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Awakened - Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast Lackluster continuation of series

In AWAKENED, Zoey and Stark are recovering on the Isle of Skye after their harrowing return from the Otherworld. Neferet has returned to lead the Tulsa House of Night after being exonerated by the High Council, and she continues to grow stronger with Kalona now under her control. The rogue Red Fledglings are terrorizing the city, and Stevie Rae and Rephaim continue to struggle to define their relationship. With new threats and tragedies occurring in Tulsa, Zoey must decide where her conscience leads her and what she will do.

Despite my concerns with this series, I always come back to the next book with hopes for improvement. Unfortunately, AWAKENED continues the series' downward trend. The use of slang, unrealistic "teen talk," dated references, and racial and homosexual stereotypes continue (even though it's obvious the authors are trying to be inclusive). Like TEMPTED and BURNED, Zoey's perspective is written in first-person, while everyone else is in third-person. This stylistic back-and-forth remains frustrating, especially given the sheer number of characters included. Very limited character growth happens for anyone, especially Zoey. As a character, I'm no longer able to take her seriously. For example, Zoey refers to other characters as being "gross" for "playing kissy-face," and then she's depicted as sexually and emotionally mature a few chapters later, which seemed unbelievable. While things moved forward plot-wise a bit more in this book, the pace still felt stagnant for the first half. The major conflict remains Neferet and Kalona, with little change, and predictable plot outcomes continue. At the end, the book also concludes at a moment in which the authors resurrect a painfully overused plot point.

On the positive side, as mentioned, there is a bit more movement in the plot when compared to the previous two installments. The relationship between Stevie Rae and Rephaim remains interesting, and character development occurs in Rephaim, a bit in Kalona, and even a little bit in Erik. Damien and Jack's relationship also gets some more attention, and it's depicted as healthy, loving, and meaningful. While the switch from first-person point of view to third-person remained bumpy at times, the transitions were smoother and the writing was better in the third-person sections than in previous books.

With four book more books to go in this series, I'm finding it difficult as a reader to motivate myself toward picking up each additional one. If I do, I hope the Casts move beyond the set conflict or kick it up a notch, along with some significant character growth for Zoey and her friends.