Tuesday, November 6, 2012
The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.
Sydney would love to go to college, but instead, she’s been sent into hiding at a posh boarding school in Palm Springs, California–tasked with protecting Moroi princess Jill Dragomir from assassins who want to throw the Moroi court into civil war. Formerly in disgrace, Sydney is now praised for her loyalty and obedience, and held up as the model of an exemplary Alchemist.
But the closer she grows to Jill, Eddie, and especially Adrian, the more she finds herself questioning her age–old Alchemist beliefs, her idea of family, and the sense of what it means to truly belong. Her world becomes even more complicated when magical experiments show Sydney may hold the key to prevent becoming Strigoi—the fiercest vampires, the ones who don’t die. But it’s her fear of being just that—special, magical, powerful—that scares her more than anything. Equally daunting is her new romance with Brayden, a cute, brainy guy who seems to be her match in every way. Yet, as perfect as he seems, Sydney finds herself being drawn to someone else—someone forbidden to her.
When a shocking secret threatens to tear the vampire world apart, Sydney’s loyalties are suddenly tested more than ever before. She wonders how she's supposed to strike a balance between the principles and dogmas she's been taught, and what her instincts are now telling her.
Should she trust the Alchemists—or her heart?(courtesy of Goodreads)
Richelle Mead knows how to deliver. In Bloodlines, she created a fascinating backdrop where vampires masquerade among humans at a boarding school. A prominent Moroi royal is in danger and is being hidden here in Palm Springs. Sydney the Alchemist is tasked with concealing the identities Jill and the other moroi and dhampirs. It makes for some great plot lines, but who am I kidding? Why am I really reading this series? Two words: Sydney. Adrian.
Bloodlines left off with just the hint of romance between Sydney and Adrian. It showed that some of the most heart-melting scenes can take place without any physical touch. The Golden Lily continues to build on Sydney and Adrian's relationship. It's the opposite of insta-love. The two continue to get to know each other better. I love how Sydney pushes Adrian to be better but also assures him that he has her respect. Similarly, Adrian tries to lift up Sydney's distorted self-image. Both characters have strong instincts to protect the other. Their personalities mesh together so well and they have so much chemistry that just their conversations are loads more satisfying than many make out scenes I've read in other series. But don't worry, it's not all talking. :-)
My favorite quote (I don't think this is a spoiler):
[Adrian]: 'After what he said about me, I can't stand the thought that you might think less of me.'
I was so surprised that I couldn't muster a response right away. When I did, I just blurted out the first thing that came to mind. 'Of course I don't.' He still wouldn't look at me, apparently not believing my words. 'Adrian.' I laid my hand over his and felt a warm spark of connection. He jerked his head toward me in astonishment. 'Nothing he said could change what I think of you. I've had my mind made up about you for a long time...and it's all good.'" (page. 158)
Like Bloodlines, The Golden Lily is not centered around action. Sure, there are fights sprinkled throughout the book and a big blow-out at the end, but it's really framed around developing Sydney and Adrian's relationship. This is done partly by highlighting how S/A's chemistry contrasts with Sydney's new boyfriend Brayden. Brayden should be Sydney's soul-mate. Brainy in the unrealistic extreme, he and Sydney immediately hit it off. Brayden may share Sydney's nerdy intelligence but he lacks her capacity for self-sacrifice and empathy. They have a great time together, but even Sydney can sense that it's not clicking. Definitely not like she and Adrian connect (although clueless Sydney never thinks about that).
I continue to love Sydney. I relate to her much more than I ever did Rose. It's wonderful that she's not ashamed to be intelligent, but unlike Brayden, doesn't come off as arrogant. A lot of people complain about her obsession with her weight, but I think it's a great addition to her character. Sydney expects perfection of herself in everything. When she's hanging around moroi all day who are so much thinner than she is, it's natural to feel like you're failing - even if she knows that moroi's willowy body type is unrealistic.
Another great addition to this series is the exploration of witchcraft - human use of natural elements to craft spells. It is yet another opportunity for Sydney to challenge the Alchemist rules with which she has been indoctrinated. And comes in very handy. I'm looking forward to seeing Sydney fully embrace spells in future books.
One thing I did find odd about this book was the timing. The entire first book took place in a month. This book is an additional month. It feels unrealistic that so much could get crammed into a single month. Both with all the varied plots and the build-up of relationships. Another potential criticism of the series is that it feels very predictable. I think I can guess how the rest of the series will play out. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, but I wouldn't be surprised if I largely know what's going to happen. Not that I care. I want to see just how my fantasy Sydney/Adrian story will occur.
The Bloodlines series is candy. It is somewhat formulaic and does not have a huge amount of substance, but you just can't get sweeter than Sydney and Adrian's romance. Candy or not, I tore through the pages of this book and will happily re-read it to relive the magic. I cannot wait for Indigo Spell to come out in February.