Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Release Date: August 16, 2007
St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger...
Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.(courtesy of Goodreads)
Guess what?! I'm re-reading the Vampire Academy series! When I finished the Twilight series in October 2008, I became obsessed with reading anything and everything about vampires. Vampire Academy was the first book I read. In my Twilight-rose-colored viewpoint, I thought it was decent but a little silly. It wasn't until I got further along in the series that I realized just how fabulous these books are. Once I started the Bloodlines series, I came to respect Vampire Academy even more. I've been wanting to re-read the whole series for a long time and finally got around to it.
The first book in the series isn't the best, but it is enough to suck you in. Mead does a wonderful job of establishing her version of vampire mythology in this book. You have good vampires (moroi), bad vampires (strigoi), and dhampirs (half vampires). The vampires live parallel lives of which regular humans are totally unaware. I love how fleshed out the culture is. Not only do you come away from this book with a strong idea of what a vampire is, you get a rich world with its own magic, history, education system, take on religion, royalty, and protection system. And the world only becomes more three dimensional as the series goes on.
Our Vampire Academy heroines are Rose and Lissa. Rose is a hard-headed stubborn girl whose temper gets her into trouble most of the time. But she is also extremely loyal to her friends, courageous, and an enthusiastic fighter. Her intentions are good even if her methods of getting there are often questionable. Rose is a dhampir who is bonded (which means something very specific in this series) to her best friend Lissa, a moroi. Rose's life is centered around protecting Lissa.
I was not as big a fan of Lissa in this book. It's not that I dislike her, but there was little to make me care about her. She lingers in the background, waiting for Rose to protect her. She's emotional and tends toward depression. Fragile is the best word to describe her. Luckily she does become more fleshed out in later books.
Dimitri is our leading man. He is the epitome of a forbidden romantic figure. Older, handsome, the strong and silent type. He functions as a mentor to Rose but pretty quickly becomes more. I can practically hear the tension between them crackling as I turn the pages. I love how he and Rose play off one another. Dimitri immediately recognizes Rose's potential and constantly pushes her to be better, stronger, to grow beyond her impulsiveness. Theirs is not a relationship of equals (well, it's not really a relationship at all yet) exactly, but more a relationship between people who have the potential to become equals.
The framework around which the main plot is formed is the weakest part of this book. At the heart of the book, Rose and Lissa are running from and/or trying to fight an unknown source that is hunting Lissa. That's the exciting part. They're also acclimated back at St. Vladimir's Academy. That's where things get a little annoying - it's the stereotypical mean girl high school stereotype. Rumors galore. Characters trying to outdo each other with slut-shaming. Luckily, the series gets much better and relies less on common plot tropes with each book.
Another thing I've come to love about Richelle Mead is her ability to write heart stopping passion without any physical action between the characters at all. Words alone can make my soul sing. Here's my favorite quote from the book: (spoiler! - highlight the text to see the quote)
[Dimitri]: No. If I let myself love you, I won't throw myself in front of her. I'll throw myself in front of you.
For some reason that one, innocuous statement is more romantic than any kissing scene in this book.
Vampire Academy gets off to a good start with the first book in the series. I enjoyed it on the first read. Reading it again after I've finished the whole series is even more enjoyable, especially because I know the books only get better.