Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead

Release date: 2 January 2007
Rating: ★★★★★★★★ – 8/10
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Book Depository link

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1) blurb:

Only a true best friend can protect you from your immortal enemies…

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger… and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever…

I just want to preface this by stating that I had already watched the movie of this book, but it was a while ago so I can’t really remember what happened, or who played the characters, so I felt that there was enough distance to read it properly without my review being overshadowed by movie vs book politics.

I was surprisingly impressed by this book… I wasn’t sure why I was surprised though, as it has hype reviews on goodreads (hmm, maybe that’s why… maybe I am a cynical person…?). I was definitely expecting some Vamp action, because, you know, it’s called Vampire Academy; but I think I was expecting more Vampire Diaries TV show in book format (yes, I know that’s a totally different series).

Anyway, the world building was good – it’s an urban fantasy, so not much to do except insert vampires into the current world. The lore was interesting and I liked the concept of ‘alive’ vampires versus ‘dead’ ones. I also like the hybrid/half-blood guardians as well, and the mentioning of the saints, the old country, etc. Elemental magic was a good inclusion as well.

The plot was good – easy to follow once you figured out the Strigoi, Moroi, Dhampir thing, then the royalty aspect, and the family names and trees as well. Some books have like a character list or an appendix with what it all means, and I feel like that wouldn’t go astray with this book just to get you started on the series.

There was enough excitement, treachery, flashbacks and lusty scenes to carry the reader through the book as well (can’t have angsty teen vamps without some heavy petting going on), and while I couldn’t remember the movie per se, I think it coloured my views of the book in that I knew who was going to be the bad guys by about 80 pages in. Or the book was predictable… but let’s give the book the benefit of the doubt here.

In terms of characters, I liked Rose, she was a bit of a super-talented badass. While she and Lissa are made out to be ‘opposites’ in looks, they’re both overly attractive – one is super skinny and blonde, the other is of sexy-curvy with dark hair. Both are very pale, but I think this is a missed opportunity of the author’s to get some diversity going on. IN terms of the guys, I’m sure Aaron is very 90’s boy-band hot; Christian has the dark, broody guy thing happening; and Dimitri is basically Rhysand, but younger (by like 476 years or something, and without the bat wings, purple eyes and magic). So basically, all vampires and half-breeds are super hot…

In terms of the way the characters act, well, their physical description basically lends itself to their mannerisms as well. Lissa is the princess (kind of snobby), Rose is the badass chick (argues with teachers, fights), Christian is the dark, broody guy who is in love with the princess (sets things on fire and hangs out in church attics), and Dimitri is the badass guy who mentors the badass chick (hangs out in the gym and makes Rose run laps). Plus you have the Mia’s (trouble stirring, hanger-ons) and the Natalie’s (quiet, shy, fly under the radar types), and everyone else in between. So, everyone is super hot, mostly intelligent, and the main characters are also ridiculously talented. Wait, why did I like this book? (Joking!)

Even with all that, there’s enough plot to support a host of Mary-Sue type characters, and the world building was solid enough to hold it together. I’m interested to see where number two goes.

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