December 07, 2010

We Face The Final Curtain (Review: Last Sacrifice; R. Mead)

Last Sacrifice
Richelle Mead
Razorbill 2010

Last Sacrifice is the sixth and final book in the Vampire Academy.  This review contains spoilers for all the previous books in the series so if you've not read them then please go away.  It also contains very minor spoilers for Last Sacrifice itself, although nothing that ruins the overall plot.

So, I've finally made it to the end of my Vampire Academy marathon and what an end it is! As action packed and information loaded as the previous few books in the series, Last Sacrifice was a whirlwind read that I found hard to put down.

After the cliffhanger (and somewhat depressing) ending of Spirit Bound, Last Sacrifice starts with Rose almost exactly where we left her. Luckily, Abe, Janine and a host of her Moroi friends (whom have finally started to develop backbones) are on hand to help her out and we soon find her off on yet another crazy adventure. The initial events of the book are interesting because they effectively leave the reader following two groups of people. Lissa, Christian, Eddie and Adrian at the Royal Court (along with Abe and Janine) and Rose, Dimitri and Sydney on the road – and there's a lot of road as they seem to travel round the majority of Midwest America. The author again uses Rose and Lissa's psychic bond to let the reader see what is going on back at Court while Rose herself narrates the main story. It's a clever device that is used far more effectively in this last installment than it has been previously.

Rose's storyline once more sees her scrapping her way in and out of a variety of interesting situations. I've been continually impressed at Richelle Mead's ability to slowly reveal different factions of the Dhampir/Moroi races and once again Rose finds herself discovering just how sheltered the life of the Royal Court is. As well as having her assumptions challenged she is haring around the country trying to find out more about Lissa's family in order to try and help Lissa gain a voice back at Court. On it's own this would be an interesting storyline, drawing in a host of familiar and not so familiar faces. However, Rose is also struggling with being in close proximity to Dimitri and their ever complicated friendship, especially in light of her relationship with Adrian. Or Crazy Aidy, as I like to call him. It's all rather fantastic and I was never entirely sure how any of the varied story lines were going to end. Alchemist Sydney also becomes a far more interesting character and her slow acceptance of Rose and Dimitri as friends rather than...er...evil incarnate was well written and believable.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Lissa is busy growing a spine. I know! Finally! Playing both politico and sleuth she really comes into her own and a lot of her previous rubbishness can be forgotten. I particularly enjoyed reading about the intricacies of the Moroi political system and Lissa's astute navigation of its somewhat choppy waters is a pleasure to read. Christian remains an interesting character but I felt he was, as with some of the previous titles, slightly underwritten in this story although his scenes with Lissa are often very lovely. More than any other pairing in the series, their relationship has a real ring of truth and seems almost ordinary despite the world they inhabit. Adrian continues to be utterly charming but again his character is given more depth as we see him start to voice insecurities about his future mental health and also his lack of focus. His interactions with Rose are always believable, particularly as he starts to open up to her more. Abe continues with his hilarious mafia boss act and Janine also has more of a role showing perhaps a softer side than previously seen (although not soft because that would be silly).

Richelle Mead has skillfully plotted her way through all six books in the Vampire Academy series and there are few characters who remain superfluous, with several players stepping back into the game for this fantastic finale. The final showdown is impressive and the resolution of the main story lines particularly stood out. While there are some happy endings, there are no set happily ever afters. The events of the series have had repercussions and there are many characters who are left with scars, regrets, pain and anger. This is particularly clear regarding Rose's love life. I'm not going to tell you who wins her heart (I was certainly kept guessing right to the end), but for the loser there is no second place prize, no ridiculously named daughter to hook up with and no easy way out of his heartbreak. This, to me, is true to life. Break ups suck and sometimes you just have to accept the suck until things change for the better. Even for those who have a happy ending there are hints at future trouble and signs that some issues are never going to be entirely resolved. I believe that there is to be a spin off series revolving round four familiar characters and I would bet good money on who they are going to be as there are certain story threads that have yet to go the distance.

Were I pushed to recommend a vampire series then this would triumph hands down over Twilight. Richelle Mead has created a fantastically strong heroine in Rose, a character who truly develops in Lissa and a storyline that riffs on everything from loyalty vs. blind obedience to tradition vs. change. The series as a whole is strong and Last Sacrifice a worthy finale with the author respecting her readers enough to shy away from trite, easy endings and present us with a real-world climax that does her writing and her characters absolute justice. Fabulous.


Last Sacrifice is in book shops today! Thank you to Puffin for sending me this series to review.

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