Book Review: Vampire Academy (Richelle Mead)

Book: 57/100

Vampire_Academy

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

Before I found out about Vampire Academy, I was scared my secret love for the vampire YA fiction would have to end. I had loved the entire Twilight series and their subsequent movies, but I completely loathed the Vampire Diaries books. I was fearful that I would have to stop reading it if I couldn’t find new, good reading material.

I found these books on sale at my local bookstore, and decided to give it a chance. I was pleasantly surprised. The books aren’t that fantastic, but it is still enjoyable to read, and much better than most material within its genre.

Background

The books are based on the theory that three types of supernatural forms exists.

The first is Moroi – mortal vampires who only drink enough to sustain themselves, and not to kill. Moroi vampires possess magical abilities. A Moroi can either be a water, fire or earth user, but it is later discovered that there is a lesser known magical ability as well – the extremely rare Spirit users can heal people and even bring them back from the dead.

The second type of vampire is Strigoi. These vampires are evil and extremely strong, and kill their food source. They cannot come out in the sunlight; whereas Moroi can handle it in small doses. Moroi are born, but Strigoi are made. You can become an immortal vampire by drinking a Strigoi’s blood, or if you are Moroi, killing the person you drank from.

The third type of being is a hybrid – half-vampire, half human. They are called Dhampirs, and live with the Moroi is seclusion. Dhampirs are born when a human and dhampir sleep together, or when a dhampir and Moroi do. Dhampirs are infertile together. To survive and procreate, they protect the Moroi, serving as bodyguards. Moroi is constantly under attack from Strigoi, and they are much weaker than their evil cousins. Thus the Dhampirs, who possess very strong genes from both the races they were made of, are trained as Guardians during school, and when they graduate it is their life’s work to protect Moroi.

It is a taboo in the secret world of vampires to sleep with humans. It is also frowned upon to sleep with a Dhampir, but not openly discouraged. Female Dhampirs often live together to raise their children – children who were created by Moroi men who just likes to fool around with Dhampirs, then go marry into their own race. These Dhampir communities carry a stigma, and the women there are often referred to “blood-whores” because of the rumours that they allow Moroi to drink blood from them during the sex.

The story’s two female leads, Rosemary Hathaway and Vaslisa Dragomir are best friends. After the death of her parents and brother, Lissa is the last of the Dragomir’s – a royal Moroi clan. It is obviously high priorities to keep her safe, as the Moroi have many traditions that involve the specific royal houses. Rose is a Dhampir that was effectively raised by her school. Her mother, Janine Hathaway, is a famous guardian but does not have much time to spend with her daughter. Rose has never known her father, but thinks he is a Turkish Moroi her mother had had a fling with as a young woman. They have been best friends since kindergarten, and Rose is planned to be Lissa’s Guardian after they both graduate from St. Vladimir’s Academy.

Vampire Academy

Rose and Lissa ran away from their school after Lissa suffered through months of unease. After her family’s death in the car crash she and Rose survived, she started feeling that people were watching her. Rose believed these feelings to be true – because Rose can read Lissa’s mind. For some reason, Rose has a physic bond to her best friend, enabling her to see into Lissa’s mind. The bond started to develop after the car crash, and they have no idea why.

They are found by the school Guardians one night after Lissa drank from Rose as a survival method. One of the Guardians that capture them accidentally sees this before Rose notices him and they attempt their escape. They are cornered not shortly afterwards and forced to return to school. The guardian that captured them is Dimitri Belikov, a native from Siberia, who is a teacher Guardian at school. Rose notices that he is very attractive and also a superb guardian.

Lissa and Rose are taken to Headmistress Kirova’s office, and thoroughly berated for their reactions. She nearly expels Rose but Dimitri saves her education by revealing the girls’ bond, and argues that it would be a waste to let such a gift go to waste. Rose is allowed to stay under certain conditions. She is banned from any social activities in the school and has to take extra lessons with Dimitri to compensate for the two years she missed out on.

Rose and Lissa immediately make a new enemy, Mia Renaldi. Mia is mean to them from the first day they meet, and they initially think it is because Mia is dating Aaron, Lissa’s ex. They realise her spite is too intense to only be because of him, but they have no idea why she is acting that way.

Rose returns to popularity, famous for being a smart ass, being cocky and now also for escaping from the strict security at the school. She becomes friends again with Mason and Eddie, two trainee guardians who was always nice to her before. She especially notices Mason’s interest, but starts to flirt with a Moroi named Jesse Zeklos. He is attractive, but not the most interesting of men, and when they make out he realises that Rose had to be Lissa’s blood source while they were on the run – dangerous knowledge for someone else to have. Rose tries to defuse the situation, but Dimitri arrives, and terrifies Jesse. It is then that Rose starts to realise that Dimitri may also feel the attraction to her that she feels to him, although he is years older and also her teacher. They fight, and he tells her she needs to take care of her reputation to prevent blood-whore rumours from spreading. She apologises, and they agree to seriously start working on her guardian skills.

Meanwhile, Lissa is having more and more problems. She is depressed and afraid, but refuses to attempt another escape because she knows that Rose loves school and needs her training. She keeps mostly to herself, except for Rose and her cousin Natalie. She flees to the school chapel’s attic for some quiet on many occasions, and there she meets Christian Ozera – a Moroi royal outcast. Christian’s parents went Strigoi and now the entire Moroi world shuns him and his aunt. They connect, and Lissa ignores Rose’s warnings that he is bad for her, because he actually is good for her and doesn’t treat her as a precious little person like most of their friends do.

Lissa hasn’t yet specialized in any magical element, and this worries both her and Rose.  The school advisor Ms Carmack tells Rose after that Lissa shows a higher than average score in all the elements, even though she has not specialized. On Rose’s question whether a vampire can specialize in more than one element, Ms Carmack tells her that it would drive someone insane to have all that power. Rose and Lissa both know that Lissa is able to perform extraordinary magic – heal things so perfectly that they can return from the dead. She did this on a bird once, and they were both terrified. Another teacher of theirs, Ms. Karp, had the same ability and she went so insane that she willingly became Strigoi to stop the crazy. The two friends agree not to tell anyone about Lissa’s power, in fear that she might be locked up.

Jesse and his best friend, the idiotic Ralf Sarkozy, start spreading false stories about Rose. They tell everyone that she slept with both of them, and even let them feed of her during the act. This destroys Rose’s reputation, and she is shamed. Lissa refuses to let her best friend just go down like that, and starts campaigning for her. She is very successful because of her natural charm but also because of the extra strong compulsion she has and uses illegally on her classmates. Things start improving for Rose, but Christian isn’t too happy with Rose or Lissa, especially since Lissa starts dating Aaron again to get back at Mia. Christian kisses Lissa to prove to her what real attraction is, but she is too angry at him to realize his feelings are real. He tells her the main reason why Mia hates her so much – Lissa’s brother Andre had been sleeping with Mia in secret while still alive, but forced her not to tell anyone because she wasn’t royal. When he broke up with her, he wasn’t even kind about it, and completely destroyed a girl who was already insecure because she isn’t royal. Now Mia hates Lissa and Rose by default because of that, but they refuse to feel guilty as Mia is a big cow.

Rose and Lissa go shopping with Natalie and her father, Prince Victor Dashkov. Although relatively young, he is dying of a rare disease, and the three girls are very worried. He takes them out for a day so that they can get dresses for Prom, and Rose is allowed with because she has been a good girl, and it will allow her to practice her guardian duties. After the shopping experience, she falls through a step that was fine seconds ago. Rose goes unconscious, Dimitri carries her into ER, but they learn that she has made another miraculous recovery. Rose freaks out, knowing that Lissa healed her, and tells her teachers about Lissa’s special powers.

Lissa is very angry about what Rose did, and starts to ignore her. Suddenly, Rose becomes the outcast again when everyone realizes she is being ignored by the most popular girl in school. It doesn’t bother Rose overly much, because she has her own friends and the training with Dimitri.

At the prom, Mason gets Jesse and Ralf to confess to Rose that they spread the rumors about her. They also tell her that Mia slept with them to get them to tell everyone Rose is a blood-whore, and that they will start spreading the truth. Mia realizes what is happening and attacks Lissa, and Rose protects her friend by breaking Mia’s nose. The teachers are understandably upset about this, and Rose is taken away to her room to await punishment. Christian heads off to console Lissa, but is attacked and left unconscious when Lissa gets kidnapped. Rose sees this of course through the bond, and immediately escapes confinement to go tell Dimitri.

She is taken under a lust spell the moment she sees Dimitri. She starts kissing him, and he is seized by the same charm. They nearly make love but he realizes something is amiss and throws the necklace Rose received as a present from Victor Dashkov out the window, and they are both suddenly painfully aware of their surroundings. Rose remembers Lissa’s kidnapping, and all the Guardians immediately spring into action. Rose is able to tell them where Lissa is through the bond, and they go after her.

They arrive at a secluded cabin, and Rose is ordered to stay in the car. She “sees” her friend compelling her captors to let her go, and realizes Lissa is going to need help. She discovers Christian sneaked out with them, and together they on a rescue mission. They are attacked by psy-hounds, supernatural animals intent on capturing them, and Christian is seriously injured before the other Guardians arrive to help. Lissa drinks from Rose for strength and then heals Christian, and the guardians arrest Victor Dashkov.

A few days later Dimitri tells Rose that what they did was wrong and only a result from the lust charm. She goes to Victor’s holding cell and tells him to take off the curse because she still feels something, and he tells her that the feelings are real, or else his magic wouldn’t have worked.

One last piece of drama awaits Rose when Natalie shows up at the cells, and attacks Rose. Natalie turned into a Strigoi to free her father, and almost kills Rose before Dimitri arrives and kills her. Dimitri once again carries Rose to the hospital, and he tells her that he loves her, although their relationship could never work if they are both supposed to guard Lissa. Rose knows this is the truth, but is still sad because she genuinely likes him.  Lissa gets a happy ending when she starts to date Christian and get help for the depression that is associated with her Spirit-power.

Rating: 6/10

Not the most solid start to a series, but the book managed to grab me enough to move to the second book and from there on to finish it (the series runs seven books). At some stages, I felt that the writer wasn’t as clear as she could be about events, and didn’t describe things well enough.

Dimitri is a solid male lead to Rose. She would never have fallen for a weak, puny man. She needs a man who is just as strong as she is both emotionally and physically, and who isn’t afraid of her lifestyle, or her career choice.

Things I loved in the book

The book is a more original attempt in the vampire genre. The theories used are loosely based on Romanian myths, so there is some credibility to the story. The characters are original in their own right, not just derivatives from another vampire series.

The book is not difficult to read. It is an easy one, but not perfectly done. The writing style of the Twilight series gets a few points above this. That mentioned, the VA series is on a much higher scale than the Vampire Diaries books (which brought me to tears, for all the wrong reasons)

Rose’s fighting spirit.

As a character, I find her very self-assured and ready to kick ass. She is fearless when it comes to protecting Lissa, and she isn’t afraid to voice opinions. She is mostly content with her fate, even when it is obvious that she is the one who should be deserves to be the popular one in their friendship.

Rose and Lissa’s friendship is strong. Like all true friends, they sometimes fight and then make up. They both have their flaws and attributes, and seem to accept it about one another.

Dimitri did try to stay away from a pupil

He really did. In fact, if I remember correctly, it took him three books to just deal with the fact that he loved Rose. He did his best to remember he is a teacher (as he bloody well should) and valiantly tried to stay away.

Things I didn’t like all that much

There is a half-vampire Russian guy named Dimitri

Russian

Dimitri

Vampire

Three things that are so much thrown together, it would seem that all the half-vampires from Russia are named Dimitri. Not original at all.

Rose loves herself SO much

Although a huge fan of self-confidence, Rose really likes herself too much. Her vanity is maybe the reason this book hadn’t struck Twilight levels – most teenage girls don’t associate with such levels of self-love.

The whole older guy thing

Back on Dimitri, it is once again the world’s largest cliché that a girl falls for a mysterious older guy. Oh, wait, he is her teacher too!

The vast amounts of human rights abuse

Dhampirs aren’t humans, this I get, but they have absolutely no rights in these books. They are treated as half breeds, and they have to spend their lives protecting their “pure-blood” cousins. They are either used as human shields or as prostitutes, but either way they never win.

Conclusion

Vampire Academy is being made into a movie, so I would recommend reading it before you watch it, if only for the pleasure to be able to bitch about the changes. I think it is a good, fun and original series, and this book especially deserves to be turned into a movie. Who knows, maybe another major franchise is starting!

PS: If you are a fan, please drop a comment – I am dying to read other opinions on the books and movie!

 

 

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Vampire Academy (Richelle Mead)

  1. I can’t tell if you read the rest of the series or not but I LOVE the second and third book. I’d say the second book is where things really kick off for the series!

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Frostbite (Richelle Mead) | Life of this city girl

  3. Pingback: 5 Things Friday: 5 Movies I’m totally excited about for 2014 | Life of this city girl

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