Bloodlines centres on characters that took back-seat in the previous series (Vampire academy) from Richelle Mead. Every character suffered indirectly to the heroin, Rose’s story in VD. The main mythology centres around 3 types of mystical creatures: born, mortal vampire Moroi, who are able to wield magical elements; dead, evil vampire Strigoi who kills for blood, and lastly: Dhampirs, creatures that are half human and half vampire.
Sydney Sage is an alchemist who helped Rose in the last few books of VD. She is at home, sent from her job in disgrace. Claiming that she only helped Rose to further her own career prevented Sydney from being sent to a terrifying re-education centre for rogue alchemists. She now lives with her parents and younger sister. Sydney’s father is overbearing, cold, and dismissive towards anything his daughters do. Her mother disdains the alchemists, despising them for controlling the lives of her family. Sydney tries to protect her younger sister, Zoe, from becoming an alchemist, knowing the restrictive and controlling ways of the lifestyle.
To remain Queen, a Moroi needs one living relative on the Moroi council to vote for her. Jill Dragomir, her illegitimate sister, is the only living relative Vasalissa Dragomir has. Vasalissa has problems during her first month of ruling the Moroi by a separate group who believes she is too young. As she is constantly protected by guards, the focus on the only way to remove her from the throne: by killing Jill. Jill is seriously injured during an attack on court, and it is decided she needs to go into hiding until the rogue sect has been caught. The Moroi government contact the alchemists for help, and it is decided that Jill will be sent to a private academy, Amberwood, in Palm Springs, along with Eddie Castile, a dhampir, and Adrian Ivashkov, another Moroi. Why Adrian, perceived as reckless party boy is sent along, is puzzling. The alchemists decide to send one of their own to school with Jill, posing as one of her sisters, to provide them with constant feedback and an extra source of protection. The only two candidates available are Sydney, and her younger sister Zoe. Sydney fights for the right to be sent to protect Jill, knowing the lifestyle her younger sister will be subjected to if she is sent. Completing the “siblings” is Keith Darnell, an alchemist Sydney’s age. Sydney hates Keith, because he attacked her older sister, Carly, when they went on a date. Sydney got vengeance on him by having vampires attack him, leaving him with only one eye.
In Palm Springs, the group meets Clarence and Lee Donahue, the only known vampires for miles. They offer their home to Adrian for lodgings, as well as their housekeeper Maria as a feeding source of blood. Clarence is old and suffers from extreme paranoia. Since the death of his niece, he is fully convinced vampire hunters are real, and killing off innocent Moroi. Lee does not agree with his father on this, and seems to be embarrassed by his ramblings. Keith tells Clarence he will look into the matter, which is strange since Keith hates vampires like all alchemists.
At Amberwood prep, Jill struggles to fit into the social scene. She cannot survive the sun during physical activities, making her an outcast to peers who want winners in their team. She is also suffering from constant hangovers, although no one seems to know why. Eddie’s roommate Micah Valence share startling characteristics to Eddie’s best friend Mason (who died in a previous Vampire Academy book). When Micah starts to show interest in Jill, the others know they need to prevent any vampire-human romantic relationships, Eddie struggles to take Micah on about this because of the similarities between him and Eddie’s dead friend. The group encourages Jill to date Lee, and they start up a relationship. Strangely, Sydney fits in perfectly at school. She makes two friends, Julia and Kristin, and they really help her adjust into school.
Jill continues to struggle, and Sydney finally confronts her to find out the truth. It is shocking to her, and forces her to face vampire magic she is terribly afraid of. Jill tells her that the attack on her at Moroi royal court resulted in her death, and that Adrian used his spirit magic to bring her back to life. Now she is spirit linked to Adrian, and able to read all his feelings, thoughts, and also carrying the side effects of his alcoholic tendencies. This causes Sydney to confront Adrian and ask him to stop his drinking for Jill’s wellbeing.
Jill is especially bullied by Laurel, the school bully who is jealous of Micah’s affections towards Jill. When Laurel starts to tell people that Jill is a vampire (a joke to close to the truth) Sydney knows she should do something to stop Laurel. She makes a chemical solution that she dumps into Laurel’s shampoo, making Laurels hair appear constantly dirty. She asks Julia and Kristin to help spread the word that she has the antidote, and as Jill’s “sister”, she demands that Laurel stop her bullying in exchange for it.
Sydney struggles to bring a healthy balance to her relationships with vampires. Raised by her alchemist father, Sydney was taught that vampires are evil unnatural things and that they weren’t supposed to exist. First, Sydney developed a friendship with Rose strong enough to help her prove her innocence, risking Sydney’s career, and now she struggles to find acceptance that Jill, Adrian and Eddie are good people who needs protection from evil as well. She especially struggles with her feelings towards Adrian. She is a far away from admitting she might be starting to fall for him, but when she realises he isn’t nearly the vacant, reckless party boy she thought him to be, she needs to start accepting that he might be the only person she can be herself with.
At Amberwood, students gain an extra edge on the athletic field with tattoos that somehow enhance their performance. Sydney becomes suspect that the lily tattoo on her cheek (the mark of an alchemist) is helping her academically. Trey Juarez, a school jock, accuses her of cheating her way into good grades, and seems bitter about the tattoos. Although Trey doesn’t have a tattoo that helps him do well in sport, he has another one he is reluctant to talk about. Sydney suspects that the tattoos somehow contains vampire blood and other chemicals, and sets out to find what is happening. Sydney’s discovery is shocking – Keith Darnell is supplying the tattoo artists with Clarence’s vampire blood, in exchange for him finding out who murdered Clarence’s niece. Keith is arrested by the alchemists and taken to an education camp.
Ms Jackie Terwiliger notices Sydney has a natural talent for witchcraft and tries to train Sydney as one. Sydney refuses, since magic in humans is as repulsive as magic in vampires, and yet she is fascinated enough to make some relics to protect herself.
It is finally discovered that Lee Donahue was a Strigoi, and turned back to a Moroi by a spirit user. Now he is desperate to be one again, but nothing can change him back. He murdered his niece in an effort to become a Strigoi again, but was unsuccessful. This makes the team realise that once you have been turned from Strigoi state into Moroi, nothing you can do will make you change back. Lee tries to drink Sydney’s blood, but it tastes so bad he is revolted enough to stop. Dimitri and Eddie save Adrian and Sydney from Lee, but Sydney becomes her own hero, by creating fire from one of the spells she learnt.
When I read the Vampire Academy books, I was interested in them but not amazed. It is obvious that the Bloodlines series that followed is the best work of Richelle Mead’s career. I was enthralled by the characters. Adrian Ivashkov takes spotlight alongside Sydney. In Vampire Academy, he was simply a rebound and substitute boyfriend to Rose. He was crushed when she ultimately reconciled with Dimitri, and he returned to his partying behaviour. In Bloodlines, he becomes this stunning character. Through the books you start to note how he is changing, and that Sydney is enabling him to become a man. Sydney moved me as well. She is so different from Rose. Contained, organised, wary. Her heroism differs to Rose’s. She quietly fights for the goodness of the world, and shocked through the series when she realises how strong she has become. I love how Mead made the love between them so unexpected and real.
I wouldn’t recommend the books to everyone, especially to purist-vampire readers. But if you enjoy mystical stories, and don’t mind some theory bending, I would definitely advise you to give the series a try.