Sunday, October 10, 2010

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: August 16th, 2007
Pages: 336 (paperback)

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with an unbreakable bond to the earth's magic. She must be protected at all time from Strigoi; the fiercest and most dangerous vampires--the ones how never die.

The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa's best friend, makes her a Dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making her one of them.

After two years of illicit freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir's Academy, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. Rose will continue her Dhampir education. Lissa will go back to being Queen of the elite Moroi social scene. And both girls will resume breaking Academy hearts.

Fear made Lissa and Rose run away from St. Vladimir's--inside the Academy's iron gates, their world is even more fraught with danger. Here, the cutthroat ranks of the Moroi perform unspeakable rituals, and their secretive nature and love of the night creates an enigmatic world full of social complexities. Rose and Lissa must navigate through this dangerous world, confront the temptation of forbidden romance, and never once let their guard down, lest the Strigoi make Lissa one of them forever...


Dhampir Rose Hathaway and her best friend, Moroi vampire princess Lissa Dragomir have been on the run from their school for the past two years because something threatened Lissa and Rose, as her best friend and future guardian, had to get her away to safety. Once they're finally caught and returned to their school, the girls fall back into their lives in St. Vladimir's Academy with ease. Lissa rejoins the group of royal Moroi she'd been part of before she left; Rose takes her place among her fellow Dhampirs as one of their best (well, not anymore; she got weaker while she was away) and has to take extra classes with accomplished guardian Dimitri Belikov to catch up to her classmates. The problems that chased Lissa and Rose away in the first place return, fiercer than ever, and Rose doesn't plan to let Lissa's own Moroi powers and whoever is after her hurt her best friend.

After the last book I read, which was so awful that I couldn't even finish it and I created a vitriolic entry for it, I decided that I needed to read a good book to make myself feel better and work the rest of the rage out of my system. Vampire Academy is always a good read, so this was the book I selected and it did its job perfectly.

Out of the many vampire books/series out there for sale right now (and you know there's a lot of them), this is one of the better, more original, and overall more popular series. Instead of sticking with the traditional myth or taking the traditional myth and corrupting it beyond recognition, Vampire Academy uses vampires from Romanian folklore and enables them to perform magic. When I get bored of reading the same old stuff, I come to this series for a dose of originality.

I loved Rose because she was snarky, confident, imperfect (because she is brash, immature, and hot-headed, among other things) and and a fantastic best friend to Lissa. Even though it causes her a great deal of trouble to spirit Lissa away from St. Vladimir's, she doesn't give it a second thought because Lissa's safety is the most important thing to her. Lissa is a sweet girl who, although heavily dependant on Rose and a little ignorant of what is going on with her, will stand up for her best friend and even endanger herself while doing so because when Lissa uses her strange and mostly-unknown powers, it puts a strain on her mind and makes her exhibit strange and/or suicidal behavior. Their friendship is only strengthened by the magical bond that connects the two, allowing Rose to sense Lissa's emotions and slip into her head so that she can see what Lissa is doing. Other characters such as Dimitri and Christian (the love interests for Rose and Lissa, respectively) are just as lifelike and imperfect and I love everyone in this book- even the evil and minor characters.

Rose and Dimitri's relationship is one of my favorites out of all the books I've ever read because I feel that they get proper development. She wasn't in love with him at first sight; in fact, Rose asked in the very beginning of the book if they'd gotten cheap foreign labor (Dimitri, who comes from Siberia) to protect Lissa and act as her sanctioned guardian. As they spent time together during Rose's extra classes with him and even go on a trip outside the school with Lissa and a few other Moroi, I could see the two becoming close and developing feelings for one another. Their relationship is a forbidden one, but not the bad type; they both suffer genuinely and try to move on, but can't. Just when you think it might work out after all, something comes along and breaks your heart.

One of the antagonists has some decent development, but the other two... not so much. Mia, the childlike Moroi who has something against Rose and Lissa, is a rather two-dimensional minor antagonist. In later books, she gets some great development and by the fifth book, she is one of my favorite characters. Then the Strigoi, who will become the great baddies in the next book and all after, are very distant, looming threats until the last few pages of the book. For the antagonist that does get some development, I felt that they had the right reasons, but went about it all wrong.

There are a lot of deeper issues in this book too, such as how the Moroi depend so heavily on the Dhampirs to protect them from Strigoi. Due to Strigoi attacks, Dhampirs are lost in pretty good numbers and as a result, there is more pressure for more Dhampirs to become guardians and protect the Moroi, the people who made them. The Moroi could protect themselves by using their magic offensively, but they see that as taboo and only use magic defensively. The Moroi are forever above the Dhampirs, the latter are forever the servants. It's not very obvious, but if you pay attention, you can tell that in the future, there will be a little shakeup in the status quo.

There's also the matter of "blood whores," people (of any race, mind you) who allow themselves to be bitten by Moroi so that they can feel the endorphin rush that comes with the bite. Roe struggles with her wish to be bitten because for the two years she and Lissa were gone, she acted as Lissa's feeder so that Lissa wouldn't have to bite random humans. The only way to be more taboo is to allow oneself to be bitten during sex. This issue will stick with Rose for most of the series and it's not going to go away easily. It's a refreshing break from the hypersexual vampire novels, isn't it?

Don't get me wrong, this series is one of my favorites, but this is not my favorite book of the series. That is a tie between Frostbite and Shadow Kiss. At times, it felt like a typical teen novel with vampires and I didn't find it funny when someone used their sexuality to get their way. Despite this, I love the Vampire Academy series and recommend them to all who would be willing to charge through this first book and get to the good ones. (Beware when you get to Spirit Bound, though. Rose gets pretty out-of-character, which makes that tie with this book as the weakest entry.)

4 stars!