Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

A kickass story with more bite than the average vampire novel.

Disclaimer: A shortened version of this review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (Razorbill)
For the past couple of years, I’ve heard a tremendous amount of positive things about the Vampire Academy series, and yet I held back for two reasons:

1 – The book hype monster
2 – I felt like I had read every kind of vampire novel out there and my fear of this not being any different resulted in me holding back on picking this up.

However, this year, I finally decided to delve into the book and lo and behold, what an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

The first in a 6-book series, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy offers something refreshingly different in a genre that has long since reached its saturation point.

The book takes place in a Vampire boarding school and incorporates a whole new take on the myth and lore surrounding vamps.

In Vampire Academy, we’re introduced to two different types of vamps: Moroi and Strigoi; Moroi referring to those who are born, while Strigoi are turned. 

The pure-blooded Moroi are the royal amongst royals, while Strigois are blood-thirsty outcasts who hunt the ever-decreasing-in-numbers, Moroi.

Because of this, each Moroi is assigned a dhampire as a bodyguard. Lissa and Rose are no exception to the rule.

After being on the run from the authorities at St. Vladimir’s Academy, the boarding school both are supposed to attend, both girls soon find themselves captured and brought back to what is supposed to be a safe haven for the Moroi.

Rose, who is Lissa’s bodyguard is certainly not thrilled about this as it soon becomes clear that the walls of the Academy is no safer than being on the run was. 

And with Lissa showing a propensity for a type of magic which is both powerful and dangerous, it’s clear that Rose needs to start taking her guardianship more seriously, resulting in her getting a training mentor in the form of the delicious Dimitri.

Given all the paranormal novels that I’ve read before, I think I can easily say that Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series is one of the best I’ve ever read. Entertaining, fast-paced, edgy and sexy, the book kept me absolutely riveted.

Part of what makes Vampire Academy so enjoyable is the establishment of social hierarchies within with Moroi circles (the more “royal” your blood status is, the higher up in the food chain you are), the relationships explored between the various characters  (Rose and Lissa’s friendship in particular, plays a powerful role) and the interesting lore about the magic the Moroi’s possess and how it relates to Rose and Lissa’s bond).

Rose and Lissa’s characters are particularly well-drawn out. With her rebellious, sarcastic and often abrasive demeanour, Rose, while not always likeable is one kick-ass heroine. Her number one priority is Lissa and she goes out of her way to ensure that her friend is protected, even if she gets hurt in the process.

Lissa, on the other hand, starts off as being docile, self-deprecating and insecure. In many ways, she’s a bit of a wet blanket, but grows into her own during the novel. I love books where characters show development, and Richelle is definitely adept at creating characters that are far from being one dimensional.

She’s also really good at keeping one guessing. I had my suspicions about the villain in the book, but now that I know, I didn't realise that it extended beyond who I suspected.  I’m quite eager to see how the storyline will progress given how the book ends.

The romance in the book is sizzling and I’d be interested to see how the taboos surrounding the relationships will unfold in the next few books. Dimitri and Christian are definitely two book boys that should be added to your list of book crushes, because they’ve certainly been added to mine.

All in all, Vampire Academy is a book that will satisfy people who are tired of seeing the same old boring concepts explored in a genre that’s flogged these paranormal elements to death.

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