Book Review: Vampire Academy (Richelle Mead)

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Plot:
Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger . . . and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever . .

Rating: 7/10

I mean, just look at that plot line. Who wouldn’t want to read that? I had a lot of fun, and admitting it probably means flushing my good name down the toilet. Well, I liked it. It has obvious questionable plot lines. The class system is outrageous and wouldn’t hold up anywhere. Then there is that little fact that Dimitri, regardless of his hot-cakiness, is much older than Rose and shouldn’t have lost his job and then faced prosecution. It is also probably everybody’s worst nightmares to have someone be able to read your mind constantly. Eugh. I would be in so much trouble.

Despite all these little things, the book is great. It is light reading and really a book for teens, but it has great pace and ends interestingly enough to make you want to pick up the second book. If they truly followed the book in the movie and given it a darker edge I think the movie wouldn’t have failed quite as spectacularly.

Although definitely not for everyone, Vampire Academy is so much fun. I recommend you read it if you enjoy vampire books.

Movie Review: Vampire Academy (2014)

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Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) and Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry) are best friends that escaped from St. Vladimir’s Academy, or Vampire Academy, when Lissa felt unsafe. They are eventually caught and taken back to school by one of the Guardians, Dimitri Belikov (Danila Kozlovsky), who becomes one of Rose’s teachers and the guy she falls for.

I went in fangirl mode to watch Vampire Academy on Saturday night and I have never been more disappointed. VA is officially the standard now for horrible book to movie adaptions.

Rating: 5.5/10

What I liked:

For most parts, the movie stuck to the book relatively close.

The class rooms and training arenas were well done.

Rose’s eyes (although it is not in the book) – when she sees into Lissa’s mind. Looked pretty cool.

The fight scenes were amazingly well done – surprisingly so in comparison to the quality of the rest of the movie.

Casting of: Rose (Zoey Deutch), Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky), Victor Dashkov (Gabriel Byrne), Natalie Dashkov (Sarah Hyland), Christian Ozera (Dominic Sherwood), Mason (Cameron Monaghan), Sonya Karp (Claire Foy)

Zoey Deutch really did the Rose Hathaway attitude well. She looks the part, she played the part and I loved her outfits all around.

Danila Kozlovsky as Dimitri Belikov: Wow. Just wow. I would give him an 8/10 for correct character casting and portrayal. At least they got a real Russian to play him and didn’t attempt some horrible accent changing thing.

Girl Power: The girls in the movie kicks ass and can take care of themselves. It is what I loved about the books too, and I am glad they didn’t want to change either of the leading females to whining brats.

What I didn’t like:

It was like the Twilight-meets-Harry Potter-meets-Mean Girls movie. The OPENING scenes are similar to all those trees in Twilight, the castle shots look like they were taken at Hogwarts and the constant bitching and sarky remarks were right out of Mean Girls. Does Mark Waters only know how to direct one type of movie?

It felt like the movie was rushed. Don’t give me nonsense about a shoe string budgets – plenty franchises’ first instalments were made on tiny budgets and did wonderful – like Twilight, which for all its faults had decent directing.

The soundtrack: The opening song bombs the movie from the get go, and it never fully recovers.

Nothing was properly explained. The series has a lot of new lore to explain and it was rushed over. People who haven’t read the books won’t even begin to understand what is happening in the movie.

Underused characters: Christian and Mason were really well cast but Christian became a vapid pretty boy – this is the guy whose parents turned into evil monsters and has lived under the scandal that it caused his entire life. He is not the pretty little man who easily became a devoted pet to either Rose or Lissa. Mason did really well. He is one of the few who acted decently and showed some depth, but he wasn’t used all that much.

Rose and Dimitri’s love story. So much was left out – all the signs that he is secretly in love with her just wasn’t there. They had so much more to offer. It is also never fully explained why he is training her individually.

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*At least one of the scenes were done right.

Lissa knowing about Dimitri and Rose – WTF she only finds out when Rose leaves St. Vladimir’s to hunt Dimitri down later on.

Kirova being portrayed as underhanded. She has always struck me as a fair disciplinarian who is irritated with Rose’s constant rule breaking.

Mia Renaldi (Sami Gayle): I see the curly ringlets were thrown out, but the actress at least did a decent job.

Lissa and Rose just TELLING Natalie what is going on in their lives. The Spirit, the Bond – those are SECRETS dammit.

The compulsion looks fake.

The fire scene where Christian sets Ralf Sarkozy on fire. IT.WAS.SO.FAKE.

Sonya Karp being some of the Strigoi that wants to attack the school. Just no. She enters much later on with another purpose.

Lucy Fry as Vasalisa Dragomir: What accent was she playing at? It seemed like a very bad mix of British and Australian. Those two shouldn’t be mixed. She seemed very immature and selfish one moment and very adult and wise at other times. The character didn’t match up and neither did she come close to what Lissa is in the books.

Conclusion:

Fire the director and screen writer. I’ve always thought the books would make an excellent TV series, not movies, because let’s face it: Taking six books and hoping they will all make it to cinema is ridiculous unless it’s Harry Potter. Stop trying to make the franchise what it isn’t. Make it more dark and sexy and not so damn PG rated.

And once again, Fire the director.

Book Review: Shadow Kissed (Richelle Mead)

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Book: 59/100

Book three of the Vampire Academy Series

What happened?

After an attack on St. Vladimir’s academy, the entire school headed to an exclusive resort for the holidays. While there, a bunch of Rose Hathaway’s friends sneaked out to go capture Strigoi in Spokane, and Rose went after them. She managed to save most of her friends, except Mason. Afterwards, her teacher Dimitri told her he had accepted that he would always love her.

Shadow Kissed

Rose is set to take trials at being a Guardian within St. Vladimir’s Academy. The trials consist of Dhampir novice Guardians shadowing selected Moroi, and “protecting” them if one of their teachers attacks them while faking as Strigoi. She fully expects to be assigned to Lissa because of their bond and also because everyone knows that is how things should be. Rose is outraged when she is assigned to look after Christian Ozera, Lissa’s boyfriend. Eddie gets to guard Lissa, and while she knows that he will do a very good job, she is peeved that they would actually separate her from her best friend. Dimitri chastises her and she finally acknowledges that it might be a good idea.

As an aftermath to the bloodshed she witness the past year, and a side effect of being shadow-kissed, Rose has developed the scary ability to see ghosts. Initially, she doesn’t know this, and thinks she is going crazy when she sees Mason’s ghost in the school. She learns that the magical wards that surround the school is supposed to block ghosts and Strigoi, but everyone tells her the wards are maintained and in perfect order.

Rose learns that Victor Dashkov, the man who had tortured Lissa, is set for trial. Dimitri tells her that she and Lissa aren’t allowed to attend, and she is furious with him. Adrian Ivashkov, a Moroi royal, manages to get them to attend to impress Rose, making Dimitri feel useless as he really tried his best.

At the Moroi Royal Court, the queen summons Rose and tells her to stay away from her great-nephew, Adrian. She makes it clear that she won’t allow the relationship, not listening when Rose says that she truly isn’t interested in Adrian. Rose receives a threatening message from Victor Dashkov, with some hints that he might out her and Dimitri’s forbidden love. She goes to Dimitri, and they visit him together. They discuss the matter, and even though Victor still taunts them, Dimitri says he is confident that their secret won’t come out. Victor is eventually sentenced to life imprisonment, and locked away.

Rose continues to have headaches whenever she is not in school or the Academy. Every time it seems like there are ghosts are around her, waiting for her attention.  Meanwhile, she is messing up her Guardian tests, because she sees Mason every time she is supposed to fight. It is only because of Dimitri’s vote of confidence that she is allowed to continue, and she is ordered to do only half day guarding after she tells her teachers about the ghosts and they think her stressful life is catching up to her.

Rose notices that there are many kids with bruises at the school who won’t confess who is hurting them. She investigates, and learns that it is a secret club started by elite Moroi who tries to force their friends into using compulsion – something that is forbidden in their world. The group tries to recruit Lissa and Christian too, but they laugh it off.

Rose finally gets to prove herself when Dimitiri attacks her and Lissa, faking as a Strigoi. It is a close fight, but she wins, impressing her teachers and friends alike. After that she realizes that Lissa is under attack from the compulsion group, and rushes to her aid. She helps her friend, but takes some of Lissa’s Spirit-induced darkness and starts attacking the group. She is restrained by Dimitri and taken to a cabin away from the guilty so that she can calm down. Finally, their resolve falters and after a year of restraint they make love. Upon returning to the school grounds, Rose sees Mason, and shortly afterwards she sees the Strigoi that Mason had pointed out.

With the evil vampires on school ground, Rose hurries back on Dimitri’s orders and alert the Guardians. They go into full scale attack, and when Rose finds Christian on the school ground, they combine their skills and kill many Strigoi together. The living Strigoi flees campus before sunrise, and Dimitri tells Rose that they took Dhampirs and Moroi captive.

After debating the pros and cons, the Guardians decide to stage a rescue mission. They head out to the caves where they know the Strigoi are hiding, and rescue the captives. Rose sees Dimitri get trapped, but is pulled to safety. At school, Rose hears something that makes her world crash – That Dimitri had been turned into a Strigoi. Her only choice now is to hunt him down and kill him, as they promised each other they would. But will she find him and come out alive?

Rating: 6.5/10

After Frostbite, this book seems so well done. Things relevant to the storyline actually happen here, and the events aren’t too stretched out. I applauded Rose and Dimitri for finally getting together and his decision to just accept his feelings and work with it instead of the denial that had tormented him. Turning him into a Strigoi was a great idea, and I was floored that Richelle Mead actually had the nerve to do it. Without knowing what happened in the rest of the series made me sad for their lost love so short after their acceptance of it, but reading onwards it became clear that a great plan was in the works for the series.

This is definitely one of the better books in the series, and quite enjoyable.

Book Review: Frostbite (Richelle Mead)

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Book: 58/100

Part of the Vampire Academy series

Book two

What happened?

Rosemarie Hathaway seriously endangered her future job as a Guardian in the secret vampire world when she ran away with her best friend, Vasalisa Dragomir. Vasalissa, or Lissa, is the last in her royal Moroi line, making her extremely precious. Lissa has the rare magical ability to heal people and bring them back from the dead – like she did with Rose. Because she saved Rose’s life, Rose is linked to her – a link that is called “Shadow Kissed”. Rose is able to read Lissa’s mind, making her an excellent choice as Lissa’s Guardian.

The two were captured and returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy, where Rose was nearly expelled for her misdeeds. She was saved from expulsion by Dimitri Belikov, a young, handsome Guardian who had noticed Lissa and Rose’s bond, and had offered to take her under his wing to train. The two fell for each other and managed to control themselves. Things only got out of control when Victor Dashkov, an uncle of Lissa, put a lust spell on them, and they almost slept together. Dimitri managed to break the spell, and they were able to save Lissa from Victor who had kidnapped her. After Lissa was saved Dimitri told Rose that he had never loved her, but after she was attacked by Victor’s daughter who had turned into an evil vampire, Dimitri told her that he had and always would love her, though if they were still planning to become Guardians to Lissa when she graduated they could never be with each other – it would place Lissa in too much danger.

Frostbite

When a Moroi royal family is murdered by Strigoi, the Moroi/Dhampir world is on full alert. The Strigoi managed to kill an impressive number of Guardians by breaking a magical ward – something that humans had done because it is impossible for Strigoi to touch the wards. This in itself is strange – humans working with Strigoi would mean a much bigger problem to the Guardians. Rose witnesses the aftermath when she and Dimitri go to the house that was attacked – she was meant to take a test there with one of the Guardians that was killed.

She stays and watches the clean-up procedure with Dimitri, and afterwards returns to the school where everything is in chaos. She once again calms Lissa down, though technically she is the one that went through the ordeal, and starts to feel as though she is always the one who should be strong. This is the first of her many mood swings, which she later discovers is part of being shadow-kissed – because she has a Spirit-Bond with Lissa, she catches some of the insanity that comes with Lissa’s power.

Mason, a guy who has liked Rose for ages, makes no excuse that he would like to date her. She realizes that it would not be a bad idea to date someone her own age and not pine over someone she isn’t allowed to date.

The school decides to send its students to a private resort frequented by Moroi. As a result of the attack, the school and many other Moroi families decide to spend the holiday there. That is where Rose meets Adrian Ivashkov, a playboy Royal who is also a Spirit user like Lissa. Dimitri tells her to stay away from Adrian, and Rose basically spends time with Adrian to piss her instructor off. She found out that there may be something between Dimitri and Tasha Ozera – Christian’s aunt who is actually a nice lady and more suitable for him, even if she is a Moroi and he a Dhampir. Rose and Dimitri fights over this, and he tells her that she only proves her age with her childish habits.

Meanwhile, another Strigoi attack has taken place, and it resulted in the murder of Mia Renaldi’s mother. Rose and Lissa feel very sorry for Mia, even though they once hated her. They are unable to help her feel better, but she does start hanging out around them more.

Mason and Rose, now technically a couple, have a bad fight when Rose can’t seem to make up her mind on whether she wants to sleep with him. She realizes later that he went to Spokane with Eddie and Mia to hunt Strigoi, and she and Christian immediately follow without even considering telling any authority.

Christian and Lissa find their three friends safe, but soon afterwards all five are captured by Stigoi and bound up. After and immense struggle, Rose manages to kill the Strigoi and free her friends. All except Mason, who is killed by a Strigoi. The official school guardians arrive shortly afterwards, and it is only then that Rose leaves Mason’s body.

Dimitri tells Rose that he has realized that he could never love anyone else but her, and that they will somehow find a way to be together.

Rating: 5.5/10

Reading this book the first time caused me slight irritation, though I persisted. Second time around, after I’ve finished the series, I am irritated by it because I don’t find the book necessary to the series. I honestly feel that the tale could have been told in 3 – 4 books. The only justification for this book is the introduction of Adrian and Tasha. They are important characters later on, but they could probably have been introduced in the third book and it would have still worked out.

Rose starts to be a better person here, although she is still way too fond of herself to be overly endearing for me. Her best characteristics remains her brutal honesty and fearlessness, and her worst her vanity. She shouldn’t have dated Mason while still in love with Dimitri. She should have told her teachers when she realized her friends were missing. She should have taken them back on the safest route in Spokane. I could really go on forever because she is seriously flawed, and even though it adds character to the story it is still annoying.

The injustice of the Moroi society frustrates me to no end. There is no justice or equality, and the use of Dhampirs for Guardians is a form of slavery. I maintain that Rose is the one who deserves the spotlight, not the overly fragile Lissa.

To bring some balance I have to mention that Adrian is one of my favorite supernatural characters ever, and I am so glad he was written. He is absolutely essential to the Bloodlines series, which stems from Vampire Academy. He is charming and dangerous and a player, and yet he still manages to be a good man who has the capacity for great love. I enjoy his cheesy pick-up lines and his sarcasm, when he dances with insanity, his love for vices and his addiction to Rose – which is just another vice because she is just as destructive as his alcohol or cigarettes.

This book serves mainly as an introduction to people and events that are important later on, and illustrating the importance of Rose and Dimitri’s love. It starts to show how unfair Rose’s destiny is, and makes you wonder whether she will eventually become Lissa’s Guardian and if it really is the thing she wants the most.

Read my review on the first book, Vampire Academy, here.

PS: If you’ve read the books and blogged about it, please drop me a comment. I am desperate to find some other opinions on this series!