Book Review – Vampire Academy

Vampire AcademyVampire Academy by Richelle Mead

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was another one of those books that comes highly recommended but which I had a less than stellar reaction to. It was okay, but it doesn’t make me want to roll about in gleeful fandom and anticipation. I mean, I wouldn’t really mind if I didn’t read the rest of the series. 

The best feature of this book is its characters. Rose, the heroine, has an important quality without which she would be completely alienated from the readers – self reflection. She may say or do stupid things, but she thinks about it and regrets it later. She also does not disregard criticism completely, something that I appreciate her for.

“Do you think she should have quit to raise you when you’d spend most of your life here anyway?”
I didn’t like having reasonable arguments thrown at me. “Are you saying I’m a hypocrite?”
“I’m just saying maybe you shouldn’t be so hard on her. She’s a very respected dhampir woman. She’s set you on the path to be the same.”
“It wouldn’t kill her to visit more,” I muttered. “But I guess you’re right. A little.”

She is not the best character she could be though, not because she has flaws (that makes her relatable), but because I find her rigidity irritating. There were some points in the book where I wanted to jump up and scream at her, “STOP JUDGING ALREADY! HOW CAN YOU BE SO SURE THAT PERSON IS SUCH A *****?”

And now I’m doing it.

Probably long reviews have written praising Rose’s courage, snark, loyalty, toughness and general awesomeness, so I’ll just leave it at that. I find it interesting that she is the narrative voice because Lissa is obviously the speshul one, giving us an opportunity to see into the thoughts of someone who is usually sidelined – the bodyguard.

And that’s probably why I love the character of Dimitri so much; he’s also one of those people who you secretly wish the book was written about because they’re so cool, but perpetually remain in the background. That and his smile. Hello, book boyfriend.

And if, as Rose puts it, he wasn’t godlike enough already, he is not a condescending, standoffish, secret stalker who is the ultimate catch after the marlin from Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. He is a good guy who is devoted to his job. He doesn’t blindly fall in love with Rose and create expectations of sparkly unicorn filled candy houses that are likely to get everyone killed. He acknowledges their relationship but acts mature, as he is supposed to be.

“But also . . . well, you and I will both be Lissa’s guardians someday. I need to protect her at all costs. If a pack of Strigoi come, I need to throw my body between them and her.”
“I know that. Of course that’s what you have to do.” The black sparkles were dancing in front of my eyes again. I was fading out.
“No. If I let myself love you, I won’t throw myself in front of her. I’ll throw myself in front of you.”

I’d much rather love a principled person and not have them to myself than be the object of affection of an Adonis-like serial killer. (My rational side: Anyone would, genius. Me: I suppose that might have been the wrong example.)

Moving on, Lissa and Christian are also fascinating characters. I Lissa strangely relatable, since I also shy away from crowds and control my temper a lot. Watching her grow in the course of the novel is a satisfying experience. Christian tends towards bad-boy tropes, but he is interesting nonetheless. They are a nicely complementary pair, which even Rose has to acknowledge.

“In some ways, Lissa and Christian were perfect for each other. Maybe they were outcasts, but the Dragomirs and Ozeras had once been among the most powerful Moroi leaders. And in only a very short time, Lissa and Christian had started shaping one another in ways that could put them right up there with their ancestors. He was picking up some of her polish and social poise; she was learning to stand up for her passions.”

I do feel sometimes, that poor Mason was an unnecessary addition to the romantic plot, but he was probably just there to move things along. Still.

The world-building is also good. Finally a book where vampire superpowers are balanced with the abilities of other races.

They are as usual, isolated but powerful, but at least they have weaknesses.

“But the Moroi are falling apart. Our numbers are dropping as we let the Strigoi prey upon us. ”

The political infighting adds another layer of depth to the book, because now it seems like they actually have a government. There is no perfection here – vampires can be ostracised, a social hierarchy exists, dhampirs are not entirely happy with their situation and there is actually a school with classes. All this, without taking into consideration the Strigoi. As for the vampiric element, it is strong, just enough to not be overwhelming while reminding us this world is unique. Oh and they actually drink blood. No veggie vampires here. (Thank god.)

The plot is good, decently paced, but the twists are nothing fantastic. The hints are easily picked up on if you’re paying attention. Probably the only thing that surprised me was that the girls didn’t attempt to escape a second time. A plus point here is that the book can be read as a stand-alone since there are no earthquake-inducing cliffhangers or loose plot threads i.e. the story is complete in itself.

Prose is also okay – the language is natural while being detailed enough to make us believe a teenager is talking.

“Vases spilling over with crimson roses and delicate white lilies. Glowing candles. Tablecloths made of—wait for it—bloodred linen.”

Overall, it thankfully doesn’t make me go

A good book with no heavy themes, it makes for good light reading.

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