Friday, 29 October 2010

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

When Vampire Book Club announced they were going to be hosting a Vampire Academy reread challenge through October and November in the run up to Last Sacrifice's release, I of course instantly signed up. This is one of my all time favourite YA series. I rarely reread books (aside from favourite snippets) but VA is an exception to that and I've reread most of the series several times in full. Notes:  This is very long and gushing, apologies for that! Thanks to the two lovely Nicole's, it's not as long and gushing as it was. Be grateful ;) Review is followed by some reread thoughts.

Vampire Academy [book 1 in the Vampire Academy series] by Richelle Mead - Goodreads // Richelle's site

Rose is a 17 year-old dhampir, a Guardian in training, intent on protecting her best friend, Lissa Dragomir, who is a royal Moroi princess. They've spent two years on the run from the Academy they attended, but now they've been found and brought back. Rose goes back in to training, with a new hot mentor, and Lissa is once more surrounded by the elite royals and the political games they play. Both struggle to find their place in the school again and things are only made worse as someone begins targeting Lissa. Rose is determined to protect her from everything, but there are some things even a trained bodyguard can't stop.

I was hooked on this book this book from beginning to end. I was worried before I started it the first time that it would, despite the description, end up being your typical YA vampire romance book. It is definitely not that!! For starters, it has a kickass female protagonist who doesn't spend all her time thinking about a guy. She's sassy, smart, resourceful and determined. Okay, and a little cocky and bratty at times. But she's 17. She can be forgiven for acting her age! She's also got a serious, deeper, more mature side which gets shown fairly early on. She's got her flaws, but they make her more approachable and easier to relate to rather than being irritating. There is obvious potential for a lot of growth in her as well, particularly emotionally speaking.

One of my favourite aspects of the book is the friendship between Lissa and Rose. It's clear from the start that they're pretty inseparable, and that Lissa leans on Rose a lot. Lissa is smart and strong in some ways, but she's also fragile. She's far more openly vulnerable than Rose ever is. Lissa lost her family in a car accident a couple of years before where the series starts, making Rose the only family she's really got left. However I think the reverse is true as well, that Rose needs Lissa just as much. Rose's mom is never around, she doesn't know her father, and the only true friend she has, the only person she trusts, is Lissa. It's no wonder she takes her duty seriously, even if protecting Lissa means breaking the rules and going against what she's been taught.

I love the blend of reality with the paranormal. Like how everyone can relate to the general high school experiences and drama, such as romance, gossip and strained friendships. But then there is the fact that half the school population require blood as part of their diet to survive, and the other half are training to kill things. Richelle has blended these perfectly to create something very believable and real, with a great cast of well developed characters to back it up. I think it's really well paced and although not always the fastest plot, it's still really interesting. Either the world building (which is complex, but more straight forward than you may think at first glance) or the interactions between Rose and the various people around her. There's never a dull moment and several laugh out loud ones along with the hold-your-breath tension. There are some great twists along the way as well. First time I read this I had no idea what was going to happen until it happened. Every reread I've loved almost as much as that first time, despite knowing the outcome. It still makes my heart race.

There is a romantic plot, well two actually. Both with forbidden aspects, Rose's far more than Lissa's, but both thoroughly enjoyable. Rose and Lissa share a deep bond, literally, and Rose can feel what Lissa does, can be 'in her head' and see what she sees. This means we get a close look at Lissa's life, romantic and otherwise, as well as Rose's. Something I enjoy, even when Lissa annoys me.

Richelle has also done a fantastic job with the chemistry and slow building relationship between Rose and her 24 year old, very hot, Russian mentor, Dimitri. I love Dimitri. He's calm, strong, got a bit of the tough love attitude, understanding, serious and the perfect balance to Rose's short temper. And while Dimitri does play a big part to the story, their relationship isn't the main focus, it is a sub plot. And not all their interaction is about them getting together, in fact most of it is simply them training and getting to know each other. Which I think is why I adore them together so much. There is nothing sudden or rushed about their relationship. I'm very cautious about any relationship in a book that is between a student/teacher or a similar role, and it can often be an automatic turn off for me, for very personal reasons. However, Richelle has built it carefully, and it is a conflict both Rose and Dimitri recognize and acknowledge, so it doesn't leave me with an sick feeling. I adore them together.

Overall I can't help loving and adoring just about every little thing about this book. It's dark and gritty; got great characters; great world building that is complex and yet easy to understand; it's a great story with some fantastic twists; it pulls no punches and generally is just all around awesome. Even rereading it I can barely put it down. I feel every up and down with Rose and love every second of it. It's certainly a YA book that can appeal as much to adults as teens. The ending wraps the major points of this book up, but there is still so much to explore in the rest of the series. Books 2-5 certainly live up to that as the series only gets better, and book 6 promises more of the same. Excellent start to something which is definitely not your typical vampire YA novel, despite the somewhat cheesy series title. A series which is one of the very best YA series around and an absolute must read. Rating: 10/10

Few new reread comments on it

First read thoughts
Chapter 1: Wow. Okay, Rose is sassy and this is not going to be a typical vampire book. I'm going to love this...
About halfway through: Oh my gosh I'm so in love! Dimitri is awesome! So is Rose! And Christian is kinda crazy but I kinda like him too. Mia = mega bitch. I need book 2, is it out yet? *hunts online and orders. It will arrive the next day* *dances*
End: This is such an awesome book. I'm going to love this series!!

Chapter 1: hehe gotta love Rose's sass. Soooo good to be back in this world.
About halfway through: Wow, Rose really was a major brat through some of this. Still love her through it though. Dimitri *swoon-y sigh* Kind, sweet, tough, awesome Dimitri. Oh how I love him. Them first falling in love is soo good to read again. *cackles at Christian's insanity* I adore this guy so much. Mia really was a total bitch, hard to feel even a tiny bit of sympathy for her despite knowing later details.
End: love, love love. How many more days til Last Sacrifice? Why can I not reread the rest of the series yet? *double sigh*

Rereading this now was kind of strange, good strange, but still strange. Before I've always just done it for fun, because I love the series and getting lost in that world again is relaxing and easy, and sometimes I just do not want to start something new, but I want something I can still get a real thrill from, which I can with this series. This time I was actually paying attention to details, thoughts on what was going on, what the characters were like, how things go on to change, and comparing to my first impressions (which by the way, were never written down, I just remember them very well). I'm a little surprised by my reaction to Rose.

The first time I read this book I had no problem with Rose at all. She was sassy, smart, determined and flawed. Now, I'm seeing more flaws then I did before. Don't get me wrong, I still love her completely, but I'm noticing how over confident and cocky she is. I noticed the comments before, but I never paid them that much attention. Now I am. It may just be because it seems so different to Spirit Bound Rose (the Rose who's been to hell and back) or maybe I'm just looking at it differently, trying to see what others who haven't liked book one saw.

Either way, I noticed it. I think I almost like her more for it oddly, thought not when it was actually happening, because I think it lends more to my theory that a lot of the reason Rose is so over-confident and bratty at times is because as a kid it got her noticed and she's playing it up to feel part of a group. She's jealous of Lissa and Christian's connection from the start because she knows it might take Lissa away from her a certain amount, and Lissa is all she has so it's something she's understandably unhappy about. Don't get me wrong, I think Rose is comfortable in the dhampir/Moroi society, but I also think she has a deep desire to be noticed and needed to really feel she's worth while. Or maybe I just obsess too much on this series.

I'll stop the gushing there for now and save some for my reread of books 2-5! If you made it this far, thank you! Would love any comments on this post (and any other for that matter!)


Jenny said...

I just love this series! I'm with you on Rose and Dimitri, I love that their relationship was prominent but not the main focus and they weren't instantly in love with one another. There are valid reasons for them to be apart and watching them struggle to stay apart is emotionally draining but so good. Can't wait for December! I enjoyed reading all your thoughts, thanks for sharing!

iamjenai said...

I love love love this series! I can't believe it's going to end this december! VA's the only one I'm dreaming about after Lord of the Rings.

Penguin Australia has released it's first Last Sacrifice teaser trailer. Come visit my page and let me know what you think of it :)