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.
Tell Me More: Let’s address the elephant in the room–I was wrong. So very very wrong. If the last few weeks are any indication, Vampire Academy is a novel and series that will dig into the deepest parts of your brain and make a home there, as stubborn as its protagonist.
When I first encountered the Vampire Academy novels, it was a wonder my eyes didn’t fall out of my sockets from all the rolling they did. More vampires? Wasn’t Twilight enough? (Said 2007!Angel, who was a fan of Twilight.) The concept failed to win me over, and so I moved on to contemporary novels. Seven years later, I found myself friends with numerous VA fans, and their excitement and passion for the series finally convinced me to try it. One book wouldn’t hurt. As I write this review, I am already halfway through the third book, and more importantly, in emotional turmoil.
I heard quite a lot about the romance in this series, but I was surprised to find that I was a lot less interested in that aspect, and far more fascinated with the friendship between Rose and Lissa. Many of the paranormal novels I remember reading make a point of setting the supernatural protagonist apart from her peers, and rarely do they have strong female friendships. Rose and Lissa are an inseparable pair from the start, and it is a genuine friendship born out of a very real affection and trust in each other. I loved that they respected each other’s abilities and tried their best to protect each other. I loved that they acknowledge their roles as dictated by Moroi society, and don’t let that change who they want to be. Even now, I find that my attention is captured completely by scenes that involve the two of them, and when it does waver, it’s usually because the focus of the scene is romance.
The Rose/Dimitri scenes left me pretty apathetic for most of the novel, and I think part of it was because I had no expectations of getting attached to them. It’s also partly because the seven-year age gap between them is something I’m not very comfortable with in YA fiction–seven years is a long time to grow into yourself. There were moments where their connection felt unrealistic, and while I liked Dimitri as a character, I never really saw him as a love interest for Rose, because I wasn’t fussed about seeing any love interests for Rose or Lissa. Their friendship formed the emotional core of the story for me, and Rose/Dimitri felt like a distraction.
That said, I did find myself enjoying Lissa and Christian’s interactions with each other. Her kindness and his cynicism play into one of my favourite romantic tropes, and while I wouldn’t be torn up if they didn’t end up together, I did like seeing them fall for each other. It’s a very sweet relationship, and the themes of discrimination and acceptance ground it as well.
As character-driven as this novel is, the world Richelle Mead has built needed to be just as strong, and I was gratified to find that it was complex and real enough that I could get lost in it. The Moroi-Strigoi-dhampir dynamics were new and interesting, and most of all, I loved how very normal the vampires were to their human guardians. I liked that it is their connection and co-existence with humanity that differentiates the Moroi from Strigoi, and that the abuse of their abilities is what creates Strigoi. Balance is another thematic element that Mead includes in the series–how far can one go in either direction without losing oneself? It’s a question that gets asked by not just Rose and Lissa, but every character in the novel. Whether or not they find the answer they’re looking for lies in the rest of the series.
The Final Say: Vampire Academy‘s undead may not be the traditional stuff of nightmares, but they do give life to a well-rounded and realistic story that will satisfy even picky paranormal readers. And if nothing else, you’ll certainly enjoy the snappy pace, and biting (haha) humour.
Scorpio Richelle Mead is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy books for both adults and teens. Originally from Michigan, Richelle now lives in Seattle, Washington where she works on her three series full-time: Georgina Kincaid, Dark Swan, and Vampire Academy.
A life-long reader, Richelle has always loved mythology and folklore. When she can actually tear herself away from books (either reading or writing them), she enjoys bad reality TV, traveling, trying interesting cocktails, and shopping for dresses. She’s a self-professed coffee addict and has a passion for all things wacky and humorous.