“In Burned, the seventh instalment of the House of Night series, the reader is given insight into the point of view of six characters: Zoey, Stevie Rae, Aphrodite, Rephaim, Heath and Stark and Kalona.
The novel opens with the gang in shock and grief as a result of Zoey's Heath's death and the shattering of Zoey’s soul. Zoey awakes in the Otherworld with Heath and is overwhelmed with grief as well as guilt over Heath’s death. The Council warn that unless Zoey can face what has happened, pull her shattered pieces back together, and return to her body within seven days, her body will die.
Neferet finds Kalona recovering from the side effects of being blasted by Zoey with Spirit and feeling her soul shatter and is in despair over the loss of her. Neferet takes advantage of his incapacitated state to bind him with Darkness and forces his spirit to pursue Zoey in the Otherworld (Nyx only banished his body) to prevent her return. If Kalona fails in his mission he will have to pay the price ascertained by Neferet.
When they discover that Kalona’s spirit is also missing from his body they guess Neferet’s scheme and realise time is of the essence. After some research into ancient-forgotten vampyre legends and religion, the Nerd Herd finds out about the eternal struggle between Light and Darkness personified by a Black Bull and a White Bull respectively. Aphrodite enlists the help of Stevie Rae by telling her about the two bulls and their possible link to helping Stark enter the Otherworld. Aphrodite fails to mention that it is the white bull who is evil and not the black one, something which Stevie Rae discovers to her cost when she accidently summons the white bull. The bull gives Stevie Rae a poem and as payment for giving that knowledge, the white bull extracts his payment with her pain and her blood. Through their imprint, Rephaim feels her agony and races to save her and upon arrival offers himself in her stead. As the black bull shreds and feeds on Rephaim’s blood and pain, Stevie Rae summons the black bull to save them both at the price of always staying connected to Rephaim's humanity. She speeds up Rephaim’s healing by using her earth element and their bond is strengthened as a result of their experience.
With the help of Stevie Rae’s poem, Stark, Aphrodite and Darius are able to travel to the Isle of Skye to enlist the help of Sgaich, an ancient Warrior Queen who once trained the best warriors but distanced herself from mainstream society when the Vampyre Council refused to grant her a seat on the Council. Sgaich agrees to help them and with the help of her Guardian, Aphrodite’s visions and Kramisha’s prophetic poems, Stark undertakes a perilous journey to the Otherworld where he slays his Warrior self to become a Shaman bringing him one step closer to Zoey.
Aphrodite warns Stark that Heath is the key to persuading Zoey to return. Upon sighting Heath, Stark explains the danger facing the world if Zoey fails to return and stop Neferet and Kalona. Heath realises he must make the ultimate sacrifice and move on so that Zoey will embrace the remnants of her soul and return with Stark. He tells Stark to look after her and sets out to find Zoey. In his farewell speech Heath tells Zoey, ““I want you to remember something. Zo. It's important, and it'll make more sense when you have yourself together again. I'm gonna leave here and get another chance at life. You're gonna be a big, famous vamp High Priestess. That means you're gonna live like a gazillion years. I'll find you again. Even if it takes a hundred of those years. I promise you, Zoey Redbird, we'll be together again."
Stevie Rae struggles with being bound to Rephaim and her growing feelings for him, eventually trying to break the Imprint by sleeping with Dallas. Sensing that their imprint is in danger of breaking, Rephaim arrives in the tunnels to stop her. Before Stevie Rae can explain, the arrival of the rogue Fledgling’s further complicates matters and when the rogues refuse to join Stevie Rae a vicious fight it breaks out. Half of the rogues die while a few become buried in the earth. Feeling betrayed after discovering Stevie Rae’s bond with Rephaim, Dallas lets Darkness come into him and becomes the third red vampyre, with an affinity for Electricity.
Having seen Heath’s departure, Stark approaches Zoey who is initially afraid. To motivate her, Stark goes out of the sacred grove to fight Kalona. Realising that she can't allow another one of her friends to die, she calls out to the remnants of her soul to realign with her. However, before she can intervene, Kalona manages to kill Stark. Enraged, Zoey attacks Kalona and overpowers him, demanding the life debt owed to her for Heath. When Kalona refuses, Nyx intervenes causing Kalona to share a part of his immortality with Stark and bring him back to life. Nyx banishes Kalona's body AND spirit from the Otherworld. Zoey fully accepts Stark as her Guardian and lets him drink from her so he could heal, the elements fill her again and all her tattoos come back.
Stevie Rae and Rephaim share their feelings for each other when suddenly Nyx reveals an image of Rephaim's human form in a fountain. Totally immersed in their reflection, they become aware of the sky darkening and a winged figure rises out of the water, signalling Kalona's return. A sad Rephaim departs claiming he can't abandon his father.
Zoey comes back from the other world before Stark and then brings his soul back to his body in the real world, and Zoey tells Stark that it's all over. She hears Nyx laugh and say that "No daughter, it's only just begun."
The most interesting development of the series for me has been the Stevie Rae/Rephaim arc and this instalment in particular is heavy on their relationship. Zoey’s character as well as her relationship with Stark doesn’t hold the same interest for me so it’s probably the series saving grace to have introduced this plot twist when the series was in danger of fanning out.
Another aspect which I found intriguing was being shown Heath’s death from Kalona’s point of view as well as insight into his true feelings for Zoey, Nyx as well as Neferet.
One of the downsides to the book was the coarser language used especially by Aphrodite which I felt was completely unnecessary. Aphrodite’s development throughout the series has been a revelation as we’ve seen the softer vulnerable side to her. To have her revert back to her bitchiness was disappointing at times as I’d prefer to see a more mature, contemplative side to her as a result of her visions and additional powers.
I’m giving this book a four for the breathtaking white/black bull summoning scene and Stevie Rae ‘s and Rephaim’s (who I have a soft spot for) developing love story.