3/5
Would I recommend this book? I’m on the fence.