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REVIEW: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Dear Ms. Mead,

I’ll admit that the first time I saw your book series was when Twilight came out.   I was recently getting into YA at the time, but after having read Twilight, I felt like your series was just a pretender.   Vampire Academy.   You have to admit it’s a pretty ho-hum kind of name.   Obviously vampire.   And I was quite a little reading snob at the time so I didn’t think much of it.   But before long I had an urge to read it – an urge for the world behind the title.   A little less than two years later I finally got the chance to read it, and I am proud to say it kicks Twilight to the curb.

Vampire Academy by RIchelle MeadRose, a dhampir, is on the run with Lissa Dragomir, a Moroi princess.   The dhampir and the Moroi are the two respectable vampire species.   They are forever at war with the Strigoi, a race of vampires that are made instead of born with vampirism.   Rose and Lissa have fled St. Vladimir’s Academy because of an incident almost two years before that changed their lives forever.   A new dhampir professor named Dimitri captures the girls and returns them to the academy after almost two years on their own.

Their return to St. Vladimir’s brings new challenges for the two girls.   Rose is separated into dhampir classes while Lissa into Moroi classes.   The dhampir are the ones that protect and care for the Moroi, who are basically vampire royalty.   Rose has to catch up on combat techniques she missed learning with the other dhampir, and is assigned to be tutored by the handsome Dimitri.   While Rose is off training, Lissa is dealing with the world of Moroi politics and mastering her elemental affinity.   The two best friends are usually separated from each other – or so everyone thinks.   What they don’t know is that Rose and Lissa share a psychic bond unlike any other.

Through this psychic bond comes other troubles.   It isn’t normal for Moroi and dhampir to share such a strong bond.   Lissa’s also been getting strange mood swings, and finding mauled animals inside her room and backpack.   Someone’s targeting her, and Rose is determined to find out who it is.   Add in her attraction to Dimitri, as well as Lissa’s growing affections for a guy who seems creepy and suspicious, and the stakes (pardon the pun) are high.   Vampire Academy shows Mead’s skill in writing urban fantasy, but with a snarky teen edge.

Let it be said that not every vampire book has a doormat for a heroine.   Rose is quite the opposite of Bella.   She swears and isn’t afraid to kick ass if it means getting her way.   The odd maturity she shows despite her temper makes her a compelling heroine to watch, and her symbiotic friendship with Lissa really makes her a three-dimensional character.   She’s loyal and tough but still soft and forgiving.   Her attraction and romance with Dimitri makes her even better.   The age difference isn’t major, and as a reader I never once found it to be a big factor based on their connection.   Rose herself is almost 18, so her attraction to Dimitri, who is 26, isn’t seen as overtly gross.

Lissa is a nice mesh with Rose.   She’s softer and more of a people-person, but her own need to help other people makes her life harder.   The extremes that readers will see later on in the book because of her nature take this theme to a whole new level.   Her romance for an outcast Moroi boy is just as interesting as Rose’s romance, but is a lot more accessible for readers.   She’s a character that you come to care about early on, especially concerning the scenes where Rose actually gets into Lissa’s mind.   Readers really get to know a nice, fleshed out best friend despite the narrative being first person.

Your writing style is accessible, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that you moved from writing adult stuff to writing teen stuff without style issues.   Teen writing has to have more of a frankness to it, and more natural humor, and Vampire Academy had more than enough of that.   The general world building was also well done; everything felt really fresh for a vampire novel, and the whole ‘Vampire Finishing School’ idea was done better here than in other series such as the House of Night.   The action was always present, and the readers never have a chance to be bored.   However, it is still the first in a series, so the ending is just enticing enough to keep you wanting more, and the depth of the plot and the intrigue can definitely be upped in later novels.

Vampire Academy is a solid addition to the teen paranormal market and a great first novel in a six-book series.   The well-written romance and action will keep readers of all ages coming back for more, and it easily sets itself apart from the cliched books like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries.   It’s enjoyable, quick, and a good bridge novel if you don’t read a lot of young-adult paranormal or urban fantasy.   With the sixth and final book coming out this year – just before the start of a new spin-off series – readers who wait for completed series will be able to start it without too much trouble.   B

All the best,

John

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Ever since a good friend brought him a copy of Johanna Lindsey's Gentle Rogue, he has been hooked on the romance genre. Though he primarily reads in young-adult, he loves to spend time with paranormal, historical, and contemporary adult titles in-between books. Now, he finds himself juggling book reviews, school band, writing, and finding time to add to his TBR pile.

15 Comments

  1. Lindsey
    Aug 10, 2010 @ 16:20:45

    I guess this is just a case of differing tastes. I bought the first book a few years ago, and it was a DNF for me. I bought it because I tend to enjoy the paranormal and urban fantasy genre, but both the writing and plot failed to capture and hold my interest.

  2. Patti
    Aug 10, 2010 @ 20:50:03

    This is my favorite YA series. I don’t usually read YA (a few, not many) and I am one of those readers who was blown away by Twilight. I read House of Night and was not too impressed so I put off reading VA for months. Once I did, though, I had to have more! I’m looking forward to the last book, although I am sorry the series will end.

  3. Marumae
    Aug 10, 2010 @ 21:45:45

    @Lindsey:

    I’m with you there Lindsey, it was a DNF for me too, I think had a hard time getting attached to Rose, who I felt was so obstinate and stubborn she was nigh untouchable as a character, while Mead did a good job explaining the reasoning for that, it still didn’t endure the character to me.

  4. J.
    Aug 11, 2010 @ 00:09:38

    Took me a while to finish this book (I had a lot of problems here and there with Rose) but surprisingly, after I picked up the 2nd book I couldn’t stop. I was really glad I tried to continue it because it gets really good.

  5. John
    Aug 11, 2010 @ 00:19:07

    @Lindsey: @Marumae: This is a taste thing to be sure. I don’t know what Mead’s adult paranormals are like, so I can’t say if her overall style translates there or not. I personally found Rose to be a very honest character compared to some other vampire heroines – and not just the obvious ones like Bella. But obstinate people tend to annoy others in real life, so reading about them won’t always be pleasant I suppose.

    @Patti: House of Night is okay for me. It’s like cotton candy – good but unsatisfying in the end. I have heard that the series is one that only improves from many people, which I’m counting as good. Frostbite is in my TBR right now, and I may have to bump it up.

  6. Bronte
    Aug 11, 2010 @ 03:43:48

    @Lindsey: If I had picked up this book first I never would have continued with the series, but I picked up number 2 first – and loved it. Number 3 just blew me away.

    Its funny because I’ve tried other Richelle Mead books and they haven’t grabbed me but this series has. I am looking forward to book 6!

  7. Maija A.
    Aug 11, 2010 @ 08:51:48

    I really love her books, including this series!

  8. Patrice
    Aug 11, 2010 @ 09:16:36

    I enjoy and follow this series. I thought Rose was immature in the first book, and certainly makes mistakes, but I can see her character grow and I enjoyed the supporting cast as well. So I kept reading the series. I think the world is multilayered and facinating, the politics, the secondary characters and the story arc really kept my attention. The conflicts in the relationship between Rose and Dimitri is one that actuallly made me cry, and that’s not a common thing unless the characters are well drawn and fully realized.

    By contrast Twilight was a DNF and I keep trying to force myself to read the second book because so many of my family jabber on about the series. They don’t understand why I can’t get into it because, as they say, all I read is vampire and paranormal stuff. I’m trying to get them to read Vampire Academy. LOL

  9. Melissa Dallmier
    Aug 11, 2010 @ 22:29:48

    I absolutely love the Vampire Acedemy, I own all the books out so far and have read them over and over again! While I love the Twilight series (the books way more than the movies) I think the Vampire Academy is so much better.

  10. cories
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 22:23:15

    I’ve read “Vampire Academy” years ago but then stopped reading the series. I may go back to it after the whole series is finished. After a while, I just got fed up with the teen angst (I’ve also read the following series: Twilight, House of Night, Vampire Kisses and the Vampire Diaries <- which put the nail on the teen angst coffin for me). No, I'm not a teen; I just read a lot of YA books.

  11. John
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 23:54:44

    @cories: Hm, I’d say give it another go. Mead has some style, and the angst isn’t that bad compared to some of the other books you read.

    House of Night is very angsty, as is Twilight. I haven’t read Vampire Kisses, but the idea seems…silly. And Vampire Diaries. WOO. That series is bad. Dull, overly dramatic, and cliched even BEFORE Twilight.

    I’d recommend authors like Libba Bray, Rachel Hawkins (whose debut novel, Hex Hall, is amazingly humorous), and Erin Downing (who writes a killer YA Rom-Com).

  12. Ariana
    Aug 15, 2010 @ 18:37:37

    AMAZING! Cant wait for a movie of it!:)

  13. Maricela
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 19:26:44

    The best series ever. I love reading and this is my number one.

  14. VakareLTU
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 07:00:20

    DAM… I love this book sooooo much!!! <3

  15. Enni
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 01:49:00

    Just a quick one – I just finished this book and Dimitri is 24 not 26, which makes the age difference a little less creepy.
    As an adult reading this the age difference doesn’t bother me, but I wouldn’t want a teenage daughter reading a book that glorifies a student/teacher relationship.

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