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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

GENRE: FANTASY

One of the advantages of discovering a book series that is already four books long is that you can read them all back to back. That's what I ended up doing with the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. I had originally planned to read the first book and then move on to some other books in my stack before reading the rest of the books in the series. I quickly changed my mind.

Vampire mythology in literature can differ from author to author. In Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy, there are two different types of vampires: the Moroi and the Strigoi. The Moroi are a mortal race of vampires that only needs blood as a supplement to a normal human diet. They do not kill to get that blood and usually get it from willing volunteers. Moroi can also walk in the sunlight, even though it weakens them, and they can do magic. The Strigoi are immortal vampires who usually kill their victims for blood. They are super fast and strong, the ultimate predator. Anyone who drinks a Strigoi's blood prior to death will become a Strigoi. A Strigoi that was formally a Moroi can no longer perform magic. Moroi are born, Strigoi are made.

The series is told in first person by Rose Hathaway. Rose is a Dhampir, half human, half vampire. Dhampirs are faster and stronger than Moroi and move about undetected in the human world, unaffected by the sun. Their abilities make them ideal for protecting their weaker Moroi cousins. Dhampirs who decide to go through the training can become guardians and are assigned to individual Moroi for their personal protection. Rose is a student at St. Vladimir's Academy where she is training to be a guardian. The academy also educates Moroi in the use of magic as well as the traditional school courses. Rose's best friend is Lissa Dragomir, the last of one of the Royal lines of Moroi. Because of their close friendship and an unusual supernatural bond, it's a virtual certainty that Rose will be Lissa's guardian when they graduate from the academy. It is concern for Lissa's safety that causes Rose to run away from the academy with Lissa in tow.

Their freedom can't last forever and after two years of living among humans, Rose and Lissa are captured and returned to the academy in disgrace. The danger that caused them to run away still exists, but there is some consolation in returning to their friends. Each girl will discover new revelations about themselves and their relationship. They will also manage to fall for guys who are deemed inappropriate by their respective cultures. All this while trying to evade the hidden danger that stalks them.


Book Two: Frostbite

A nearby Strigoi attack has put St. Vladimir's Academy and parents on edge during the holiday season so the Moroi royal families have invited all the students and their families to stay at a luxurious ski resort with sufficent security to keep everyone safe. Rose would normally be excited about this, but she feels like a bit of a third wheel around her best friend Lissa, and Lissa's new boyfriend, Christian. Rose is also jealous that her friend can have an open relationship since the guy Rose is in love with, Dimitri, is also her trainer and considered too old for her. She suspects he feels the same way about her, but he won't give in to his feelings because his sense of honor and responsibility are too strong. He is trying to move on with another woman, but even though there is a perfectly nice guy interested in Rose, she can't seem to shake her feelings for Dimitri long enough to reciprocate.

After three fellow students leave the resort to hunt down some Strigoi after another brutal attack, Rose and Christian go after them in an attempt to prevent them from getting hurt. Unfortunately Rose's worst nightmare plays out with tragic results.


Book Three: Shadow Kiss

Rose and Lissa return to St. Vladimir's Academy to deal with the fallout from what happened at the ski resort with some excess baggage in the form of Adrian Ivashkov. He has abilities similar to Lissa's and has come back to the academy as a guest so they can work together to learn more. Lissa's boyfriend, Christian, isn't too happy about that even though Adrian is clearly more interested in Rose romantically.

There is only one guy that Rose is interested in, however, and that's Dimitri. He may be older than her and her teacher, but the heart wants what the heart wants. She is determined to make this work no matter what.

Never a dull moment at St. Vladimir's. Due to weakened wards, a large group of Strigoi are able to get on campus resulting in a legendary battle that even Rose and her fellow novice guardians are forced to play a role in. In war, even when you win a battle you can still lose. Rose suffers a horrible loss and must decide between her best friend and the man she loves.


 Book Four: Blood Promise

**SPOILER ALERT** DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU HAVE NOT READ BOOK 3.

Rose and Dimitri made a promise to each other that if one of them was ever turned into a Strigoi, the other one would kill them to save their eternal soul. When Dimitri was captured by Strigoi during the battle at St. Vladimir's Academy and turned, Rose knew she needed to keep her promise. She decided to leave the academy on the day of her 18th birthday, leaving her best friend behind.

Rose starts her search in Dimitri's homeland, Russia. While still mourning his loss and struggling with how she could possibly kill the man she loves, Rose travels the country, making allies and killing random Strigoi along the way. Through her bond with Lissa, she is able to check in at home and discovers that all is not well with her best friend. Lissa is lost without Rose and falls into a party life-style with new friends which will ultimately lead to several poor decisions. Torn between her promise to Dimitri and needing to go home to her best friend, Rose decides to continue her search.

Her plan was simple, find Dimitri and kill him. Rose should have known better. Not only was she not prepared to see him again, she was not prepared for how much he still resembled the man she loved, in so many ways. Now she has another decision to make... kill him or let him kill her so they can be together forever.

**END OF SPOILER ALERT**

Bella and Edward who? For me, this series blew Twilight away, which had been the recent gold standard for supernatural love stories. There's alot going on here than just a love story. Rose has to make some agonizing choices and most of them have realistic and devastating consequences. All four books were impossible to put down. I think I set a new personal best time for how fast I could read a book without totally abandoning my family. The world that Richelle Mead has created is imaginative and compelling. I'm anxiously awaiting book 5 which should be out in a couple of weeks.

BEST FEATURE: It's hard to pick any one thing, but the story and the characters who are living it are the main event here.

WORST FEATURE: Poor editing... especially in the first two books. It was frequently annoying and something that a good proofreading software could prevent.

PARENTAL WARNING: violence and minor sexual content; appropriate for teens


MY RATING: 4.5 for the series overall. A totally addictive read.

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