Lissa and I had been best friends ever since kindergarten, when our teacher had paired us together for writing lessons. Forcing five-year-olds to spell Vasilisa Dragomir and Rosemarie Hathaway was beyond cruel, and we–or rather, I–responded appropriately. I’d chucked my book at our teacher and called her a fascist bastard. I hadn’t known what those words meant, but I’d known how to hit a moving target.
– Vampire Academy
I confess, when I first saw the Vampire Academy books (in a TJ Maxx nonetheless), I immediately brushed it off as yet another Twilight wannabe. It’s called Vampire Academy for pete’s sakes, not a very good or original or ingenious title. The cover of the first book has a pretty girl smirking at you over her shoulder – total teenage attitude.
But I downloaded the series one day, when I spotted it in the Android Market. I admit, I read the Twilight series from cover to cover – heck, I even bought the Kindle versions for repeat reading. Twilight is a horrible series, the writing is dreck, but the plot is pretty good and it’s fun to lose yourself in the life-or-death-eternal romance with a hot vampire. (I like Robert Pattinson. No lie.) So I thought the same of Vampire Academy: maybe it’ll cure boredom.
Vampire Academy did more than I expected. This wasn’t just some Young Adult series about a romance between a vampire and a human. Humans actually don’t even play a big role. Richelle Mead, the author, created this alternate vampiric universe around Eastern European vampire mythos. You have your regular vampires with souls (called Moroi), your half-human vampires (called Dhampir), and your evil souless vampires (called Strigoi).Â TheÂ Moroi and Strigoi are in constant battle, simply because the Strigoi are blood thirsty and enjoy the kill. The main character is Rose Hathaway, a Dhampir who spent nearly her entire life training to become a Guardian in St. Vladimir’s Academy, which is what most adult Dhampirs do in this world. They protect the Moroi.
Of course, as this is a YA series, there is plenty of romance. Rose falls in love with her instructor and her best friend’s Guardian, Dimitri. The main storyline of the books is the progression of their love – which has some crazy ups and downs beyond the usual “My parents don’t like him!” drama. I would clarify but I don’t want any spoilers.
One of my favorite aspects of this series are the characters. All of them, including the supporting cast, are fleshed out. Mead provides a solid motivation for everyone’s behavior including layered personality traits, which makes the series so much more believable and enthralling. You come to care for and sympathize with these characters, even the villains.
My favorite character is, you can probably guess, Rose. Her friendship with her best friend is something I related to immediately: fierce loyalty and protectiveness. These girls will do anything for each other – and I mean anything. Rose also grows in the series from a sarcastic, impulsive teen to a determined, assertive young adult.
My other favorite aspect of Vampire Academy is the writing. Compared to Twilight, the Southern Vampire Series, or later Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter books, Mead’s writing is top-notch. She writes with imagery, emotions, and foreshadowing, crafting a thrilling story with intrigue, action, and sweetness. Rose’s narrative is appropriately serious and humorous when the time calls for it. While the three series I mentioned reuse the same descriptions and similes repeatedly, Mead makes it different each time. The only complaint I have is Rose constantly calling Dimitri a god – but I guess since she’s only 17, 18, and this is the only reiteration, I’ll let it slide.
My third favorite aspect are the themes of the books. This is more than just star-crossed romance. We delve into friendship, right and wrong, family dichotomies, political intrigue, betrayal, cultural differences, and classic good versus evil. The series literally travels the world, exposing the reader to different lives, different backgrounds, and different societies within the books’ universe.
Are there any downsides to the Vampire Academy series? I can think of a couple: 1) The ending wraps up too quickly and 2) the series ends! Mead is writing a spin-off called Bloodlines to delve into the supporting characters’ lives. Dude, I just want more of Rose and Lissa. Frowny face.
If the supernatural is your thing, I would definitely pick up the six-book series. While you don’t have to start from the beginning as Mead nicely summarizes previous adventures in each novel, I recommend reading them in order to get the full effect. Even if the supernatural isn’t your thing, I would still recommend the series, even to adults. This isn’t hard, serious fiction like Michael Franzen or Joyce Carol Oates but it’s seriously captivating storytelling that kept me consuming each book (500+ pages) in one sitting.
You can read the first few pages of Vampire Academy at Richelle Mead’s website and you can read synopses of the award-winning series as well. (The synopses hurt me. The novels are not as love-sick and flippant as they make them out to be. I prefer the Wikipedia synopses – the link leads to Vampire Academy series page which doesn’t have any real spoilers.)
Have you read the Vampire Academy series? What did you think?