Friday, January 15, 2016

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (or, this was definitely written during the Twilight Craze)

What a stupid name for a novel. What a stupid name for a first book in the beginning of the series, a series that I'm excited about reading. Yes, I know the title is pretty self-explanatory, yes, it is a vampire school and yes, I know it's written for YA, but damn... does it have to be so on the nose? Even Twilight has a semi-alluring name that doesn't really give the entire book away and make you roll your eyes (you probably do anyway because of the content), but whoever thought Vampire Academy was a good title needs a slap or two.

I'm quite sure that's why the movie didn't do so well, but that's for another post.

Vampire Academy is told through the eyes of Rose, who is a dhampir (half-vampire, half-human) and is training to be a guardian for the Moroi, the "good" vampires to defend them against the Strigoi, the "bad" vampires. The story opens with Rose and Lissa on the run from the "Vampire Academy" or rather, the school's guardians. They have been on the run for 2 years, moving around and attending high school across the U.S. Now, the probability that adults, who have superpowers, are unable to find children, is quite low, but I buy into it because within the first 10 pages, they are caught by a dreamboat of a man and bought back to school and the story kicks up.

Vampire Academy is a perfect blend of showing and telling, telling the reader without preamble about the vampire culture and history in the book and Mead shows the rest, revealing the mystery why the girls ran away layer by layer, until it all comes to a head in the last 50 pages of the book. I love how Mead picks her battle, choosing instead to show characters instead of the world of Vampire Academy.

There is also your typical highschool drama with friends, popularity and finding oneself that are recurring themes in a lot of YA novels. It was silly, but with a name of Vampire Academy, the reader should expect it. It's also kind of fun to relive from afar a time where navigating the social sphere is the bane of your existence. It also wrestles with rumors, friendships and loyalty and Mead actually turns the book from a fantasy YA novel into almost a guide for girls starting high school, which, honestly, needs to be more of.

I love the relationship between Lissa and Rose. They are fiercely devoted to each other and even though it's almost easy to slide into resentment (I mean, becoming a Guardian must absolutely blow), both Rose and Lissa shake it off, using their love and friendship for each other to conquer all. Even when they have a falling out, Rose comes to Lissa's rescue and the pair are thick as thieves again by the end of the book. Lissa isn't helpless by any means and the pair rely on each other socially and emotionally.

Finally, I also like how Mead resolves, or puts a period on the blossoming relationship between Dimitri and Rose. There is attraction between the pair, and they even get hot and heavy during one point of the book, but when it is all resolved, Dimitri actually encourages Rose to report him. There is a huge age gap between the two and it's addressed repeatedly in different ways and conclude that Rose and Dimitri will not enter in a forbidden romance, which is a relief. I wonder how it's going to play out in the rest of the books.

One last little tidbit of the book that I was unsure of, but I was glad that Mead went in the direction she did. The idea of "blood whores" or dhampir women who have affairs with Moroi men. They live in different communities, and there is an awful reputation surrounding them due to the fact that Moroi men sleep with dhampir women and then go home to their Moroi wives. When Rose brings it up while training with Dimitri, he casually tells her that he grew up in such a community and the worst part was his dad, a Moroi, coming to visit them. It opens Rose's eyes a bit more to the vampire world and suddenly, the "blood whores" stance isn't so black and white.

I have a lot of other books to read (Star Wars! The Martian! 11.22.63! The 5th Wave! Comics!), so I don't know when I'll be able to read the second book in this series. This year is already amping up to be a busy year in books, so I'm excited!

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