Publication Date: August 16, 2007
Type: Paperback, received as gift
St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger...
Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.
I liked this quite a bit.
I've seen crazy hype for this one. Vampire Academy is one of the few series that earned gushing not only from my online friends but from numerous real life friends who'd read the books and absolutely adored them. Considering how many of these friends were also staunch supporters of "Twilight," and The Daily Beast's blurb on the back cover, I was more than a bit wary. But eventually, the positive reviews became too much, and I caved.
I'm glad I did.
Quite simply, this book is refreshing. From the wonderfully unique concept that makes vampires sympathetic characters without turning them into sparkling fairies, to the snarky, kick-ass heroine who embraces her good looks and sexuality, this book was different and fantastic and I really, really loved it.
Mead's plotting was excellent; not only is the base idea incredibly new and intriguing, but the plot itself is creative and addictive. There were no lulls, no sections where I felt my interest slowly waning. This book captured me from start to finish, and it was almost a physical pain to set it down.
Even more than the plot, though, I enjoyed the characters and their relationships with one another. As mentioned above, I absolutely adored Rose; she's strong, confident, sarcastic, imperfect. She's gorgeous, others know it, and she fully accepts that. She's extremely flawed, others know it, and she accepts that. No one's trying to pretend Rose is anything close to perfect, and that makes me love her all the more.
Perhaps even better than Rose's characterization, though, were her relationships with others. First of all: her friendship with Lissa. It was fantastic. So often in YA nowadays, "best friends" are either included for the sake of a) encouraging the protagonist to make bad decisions, b) giving them a makeover, or c) making the reader want to beat their brains out with a blunt spoon. This is not the case with Lissa. Lissa is absolutely crucial to the plot, and more importantly, her relationship with Rose is entirely genuine. Even aside from their bond, these two just had such a fantastic, believable chemistry with one another. They felt like actual best friends. Major kudos to Richelle Mead for handling the best friend dynamic so wonderfully.
Second of all: her relationship with Dimitri. That, that is how you build a romantic relationship. No instantaneous swooning. No completely forgetting every other person in the world. No dramatic declarations of love. Just two people with a mutual physical attraction and mutual respect that gradually grows into something more. I know many were troubled by the age difference, but frankly, when you compare this to most vampire-human romances, or angel-human romances, or really any supernatural-human romance, is a seven year difference really that huge a deal when many YA heroines are tackling a difference of several hundred years?
I, at least, did not think so.
I also really loved the central antagonist of this story. He was twisted, misguided, but not entirely wrong. I could understand him. Did I disapprove of his methods? Most certainly. But I understood his goals, and why he might feel like this was the only course, like this would all be for the greater good. Fucked up antagonists with legitimately good intentions have always been the most fascinating to me.
The only thing I didn't like about this novel was the characterization of Mia. For most of the novel, she was painfully two-dimensional, an annoying high-school-level antagonist to stir up drama. At one point, I thought Mead was going to go a bit deeper, give Mia some actual depth, but then that fell flat. (No pun intended.) However, I have heard from several fans that Mia's character does, indeed, get fleshed out throughout the series, so I'll be interested to see how that goes as I read on.
Overall, this was a very, very enjoyable read, and I would highly recommend it, even to those who aren't typically a fan of vampires. You might be surprised.