Author: Richelle Mead
Published date: 20/12/2013 Penguin Books Australia
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)
Synopsis (from Publisher):
ONLY A TRUE BEST FRIEND CAN PROTECT YOU FROM YOUR IMMORTAL ENEMIES . . .
Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princes – 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 deep in the 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 . . .
Vampires are everywhere. Twilight. Bluebloods. The Mortal Instruments. The Morganville Vampires. The Vampire Diaries. House of Night. The list goes on and on. And that’s just a sample of Young Adult novels; many other categories feature vampires in some way. It’s difficult not to groan or feel fatigued by even the mention of the word vampire. Perhaps that’s why I didn't pick up Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead for such a long time. Or maybe the cover turned me off—there was little mystery. And vampires are all about mystery: the idea that these dangerous, mythical creatures can live right under our noses without our knowledge. This secretive and seductive mythology continues to lure young adult readers in by the thousands.
For years I’ve avoided books that mentioned the word vampire in the blurb. I’d read my fair share and I was over the trend. I felt there was nothing new to add to the myth. Then, last year, I attended Penguin Teen Australia’s Live event in Melbourne and there were two words I couldn’t avoid or ignore: Vampire Academy. Apparently, the correct response to these words, or to any of the characters’ names in the six-book series and spin off series Bloodlines, was to scream and squeal. I was intrigued. What was this series that had so many people in a frenzy? Then I heard they were making the first book into a movie and I always try to read the book before the movie comes out. But I was still sceptical. What made Vampire Academy different?
I am happy to admit I was pleasantly surprised. What Richelle Mead does with the vampire myth is clever, and different. She demystifies them. Mead doesn’t bring an outsider into the dark, broody and bloody world of vampires, but rather grounds the story world in normalcy. It's all about school, homework, boys and cliques. Whilst there’s a lot of talk about good vampires, bad vampires, the royal hierarchy and Mead's general vampire lore, this is not the true heart of the story. Rather, Vampire Academy is about friendship, responsibilities, growing up and surviving—the often hellish—days of high school. The fact that the characters feed on each other’s blood is more of a sub plot.
This is the point of difference from other vampire novels I’ve read. I loved that no characters made a big deal about drinking each other’s blood or having the ability to manipulate the four elements of earth, fire, water and air. Similar to Harry Potter, where we're introduced to what should be an unrealistic world of magic, it's the detail, likeable characters and worldbuilding that makes it believable. If the author makes the magic seem normal and common place, then the reader is forced to as well. We then focus on the characters, their relationships and development.
Whilst overall I enjoyed Vampire Academy, I would have appreciated more descriptions from Mead, to help further ground me in the story, as I was often lost in dialogue—unable to picture where the characters were. The only other issue I had was with pacing. Unfortunately, for most of the book, the drama and action was off-screen, often told in flashbacks, which diluted the dramatic impact. It wasn’t until the last 40 pages or so that the drama and action was front and centre, cranking up the tension.
I can now understand the appeal Vampire Academy. Reading it is like hearing a good bit of juicy gossip—it's a real guilty pleasure. Now onto the sequel, Frostbite!
I give Vampire Academy 3.5 out of 5 stars.