December 06, 2010

School's Out Forever (Review: Spirit Bound; R. Mead)

Spirit Bound
Richelle Mead
Razorbill 2010 (this edition)

Spirit Bound is the fifth book in the Vampire Academy series.  If you have not read the rest then be assured that this review contains spoilers for the previous titles.  If you have read the rest, then read on without fear.

Well....where to begin... a LOT happens in this book. I find myself amazed at how much Richelle Mead has managed to fit into the penultimate book of the Vampire Academy series. Actually, it's less Vampire Academy and more Vampire Big Bad World as school is most definitely out forever.

The book starts a few months after the events of Blood Promise, with Rose about to end her senior year of high school. Specifically we find her about to undertake her Guardian trial, the score of which will affect her future hugely. We also find her in a relationship with the lovely-if-slightly-insane Adrian which seems to have started at some point during the last three months. Never fear, though! Strimitri (yes, I made that up myself) is still sending her creepy letters, full of love and death threats, which he combines with more than a little skill. As you do. Lissa is still drifting both aimlessly and selfishly through life, although kudos to her for agreeing to accompany Rose on her latest crazy adventure which involves a rather ill thought out prison break and a trip to Vegas, baby! Despite the ill thought-outness of said prison break, Rose and her chums have little difficulty in breaking out their controversial prison buddy (why, Hello, Uncle V!). To be honest, they have far too little difficulty – it's slightly poorly written, but this matters not as the story only takes off once they use Victor to extract some useful information. Turns out that the nasty Strigoi may be savable. Yup, Strimitri may become sexy-yet-ever-so-slightly-dull Dimitri once more.

Character wise this is a really good installment. Rose remains as impulsive and outspoken as ever, but there is real pain fueling her latest quest and I admired her ability to stand up to the Moroi politics that swirl around her and Lissa in the royal court (which is where most of the book is set). Christian makes a welcome return to the main cast, having been pretty absent throughout much of the last two books – I like him as a character if only because he makes Lissa more interesting. Ah, Lissa.... where to begin. I just don't like her. At all. While she does gain a bit of a backbone in Spirit Bound, it still seems to only come into play when she deems it appropriate. Even in her big scene with Strimitri I felt that she was acting less to help Rose and more because she wanted to see if her magic was up to it. Later her lack of sympathy to Rose's situation with regards her love life really annoyed me. Sometimes you have to stick your neck out for your best friend and Lissa did not play ball. Rose refers to Lissa as gentle and kind – I refer to her as self-absorbed and pious. Doesn't ruin the books though, it just gives them an edge that I kind of like.

Strimitri himself is actually quite interesting in this book (not that he wasn't before, I just like him better since he got bitten by Strigoi). His evil incarnation is, well, pretty darn evil – I get the impression that the author really enjoyed playing with his character in this way, I bet it was a lot of fun. I grew really quite fond of his evil side during this book, but then I always preferred Angelus to Angel, too. Strimitri's character could go in any direction, but I suspect he'll end up veering towards Rose, as even evil he can't seem to stay away from her. Adrian, again, was probably my favourite. Mead has given him a bit more to play with than his previous party boy persona and I really want to see things work out well for him. However, my main issue with Spirit Bound was his relationship with Rose. Being established off screen, so to speak, it was hard to get invested in it and to be honest it's almost as if the author has felt the need for a love triangle and shoe-horned him into it. I suspect that rooting for a Rose and Adrian happy ending will be as futile as rooting for Bella and Jacob.

The plot itself was gripping, again opening up the Dhampir/Moroi world further. I really love the growing awareness of the servant/master relationship that the two factions have and the politics are genuinely interesting. The book ends with a rather excellent cliffhanger leaving me with no idea how that aspect of the story would continue. Luckily I didn't have to wait long as my copy of The Last Sacrifice was ready and waiting. You, dear reader, will have to wait until tomorrow (7th December) to find out my thoughts on the grand finale of Vampire Academy but I can promise you that it's an absolute winner...


Spirit Bound is available in book shops now.  Thank you to Puffin for sending me this title to review.

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