Zodiac Chillers #4: “Twisted Taurus” by Ellen Steiber

It’s been almost a year. Have you missed me? I’ve missed you, too!

It’s easy to stop blogging if you lack time or energy, which is why a lot of book reviewing blogs die out. I’d like to keep mine going a while longer, though, and I’m going to try to get back to posting a bit more regularly.

I’ve been promising Twisted Taurus for a while, so here it is! This is the best (or worst) cover so far:


A blonde girl with bright red eyes is groping an unconscious Backstreet Boys reject, because She gets what she wants – always! You can’t really see the red eyes in this picture, but they do have a creepy effect when you’re looking at the actual cover.

It’s taken me long enough to post this review. Will it be worth the wait? (Hint: No)

Micaela is obsessed with horoscopes. Isn’t that how all these books begin? She’s isolated and has no friends, but that’s about to change. Her star charts have told her that she’s going to meet a brother and sister who will change her life! She has the hots for Kurt, who’s just started at her school; and she’s heard he has a sister. So she stalks Kurt and his sister Darci when they go to a diner. Micaela decides that she wants Kurt to be her boyfriend, and Darci to be her best friend. They have to be the siblings written in her stars!

Micaela gets talking to Darci at school, and invites herself over to help decorate Darci’s new bedroom. But Kurt’s not at home, because he’s out with his girlfriend Kristin. When Kurt phones the house, Micaela listens in on an extension, and learns that he’s going to a shop called Bazaar. So she makes an excuse to take Darci there. Of course, they run into Kurt and Kristin. In any part of the book where Kristin is mentioned, there’s a lot of talk about her Mary Sue beauty and gorgeous flowing red hair. I guess she looks like The Little Mermaid or maybe a young Florence Welch.


Florence and the Publishing Machine (that turns out a crappy new ghostwritten teen horror novel every month)

Kristin’s a rude, stuck-up bitch, even to Darci. Micaela already knows her from school, and hates her – even more, now Kristin’s got her claws into Kurt. That night, Micaela goes into her private allotment, where she grows poisons. She conducts a witchy ritual over them and picks a plant called “Hearts of Darkness”. I love the smell of teen angst in the morning.

A guy called Ian Hassler flirts with Darci at school. He understands that a new school can be tough, because he had to move here when his dad was jailed for fraud. Micaela warns Darci to stay away from Ian, but Darci says they only had lunch together, it’s not like they’re getting married. That night Micaela invites Darci over. She shows Darci some star charts, and we get several more pages of horoscope talk. Then Micaela decides to test out the “Heart of Darkness” by putting some in a drink for Darci. This causes Darci to throw up and have a seizure. She wakes in a panic but Micaela convinces her the whole thing was just a dream. And Darci believes this? Wouldn’t you know if you threw up and had a seizure?

Ian asks Darci out, which pisses off Micaela (Why? Does she want to date Darci and Kurt?) So Micaela lies to Ian that Darci’s been telling the whole school that his dad is in jail. Darci tries to arrange a date with him, but his response is  “I know what you did, and now I hate you, but I’m not gonna TELL you what you did.” So she has no idea what’s wrong or why. Micaela tells Darci that it’ll never work out with Ian, because he’s an Aries and Darci is a Pisces and apparently that matters somehow. Then Micaela invites herself over again to help paint Darci’s room. Darci confesses that she’s upset about Kristin, who is rude to her and takes up all Kurt’s time. When the girls finish painting, they hang out with Kurt, who has his friends over. There follows a bizarre game of Twister during which Micaela tries to dry-hump Kurt. Darci calls her out on trying to “seduce” Kurt, but Micaela basically says “you hate Kristin, don’t you? So shut it.”

Micaela steals some chemicals from the science lab at school to disguise the colour of Heart of Darkness, so it will be easier to put some in Kristin’s drink and kill her. Ian sees Micaela breaking into the lab, and decides that if she’s a thief she must be a liar too. He apologises to Darci for believing Micaela, and they kiss. But Darci still thinks Micaela’s her BFF and won’t hear a word against her. Back at the ranch, Micaela has dug up a coffin and stolen the nails to use in her witchcraft. That seems like an awful lot of trouble to go to. If she needs coffin nails, why not just loot an undertaker’s, since she clearly has no qualms about breaking and entering? Then Micaela hears a voice – not just in her head, but an actual, audible voice warning her that Darci and Ian are back together. She conducts a spell to break them up, using a poppet she made of Darci.

Ian and Darci are on a date, but when they kiss, Darci suddenly panics and can’t stand to be around him. She says it feels like there’s “a wall of fire” between them and they will both be burned alive if she touches him. Ian thinks she’s just been to one too many True Love Waits meetings, but Darci goes into full-on GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME! mode and runs away from him. Meanwhile Micaela stages a breakdown of her car in front of Kurt, then when he offers to help her, she kisses him. Kurt starts to fall under her spell – but his memory of super-hot Kristin snaps him out of it, and he turns Micaela down. Kristin shows up just in time to witness the kiss; and yells at Kurt for cheating on her. She storms off in a jealous rage. Ian pops up out of nowhere and says he saw the whole thing and it’s all Micaela’s fault. Remind me, who is it that’s always lurking about and spying on people? It’s not just Micaela, is it, Ian?

Micaela goes over to Darci’s house and does a fake horoscope reading, warning her to stay away from men. She offers to teach Darci about horoscopes and the occult. Darci agrees, so Micaela goes through a phony ritual with a candle and chanting and stuff. Even Micaela thinks this is bullshit, but tells herself that Darci’s stupid enough to fall for it (which, to be fair, is true.) Micaela goes to see Kurt and apologises for the Kristin incident; she only did it because she luuuuurves him! Kurt politely tells her that Kristin’s the one that he wants, ooh ooh ooh honey.

An enraged Micaela goes home and conducts a ritual in the nude. OK, the book suddenly got 100x more interesting. The mysterious voice says that she must “give Kristin to the darkness”, and orders her to call Kristin. It takes her several minutes to work out that this is an instruction to actually pick up the phone and call Kristin on that. Well, what did you think, Micaela? That you would just shout “Hey, Kristin!” and she’d hear you from all the way over on the other side of town?

Micaela makes the call, and her voice magically transforms into Kurt’s! “Kurt” arranges to meet Kristin down by some cliffs, but of course it’s Micaela who’s waiting. Micaela bullies Kristin into handing over the keys to her car, then tries to bury her alive. But at this point, someone passes by on the cliffs overhead. Micaela has no time to finish the job, and just buries Kristin up to her shoulders. Micaela decides it’s all good, Kristin can just die from exposure/dehydration instead of suffocating. She plans to dump the car and make it look like there was an accident.

The next morning, Kristin has been reported missing. The police are suspicious of Kurt, because Kristin had told her parents she was going to meet him; but he was at home so he has an alibi. Ian tells Darci that Micaela is behind this. He confronts Micaela about everything, including stealing from the science lab. Micaela kisses him to shut him up, which is … actually kind of hot. That would be more interesting than all this Kurt and Kristin nonsense. Anyway, Micaela has decided that she has to get rid of Ian. She sits with him at lunchtime and slips the Heart of Darkness into his drink.

Darci and Kurt finds out Ian’s been taken to hospital. They skip school to see Ian, and he tells Darci to go to Micaela’s house and find out what poison she used. This time, Darci believes him. She and Kurt lie to get past Micaela’s housekeeper. Micaela’s books conveniently describe what she gave Ian, as well as the “Heart of Darkness” and the fact she tested it out on Darci. It’s all coming together now. Darci contacts the hospital and they know which antidote to use and Ian’s going to be saved. Are we supposed to be happy about this?

Micaela comes home unexpectedly, and Darci hides under the bed. Micaela again asks the “voice” what she should do. Darci can’t hear the answer, but Micaela’s all “What’s that, mysterious unknown voice? You want me to cut the fingers off Kristin’s corpse to use in another ritual? OK!” As soon as she leaves, Kurt and Darci give chase. However, Darci hesitates; she doesn’t have the heart to tell Kurt that Kristin has been killed. This is kind of sad and relatable, but also really, really unwise. Kurt will find out, and when he does, he’s already gonna hate Darci for bringing Micaela into their lives. He will hate her even more if he finds out she knew about Kristin and kept it from him.

In a bizarre and confusing ending, they catch up with Micaela, who is in the middle of another ritual. Kristin, covered in mud and slowly dragging her feet, shambles towards them. Darci thinks Kristin is a zombie; and loses her shit. Micaela babbles some more nonsense about giving Kristin to the darkness, and “bewitches” Darci, ordering her to finish off Kristin. Darci plays along so Micaela will give her the knife, then Kurt restrains Micaela. But Kristin is getting nearer. Micaela yells at Kurt and Darci to let her go – she’ll be able to destroy the zombie. Then, it’ll just be her and Kurt forever! She only did this because she loves him so much! Kurt rescues Kristin, who’s apparently still alive and not a zombie. And he’s still in lust with her even when she’s half-dead and covered in mud. So that’s OK.

This book isn’t very good, to put it politely. First of all, there are no deaths. In any other YA horror book of this nature, Ian would probably have died and Kristin definitely would. That’s another thing: Ian and Kristin are really not very nice people. Kristin is horrible to everyone but Kurt, and Ian is a pretentious dick who frequently lambastes Micaela for stuff he himself has done (lurking around, following people, etc.) It’s disappointing when they’re not killed off, and it has the unintentional effect of making the reader want to root for Micaela. The book leaves a big unanswered question: what about Micaela’s witchcraft? She does have real magical powers, which work at least twice. So why didn’t they come through for her at the end when Kurt and Darci confronted her? Unlike in Rage of Aquarius (where the suggestion that Becky really was involved in all the deaths was subtle enough to be tantalising), the supernatural elements here are just clumsily done and frustrating.

This is also where you begin to notice a tonal shift in the series. The first three books were pretty similar to the popular teen horror of the time: if you took out the astrology focus, they could easily pass for Point Horror, Fear Street, etc. This one, however, is basically just a soap opera romance novel with some supernatural elements thrown in. You can see the final two books in the series leaning much more towards this too. That would be fine, but for the fact they are marketed as horror and clearly trading off the success of the YA horror boom. Perhaps this was a factor in the early cancellation of the series – I’ll discuss this in a separate post, but it seems that out of a planned thirteen books, only six were ever released.

Body Count: None. Not one! Nobody died! What a waste.

Questionable Doctoring: Darci is allowed to visit Ian in intensive care, even though she’s not family nor a serious girlfriend.

Questionable Brothering: Kurt expects his little sister to keep the homicidally enraged Micaela, who is physically stronger than Darci, restrained while he goes to make out with Kristin. Also Questionable Boyfriending because Kristin is injured and nearly died – oh, who am I kidding? The whole book is questionable.

Worst Dialogue: “Earth and sky, moon and stars, fire and wind, energies of the dark, I summon you now. I have done all you asked. Kristin Harper has been given to the dark.”

Drinking Game: Take a drink every time Micaela witters on about astrology.

Take a drink every time Darci misses the signs of Micaela’s obvious evil.

Take a drink every time Kristin’s Mary Sueish beauty is described.

Take a drink every time Darci and Ian fail to communicate with each other.

Take a drink every time Ian kicks off about Micaela.

Take a drink every time Micaela embarrassingly throws herself at Kurt.

Down the glass every time someone doesn’t die from something that really, really should have killed them … actually, don’t. You’ll be dead from liver failure long before the ending.

The Cover Lies: The scene depicted on the front of the book never happens, even though it would be totally in-character for Micaela. Actually, this begs the question: Why didn’t  she just kidnap Kurt? She attempts a love spell, but it doesn’t work, and it’s obvious that he wouldn’t have gone for Micaela even if Kristin had died. So doesn’t kidnapping seem like the next logical step?

Department of Redundancy Department: “And then Darci couldn’t stop herself – she screamed as if screaming could somehow wake her from this living nightmare.”

Infallible Logic: Micaela goes to great lengths to get Darci as her best friend. She clearly wants Darci around – so why test out a fatal poison on her, even at a reduced dose? Even if she hated Darci, wouldn’t it be wise not to give her Hearts of Darkness, as Kurt will most likely not want to date someone who killed his sister?

Up next: Zodiac Chillers #5, “Never Love a Libra”





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