Richelle Mead has been one of those authors that I’ve been constantly hearing about and have yet to try simple because of my TBR pile. She’s one of quite a few actually, but since I’m trying to get my TBR stack under control, I’ve been holding off on a lot of these authors because I had a feeling I would end up getting sucked into their series. Well, since Mead is going to be in the Detroit area at the end of August, and I plan on going to her signing, I finally said screw my stack and picked up one of her novels – Vampire Academy. Yeah, I was right…I so totally got sucked in.
Now, young adult novels are usually hit or miss with me, but I have to say that the Vampire Academy novels are hitting home runs right. I am so glad I followed through on my impulse and picked up all three novels that are currently released. Twos days ago, I breezed through Vampire Academy; yesterday, I started and finished Frostbite; and today I sped through Shadow Kiss. All three of these novels had me so hooked. I was planning on doing reviews on each novel, but each novel called to me and I found myself picking up the next book before I even could get to my computer to start a review. That’s pretty much why there hasn’t been one of my daily news posts – I’ve been caught up in the Moroi society.
So this is your notice – if you haven’t read all of these novels, there will be some minor spoilers. The spoilers won’t come until I give my thoughts on each novel, but before I do that, I want to give my overall impressions on the series. One more caveat, I normally include the blurbs of the books with my reviews, but so I don’t give away to many spoilers, I’m only using the one for Vampire Academy. So that was your warning, there may be some spoilers, but I’ll try and keep it to a minimum. But let’s get this going right with the premise.
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 hearts.
Fear made Lissa and Rose run away from St. Vladimir’s–but their world is fraught with danger both inside and out of the Academy’s iron gates. 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…
I love the character of Rose. She has such a great attitude and I love the mix of naivety and aggression all in one beautiful package. She’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind, she’s rash and unpredictable, but you know you can count on her in a sticky situation.
Lissa is another story. In some areas, she is no where near as naive as Rose, but in many others, there’s a naivety about her that borders on oblivious. It’s not really a flaw, but you can tells she’s been protected most of her life and that’s she’s been brought up to know that she’s always going to be protected. It doesn’t make her too interesting a character, but what does is her interactions with Rose and those around her. That’s where she really shines.
Love Love Love Dimitri. What can I say, I love the brooding types and Dimitri definitely fits that profile. He’s a loner who has all the contacts and he knows what his job is. While this is a great trait to have in a character, it’s even better when said character is the love interest. The tension between Rose and Dimitri is fabulous and I am really enjoying watching it pan out.
The plot is making me think. That’s not a bad thing, but there really isn’t a strong overall story arc for the series. There is, but we are not dealing with one main guy, but the evil villainous race of Strigoi and the instances of chaos they bring. I like that. It gives each novel their event with a possible happy ending, but we’re still given something to look forward to in future novels. I wouldn’t say you could read these as stand-alones, but if someone were to read Frostbite or Shadow Kiss before Vampire Academy, I don’t think it would be that big of a deal. Yes, there would be some character development missing, and the story is richer if you read it in order, but the main conflict in each novel really doesn’t influence the others. There’s references and Shadow Kiss does use the conflict from Vampire Academy, but it was mainly used to add a little spice to Rose and Dimitri’s relationship more than anything.
That’s one thing I do enjoy a lot. Where the series is focused on developing the characters with various events rather than having one huge event cascading through multiple novels. Don’t get me wrong, I have a feeling we’re being set up for something like that, but it’s not overly obvious right now. If I had to say what the connecting thread between these novels is, it would be the idea that the Moroi culture needs to evolve and there are fractions working towards that. The fractions are still in the background, but I have a feeling we’ll start to see more of them soon.
Thoughts on the Series as a Whole
I’m really loving this series. Mead has such a way of dragging you into the lives of her characters that you don’t realize what she’s doing until it’s already done. All three of these novels instantly captured my attention and I had such a hard time putting them down. I was reading them whenever I had a chance and I can’t believe that I was able to get through all three novels in three days. There were times when I laughed out loud and I had Jesse looking at me strangely. There were moments where I was bawling my eyes out and I couldn’t believe Mead had done that to one of her characters. There were so many great moments that affected the tension levels of the characters that it was hard not to get wrapped up in what they were doing. The chemistry between Dimitri and Rose is spectacular; the idea of Lissa and Christian is intriguing; and the continuing changes in Rose and Lissa’s relationship are going to make for some pretty amazing reading later on. I love it when I’m dragged into the world of the book I’m reading and Mead definitely does that with her Vampire Academy series. I know cannot wait for Blood Promise to come out on August 25th and it’s going to be hard to wait until the 31st when I get it at her appearance.
I have to say, for taking place in a high school, there wasn’t as much social angst like I’ve seen in other YA novels. There are times where the social culture of being in high school can sometimes overshadow the plot of a novel, but that never really happened here. Yes, there was the mean girl who wanted to get back at Lissa, and Rose by association, but it was there more as a way to further develop both of their characters rather than just to create unnecessary tension among the characters. When I’ve forever being told that the characters are young, it gets a little tedious and I get annoyed; however, Mead never got to that point for me. I’ll explain more about why I’m bringing this up more in Frostbite.
The plot was also fabulous. The ending so totally took me by surprise and I love it when I’m given something unexpected. I knew something was going on, but the people behind it never crossed my mind. I figured they had some kind of agenda, but when dealing with a royal class, there’s always going to be politics and that’s what I figured was going on.
There was one aspect of Vampire Academy that was so beautifully done, that I can’t believe I missed it while I was reading. The building chemistry between Rose and Dimitri is so subtle that its not obvious until you get to the end. Well, I shouldn’t say it wasn’t obvious because Rose has a school girl crush on him throughout the novel and that’s not hidden, but you never get a look at Dimitri’s reaction and he’s a pretty prominent character. Thinking back, there are times where he’s reaction is there for us to see, but it’s sutble and not obvious, that makes the “event” between Rose and Dimitri at the end so wonderful. I could go on, but things heat up in Frostbite, so why don’t I take us there now.
So what can I say that isn’t too spoilerish, yet displays that I so loved Frostbite? First off, it had me crying like a baby. The development Rose goes through is so emotionally involved that you can’t help but be right there with her. The pain she goes through, the uncertainty and confusion, it’s may be there in black and white, but you see it in color. The struggle she goes through to understand her feelings for Dimitri, Mason, Lissa & Christian, it all helps develop her character in ways that straight action could never do. Yet, when it counted, this same emotional turmoil ends up being her greatest strength.
The huge emotional turmoil Rose goes through at the end is breathtaking to read. Although, I will be honest, I really didn’t see coming what did end up happening and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I won’t say too much, because that would be a big spoiler, but I can see the purpose for why this element was in the novel and why it had to end. The personal revelations that Rose makes because of it not only helps to mature her, but gives her an idea of what she truly wants.
Granted, what she truly wants is her mentor, but that pesky seven year difference is standing in the way. That and the fact that Rose and Dimitri are going to be Lissa’s guardians. That was one aspect, while normally would drive me crazy, worked really well here. I’m not a huge fan of hearing how old the main heroine is over and over again, but when Dimitri continually brings it up, it was more for Roses sake than ours. Sounds weird, I know, but it was an element that help Rose realize that she’s still young and needs to learn what is going on. Although, I also think Dimitri was also using it as a convenient excuse more than anything, because quite honestly, while a seven year difference does make a difference in high school, it really doesn’t once you reach your twenties. Either way, I am loving the dynamics that go on between Rose and Dimitri.
Okay, first off, for being Rose’s best friend, Lissa can be completely oblivious. There are times where she makes it a point that she knows her friend, but when she finally finds out about Dimitri and Rose, she’s all shocked and upset that Rose didn’t tell her. I mean, other people were able to pick it up, people who only recently met the two and it took Lissa this long to figure it out. I understand that most Moroi treat their guardians as shadows and nothing more, but we constantly hear that Lissa is close to Rose, so you would think she would have noticed it or at least had suspicions. I’ll be honest, this idea really validates the decision Rose makes at the end.
Although, speaking of that, I am seriously hoping that what happens to Dimitri at the end isn’t what everyone is thinking it is. I’m really hoping that Rose finds him unawakened and everything will be fine. Because of this, I’m not sure I’m digging the interest Adrian has for Rose and the fact that he wants a chance at her when she comes back. Granted, the possibility of a love triangle tension between the three would be extremely interesting and would be all sorts of fun, but I’m kind of concerned that Adrian was brought in as a replacement and not as an obstacle to their relationship.
Something else I just thought of, did Rose get her molnija marks after all the kills she had? Considering the situation she is in at the end of Shadow Kiss, I’m not sure. However, if she does have them, it should make for some interesting encounters in Blood Promise.
If you haven’t tried this series, I would highly recommend it. I really don’t regret buying these novels before reading them and they are so getting a spot in my keeper bookshelf as soon as I get a new one. Even if you’ve read this series, but haven’t checked out either the Georgina Kincaid or Dark Swan series, I would recommend it. I know I am definitely reading more by Richelle Mead.