Bagged & Boarded: House of Night

houseofnight [If you’ve been following me on Twitter lately, you know that I’ve really gotten into comics in the last six or so months for personal reading as well as I’ve also been collecting graphic novels for work. Starting today, and every Wednesday, I’ll be reviewing comics and graphic novels that I’ve recently read. Some will be new stuff, some will be old, others will be about the theory and practice of sequential art, with the goal to not only learn more myself but to help other comic virgins navigate this world.]
House of Night (5 book miniseries) | 3.5/5
Quick Summary: Miniseries that takes place behind and between the scenes of Betrayed, the second novel in the HoN series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast.
I picked up House of Night for two reasons: Issue #1 was staring at me in my face AND I liked the cover art. Since House of Night was released in November, I was able to find all five issues fairly quickly and read the series in quick succession. The story was pretty simple: main protagonist, Zoey Redbird, has become the unwilling leader of the Dark Daughters, an elite society at her vampire boarding school. Each issue covers Zoey’s journey to leadership while she masters the five elements bestowed on her while figuring out the lesson behind each element. As each element has its own goddess attached to it, much of the comic is spent on that back history of the goddess and the lesson Zoey is to learn. Think of this as Hex mashed with Twilight.

Even though it is never explicitly said, I was expecting to find the miniseries to be a standalone story. It reads as if it wants to be standalone – backstory is provided to fill in gaps of knowledge for some of the plot lines, yet the overall story seems to lack cohesiveness. I feel like the miniseries is trying to do two things at once: provide for the fans and the new readers at once, and this is where the miniseries fails. There are nuances and relationships between some of the characters in the comic that don’t quite make sense, that as a new reader we’re just supposed to accept without explanation, but probably make loads of sense in the novels. Choices were probably made of what story lines to keep and what to ditch, but some of the choices make the writing seem clunky and amateurish, not established and tight. This is frightening when considering the novel series is nearing its 12th book in the series.
The other red flag to me was House of Night novel series is marketed specifically for teens and young adults, however, the comic series have no maturity level or age notation anywhere on the front of the comics. This becomes a concern when there is are several explicit scenes of rape and gang rape. By explicit, let me clarify that the reader does not see penetration but we do see what is implied penetration, gang rape, and explicit physical abuse. I get the reason why they felt it was important to portray it that way, the story of Boudicca and her daughters is not a pretty one by any means, but maybe I’m wrong here I can’t help feeling that these scenes were out of place for the purpose of this comic.
Since I’m not intending to be miss complainypants all the time, what I did like about the series was the attention to detail to the historical backstory, which was exceptionally done. Minor plot lines tied into Zoey’s lessons were also done well and helped close some loose threads opened at the beginning of the series. I feel like if I had read the novel series, I would get more satisfaction out of this miniseries but as an uneducated reader in this world, as a standalone series, House of Nightis lacking. I know I haven’t mentioned art at all in this review, but I found it matched the the writing: It was really strong in some areas and sloppy in others.
I’m intrigued enough with the comic series to pick up another miniseries if one comes out, but will only pick up the first issue and not the complete run with the intent to see if the writing has gotten better or see if the transition to standalone is possible. I’m interested in the novel series, but honestly, will probably not read it any time soon. Overall, I found the comic series good but not exceptional.

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