by Sydnee Thompson
When your whole life is about saving others, who will save you?
Being perfectly honest, when I first saw the cover of Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, my main reaction was to roll my eyes and groan. Vampires and super secret high schools/boarding schools for the gifted… where have I seen that before? I’ve read books with the same basic premise and been vastly disappointed, so when I received Vampire Academy in the mail as a blog contest prize I wasn’t very enthusiastic about reading it. Still, free is free, and after admitting that the jacket design is really quite snazzy, I snuggled up and prepared myself for boredom.
I was pleasantly surprised. Although riddled with the kind of petty, snarky clique wars that made me despise high school, Vampire Academy isn’t horrible. In fact, it was quite entertaining. I found Rose’s outgoing, flirtatious, hotheaded, devil-may-care attitude to be refreshing in contrast to all the meek little mice heroines out there. Ironically though, her best friend Lissa is exactly that type. I suppose Mead was going for balance with the two characters’ drastically different personalities, but I found their relationship to be the opposite. It’s obvious that Rose is the one in control – both she and Lissa go as far as to mention this on countless occasions. As Lissa’s Guardian, Rose makes all the decisions, Rose takes all the action, and when Lissa is hurt or offended by something or someone, Rose is the one who steps in to clean up the mess and pick up the pieces, even if she doesn’t particularly want to. Rose is taller with dark features and a more voluptuous figure; Lissa is thin and pale and blond. I suppose the mutual emotional dependency between them should make up for it, but I’m not buying it. In the first chapter or so, Rose allows Lissa to drink blood from her neck to replenish her energy – later on this is shown to be more feasible that I originally thought, but it’s still kind of creepy. While reading about their unbreakable bond, I couldn’t help but get codependent, doomed romantic entanglement vibes, which I’m positive was not Richelle Mead’s intent.
The plot is pretty straightforward – There are three types of vampires in the world: Dhampirs, which are human/vampire hybrids; Moroi, the pure-blooded mortal vampires with an affinity for elemental magic, and the Strigoi, the immortal and devastatingly cruel ones who depend on Moroi blood for sustenance. There are two ways to make a Strigoi – when Strigoi bite humans, Moroi, or Dhampirs and inject them with its venom; or when Moroi vampires bite Dhampirs or humans and kill them (the act of killing turns one into a Strigoi, not the other way around). Dhampirs serve as Guardians to the much more vulnerable Moroi in order to keep them safe from Strigoi. Lissa is a Moroi princess, and Rose is her (unofficial) Guardian, who is studying in order to pass her field exams and become an official Guardian once she graduates.
Mead uses traditional vampire myths as a foundation for her new-age twist, which includes vampires with elemental powers and a strong connection to the earth – definitely not your standard ‘damned’ vampire tale. Some of the witty banter exchanged between students, namely Rose and one of her numerous boy toys, did elicit a few chuckles. However, Rose and Lissa both can be pretty infuriating in their actions – Rose is too impulsive (“crazy” as her peers refer to her), and Lissa is too passive – but they did manage to redeem themselves by the end of the novel. Plus the action and intrigue kept me reading and the forbidden romance between Rose and Dimitri was right up my alley. The plot comes together piece by piece at a decent pace, and there were no plot holes or inconsistencies to speak of. So, I give it three and a half stars – pretty good entertainment for a lazy Sunday afternoon, but not something making me desperate to get to a bookstore for the sequels.
Sydnee is a freshman at Wayne State University pursuing a degree in Journalism. Her hobbies include painting and taking long afternoon naps. She is obsessed with hunky heroes, explosions, melodrama, and magic—all things that make a frequent appearance in her stories. Her blog is http://syd-dreams.blogspot.com.