Well, I know I said that I probably wouldn't read the next book in the series after Tempted, but basically I'm weak when it comes to books, particularly those in a series. Plus, seeing that this one seemed to be mostly about Stevie Ray, I allowed myself to be sucked in once again, expecting to be letdown. And maybe that was the key for me; set your expectations low and be pleasantly surprised when they are met or even exceeded. So it goes with Burned.
Burned spends a lot of time having the gang try to figure out how to save Zoey from the Otherworld where she's followed Heath upon seeing him killed. It soon becomes apparent that Stark is going to have to be, as Zoey's Warrior, the one to somehow go into the Otherworld and rescue her now that her soul has shattered (an image I rather liked and thought well written). Aphrodite's still having cryptic visions and the gang's virtually non-existent throughout most of the book; through lots of complicated mythology, Stark discovers the secret for traversing between the worlds but it's up to him how to convince Zoey to leave Heath once he's there. And then there's Stevie Ray, still back in Tulsa and hiding Rephaim the Raven Mocker from everyone while becoming the first Red High Priestess vampyre and dealing with the rogue red fledglings. The book goes back and forth between the two main storylines with stops in the points of view of Rephaim, Kalona, Aphrodite, and Stark along the way.
What I liked: The storyline had a purpose and it wasn't just a straightforward step or two to the conclusion. Stevie Ray's really coming into her own, and Aphrodite's deprecating wit is always a welcome relief to the angst of everyone else. I liked that there was a definite clash of Light and Darkness, and an acknowledgement that there's "something else" once one dies. And this novel is brutal in its descriptions, with death, blood, knives, and torture all playing parts but all essential to moving the story forward. Zoey's lack of romantic issues was nice; though she obviously felt love for both Heath and Stark, it wasn't as though she was stringing anyone along for a change. I also saw far less grammatical and continuity errors in this novel than I have in the past two, a fact that makes me hopeful that Cast's editors have awoken from their naps. Also, the absence of the Twins for much of the book was a smiling point for me.
What I didn't like: The swearing. And the swearing. And the more swearing. GET OVER IT, please. A little swearing goes a long way to emphasizing a point, but honestly, too much is just trying to sound cool. I also felt the plots dragged at times; a lot of time seemed to be spent dithering over what will happen next. I still don't see where the whole Stevie Ray/Rephaim story is going, and can't quite see why a girl would be somehow attracted to a boy who has a bird's head.
Still and all, this one's a much better entry in the series than the previous two, and I'm pleased that nothing in the story pulled me out and think "Huh?" as I'd become accustomed to do. While I'll still be a cautious reader of the series, I am pleased to see the House of Night books on an upward trend.