Saturday, January 25, 2014

Vampire Academy (book) by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy is YA paranormal fiction with a bit of romance. It's the first in a series.

Synopsis:

Prior to the beginning of the book, Rose and Lissa ran away from St. Vladimir's Academy. They were convinced that Lissa was in danger.

After they're dragged back, Lissa tries to reintegrate herself into the Academy's Moroi student hierarchy, and Rose tries to stay out of trouble enough to keep from being expelled. Unfortunately, their problems aren't over. Someone keeps leaving dead animals where Lissa will find them, and there's a possibility that whoever is doing it knows about the secret powers Lissa has been hiding from everyone but Rose.

Review:

With the movie's release date coming up soon, I decided it was time to finally read this book. I spotted a copy in the bargain bin at my local entertainment store and snatched it up.

To try to keep my review from being too confusing, I'll start by defining a few terms. Dhampirs are people like Rose and Dimitri, half human, half vampire. Moroi, like Lissa, are “good” vampires and can use magic. Strigoi are “bad” vampires that crave Moroi blood. Moroi are constantly in danger from Strigoi. Dhampirs can only reproduce with Moroi, so it's in their best interest for Moroi to survive. Therefore, some of them become guardians assigned to protect particular Moroi.

I read the first two thirds of this book at a decent pace. Then I stalled. I started reading something else. I got sick for a few days and didn't feel like reading anything at all. After I got better, every other book around me looked more interesting than Vampire Academy. I finished it because I try to only read one book at a time in a particular format. This was keeping the “paper book” slot filled, and I had two interlibrary loan paper books that needed to be read.

I suppose that makes this sound like a bad book, but it wasn't. Some parts of it were great. I enjoyed some of the humorous scenes, like when one of Rose and Lissa's teachers read the notes they were passing aloud. I loved the bond between Lissa and Rose. For once, the “devoted, determined, loyal guardian” was female. Rose would have done anything in her power to keep Lissa safe and happy, and Lissa trusted Rose completely.

I was hoping for lots of chances for Rose to be an awesome guardian and lots of dangerous vampiric political maneuvering. Instead, I got heaping boatloads of high school drama with vampiric trappings.

When Lissa and Rose were dragged back to St. Vladimir's Academy after successfully being on the run for a while, they had to deal with no longer being quite so high up in the school's hierarchy. Aaron, Lissa's ex-boyfriend, was dating Mia, who absolutely hated Lissa. Aaron was the guy who best fit the image Lissa felt she had to project, but the guy she really came to like was Christian, who was an outcast because his parents had willingly turned Strigoi.

Rose's biggest problems started when word got out that she drank Lissa's blood while they were on the run. People accused her of wanting to be a blood whore, a dhampir who lets Moroi drink their blood during sex. Lissa was already not doing great – she suffered from depression and sometimes secretly cut herself. Trying to help Rose deepened her depression and put her at greater risk of having her most secret powers discovered by everyone.

Oh yes, and Rose developed a crush on Dimitri, her mentor, and suspected that he might be interested in her in return.

Without the magic and vampire teeth, it all basically boiled down to this: Lissa was in some kind of weird love triangle because she didn't feel she could be honest about her feelings, people bullied Rose and called her a slut, and forbidden feelings were brewing between Rose and her hot older mentor. After a while, there was only so much I could stand. At least the whole thing with Dimitri was relatively mild and didn't completely override Rose's common sense, aside from one part near the end.

I loved Rose's fierce protectiveness. I think she'd be a fabulous heroine a few years down the line, after she matured a bit. I liked her a lot in this book, but I was a bit frustrated with her behavior sometimes. On the one hand, she wanted to protect Lissa from all harm. On the other hand, she wasn't quite ready for some of the sacrifices she'd have to make in order to do that. Sometimes she held back from partying, drinking, and going out with boys, because those things distracted her from keeping track of how Lissa was doing, and sometimes she forgot her greater goal and just did what she wanted. I didn't really blame her – in fact, it was kind of amazing that she didn't seem to resent Lissa or the Moroi hardly at all – but I still cringed when she decided it was okay to drink because Lissa was angry with her and was ignoring her.

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to continue with this series. Part of me wants to. I really did love Rose and Lissa's bond, and I've heard that the vampire politics aspect becomes stronger later in the series. However, this book didn't leave me with a burning desire to read the next one. Also, I'm a little worried that the relationship between Rose and Dimitri might develop too quickly and leave me feeling stabby.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Twilight (book) by Stephanie Meyer - Okay, so Bella is no Rose, or even Lissa, but this book still might appeal to those wanting more YA paranormal romance. There's a love triangle involving a human, a vampire, and a werewolf. I've written about this book.
  • Blue Bloods (book) by Melissa de la Cruz - More YA vampires. I think I've read this, but for some reason I never reviewed it. I remember it having uber-rich society-type characters, a regrettably small amount of vampire anything (although I imagine that part gets stronger as the series progresses), and the beginnings of romance.
  • Glasses Houses (book) by Rachel Caine - The first book in the Morganville Vampires series - more YA vampires. I haven't read it yet, but I plan to at some point. Somehow I ended up with Book 9 in my print book collection.
  • The Oathbound (book) by Mercedes Lackey - Because this read-alikes list has so far included the easy stuff that is probably on every single Vampire Academy read-alikes list, I decided to add this one too. Those who'd like another book starring two close female protagonists may want to give this fantasy novel a try. Like Rose, Tarma is a warrior, and, like Lissa, Kethry can do magic.
  • Supernatural (live action TV series) - Two brothers are hunting for the demon that killed their mother. Along the way, they save people from things like ghosts, werewolves, and demons. Those who enjoyed the bond between Lissa and Rose may like Sam and Dean's relationship. I'm currently watching the series (just finished season 2!) and enjoying it immensely.

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