November 26, 2010

Wild Rose (review: Vampire Academy; R. Mead)

Vampire Academy
Richelle Mead
Razorbill 2010 (this edition)

I have so much spare time, dontcha know? I have no essays to write, manuscripts to read or small child to look after. Oh, and my TBR pile is minimal. HA! Ha ha ha ha ha! If only this were true. It was therefore with some surprise that I found myself readily agreeing to read and review all six titles in the Vampire Academy series by the 7th of December. Why? Well, I've been burnt by a few vampire books recently and really wanted to find a vampire series that might reignite my enjoyment of the fanged ones. Well, Vampire Academy (along with the fantastic Drake Chronicles) has certainly piqued my interest again. This series is an altogether different look at the vampire world and – best of all – you no longer have to put up with the ghastly Jolie-alike covers as Puffin have repackaged the lot beautifully.


Rose and her best friend Lissa are a funny pair. Rose is a Dhampir (half-human/half vamp with zero blood lust but plenty of kick-ass skills), training to become a Guardian of the royal Lissa. Lissa is a Moroi, a mortal vampire who requires blood but doesn't kill. They've known each other forever, get on well despite their very different personalities and...er...they share a psychic bond. Rounding out the world of Vampire Academy are the Strigoi, who closely resemble your standard nasty vamp being generally bloodthirsty (in all respects), reflection-less and with strong views on sunlight. When we first meet Rose and Lissa they are on the run from school – St. Vladimir's – but are swiftly found and deposited back at the Vampire Academy (see where the title comes from, there?).


Rose is great fun. Fiercely protective of Lissa, she seems completely fearless. She has been brought up to believe that her role in life is to protect the Moroi and will do anything to fulfill what she sees as her purpose in life. Dhampirs can only have children with Moroi due to some genetic quirk, the this willingness to protect the Moroi also protects the Dhampir race. However, Rose is not always dutiful and exhibits a great bad-girl side, flirting and partying her way around campus like a less annoying Faith from Buffy. Behind her brash exterior, though, is a genuinely caring and thoughtful girl who worries constantly about Lissa, the bond they share and Lissa's strange abilities – not to mention the other girl's fragile mental health. Lissa herself is an interesting character. Clearly As her stress and instability increase, she becomes deeply depressed and resorts to self-harm. Such issues are common fodder for contemporary YA but unusual in paranormal titles so it was refreshing to see them handled in such a subtle and delicate manner in Vampire Academy.


Boy/Men wise there are some great characters. Dimitri, clearly the Guardian to whom Rose's heart is destined to belong is just lovely. Handsome, thoughtful, caring. My only issue with Dimitri is his sartorial ineptitude. Someone needs to tell him (and several YA authors) that pony tails are NOT sexy and long leather dusters are so 1997, dahling. The only person left in the Vampverse who can carry one off is Spike, and even he only just manages. Er...where was I...oh yeah...boys. Filling the role of hot-boy-with-troubled-past-and-snarky-humour is Christian, a disgraced Moroi with a lot to prove. Finally there's Mason, a Dhampir who provides some light relief and comes as close to a boy-next-door as this world can offer.


While unable to talk about villains without giving too much away, the author clearly has a ball writing Mia in all her fabulous, miniscule bitchiness. The queen of the Moroi is also notable for her cold, succinct cruelty and dismissiveness. The plot itself is well paced and gripping, although it is worth mentioning that this book is concerned mainly with setting the scene for subsequent installments. All this world building doesn't detract from the story, however, and I found myself completely absorbed in Rose and Lissa's lives. I'm delighted to have found a vampire series that I can finally get my teeth into. Every pun intended.




Vampire Academy is available in bookshops now.  Thanks to Puffin for sending me this copy to review.

2 comments:

Clover said...

You agreed to read and review them all in just over a week? What were you thinking?! :) I hope you've had fun with it. I hear nothing but good things about this series so I will have to read them. At some point! Thanks for the interesting review :)

Splendibird said...

No, I agreed to read and review them over the course of a couple of weeks before starting to post my reviews prior to the 7th of Dec. Still crazy stuff. It really is a great fun series and worth a read!