Thursday, January 5, 2012

Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead

Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead (author website)
Release Date: August 16th 2007 by Razorbill
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal
My Rating:1 star2 star4 starhalf star

I hate long, drawn out love stories and contrived love triangles, and before I started Vampire Academy, I had totally made up my mind about exactly how all this was going to play out, exactly why it was going to annoy me, and exactly why I hadn’t read it yet, and wasn’t going to like it. Well, you guys... this is me: eating my words. Vampire Academy is, indeed, fantastic.

From Goodreads:
Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger...

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever...


Vampire Academy's more than just alright. It’s in a whole other league to a lot of the young adult paranormal vampire fiction (I swear it has its own sub-genre) available. For me, one of the coolest things about Vampire Academy—and really, this applies to the entire cast of characters—is the authenticity of Rose. Her voice, her actions, her myriad of imperfections. I love that these characters feel like real teenagers, without being whiny or weak impersonations. What this series doesn’t have is stereotypes. Every character is real, fleshed out, with good and bad, light and dark. Even the most snotty, hateful of characters aren’t maniacally chuckling villains.

Vampire Academy portrays a believable teen world. The teenage characters that populate this world drink, they have sex, they talk like teenagers, and they care about teenage things. They make mistakes, and feel the consequences with a painful intensity, just like teenagers. A certain character who shall remain unnamed lets it go too far with a boy, and her classmates brand her slut. Fair? No. Realistic? Yes. But what makes this situation readable instead of depressing is said character’s core of inner strength.

Vampire Academy has a major plot point involving teen depression and self harm. I get really worked up about this issue (mental health, particularly depression), and feel the need to highlight that this is not teen angst, but real, authentic, crippling and overwhelming depression. Richelle Mead handles it admirably, and the character dealing with depression and self harm acts and expresses herself in a way that was so authentic and real, I wondered if Mead was drawing from personal experience. What makes this is amazing, though, are her friends. They don’t try to pretend it’ll all be ok, distract her, or try to cheer her up with glib comments, they [eventually] do the right thing, the right way: they seek help, from the right people, and support her.

At the core of Vampire Academy is something wonderful: a real, true, strong friendship between Rose and Lissa. YA authors take note: having friends and a support network is GOOD. A girl can have a friend who's there for more than backstabbing, a backdrop, or just making the heroine look good.

And all of this? Made even better by a smoking hot hero. I’m not going to get started on Dimitri, ‘cos I won’t stop. But SERIOUSLY. The scenes between Rose and Dimitri are smouldering.

The Verdict:

Despite some totally erroneous preconceptions of Vampire Academy going into, I loved this book, and I love it even more in hindsight. Mead has created something truly magical here with some of the most vivid, real, authentic and entertaining characters to have graced a page.

Books in This Series:

  1. Vampire Academy
  2. Frostbite
  3. Shadow Kiss
  4. Blood Promise
  5. Spirit Bound
  6. Last Sacrifice

22 comments:

  1. I feel like the only person in the world who haven't read the whole VA series. I practically stopped after reading the first book and I can't even remember what happened! But so glad you enjoyed it, Sarah! Awesome review. I have to re-read this book definitely, thanks to your review! :)

    Happy new year! All the best for 2012! :D

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  2. @Celine: seriously, I felt the same way! I read VA months ago, then stopped. I've just been reading the other books this week and they're SO. GOOD. I think I was kind of overwhelmed by how many books I hadn't read, and put it off? So glad I'm reading them now!

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  3. I really really need to read one of Mead's books one of these days. and I need more of Vampire stories too, great review Sarah x

    Happy New Year.x
    ✿FICBOOKREVIEWS✿

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  4. I had the same preconcieved notions about this series but I found myself falling in love with the story and characters. Great review!

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  5. I've read this book, but not any of the other ones in the series. Reading your review makes me want to get on that.

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  6. I love this review! I have all the books ready to read but I just haven't done it yet. I like your mention of friendship in the book, it's really sad that good, girl friendships are so rare in YA. Most often the "best friend" is just there to serve a sidekick. I will definitely get to reading these books soon!

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  7. Can't read your full review yet because I'm at page 113 of this book right now! But glad to know your preconceived notions are wrong, at least there's comfort in knowing that I'm not wasting my time on this.

    Happy New Year!

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  8. Yay! I'm so glad you ended up liking this book! I loved it too and have read the first four in the series. Reading your review has reminded me that I need to get on and finish this series :)

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  9. YAY!! I absolutely LOVED this book! And to think, it only gets better :D Can't wait to read your review of Frostbite!

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  10. Saz - I think the series gets better & better. I just finished reading the last 2 books!

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  11. Okay, I have been totally waiting for you to review this book. I don't read YA very often but I heard such good things about this series. I think it's time I buy this series. Great review.

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  12. @Lalaine: Oh, they're SUCH a good place to start... I mean, if you're gonna read vampire stories, you may as well read some of the best :D

    @Denise: Aw, yay! I totally misjudged this and was so glad I wound up reading them!

    @Amanda: The other books are even better. I swear. Post Frostbite, these books get AMAZING. You so SO should!

    @Elena: EXACTLY. Lissa is a really key part of the story, NEVER a sidekick--I LOVE that.

    @Braine: Oh, I swear you're in for a treat... and keep reading the series. Each book is better than the last, and this is the first series I think I can say that without any reservations.

    @Chrissie: Yesss! I'm starting on book 5 now and SO! EXCITED! Book 4 broke my heart. Dimka :(

    @Kristin: YES YES YES! How does RM do it? Each book gets better and better!

    @Tanya: Hehe! I just typed the same thing to Kristin (above). I don't know how Richelle Mead manages it, but you're so right! I'm starting book 5 now! Need more Dimka!

    @Jennifer: You totally need to read this series. I know you normally read adult UF/PNR, but if you're going to read a YA series, it may as well be one of the best ones out there... I think part of the appeal of this one is that it has quite an adult sensibility, even though most of it takes part in a boarding school. It's not all high school drama, and when Rose and Dimitri are together, the sexual tension is searing hot... though never satisfying >:D
    I think/hope you'll like them :)

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  13. Oh, you absolutely nailed it with this review! The characters are so layered and, in addition to her take on vampires, Richelle Mead really knows how to tack on that teenage authenticity. She put me through the ringer with these books and I'm in a tizzy over Bloodlines now, too. I hope you keep enjoying the books!

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  14. Don't you just love it when you dint think you're going to enjoy a book and then it turns out much better than you thought? I wasn't too keen on Rose for the first few chapters and then suddenly I fell in love with her and now VA is one of my favorite series. Can't wait for you to read the rest. Will look forward to your reviews

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  15. I have yet to read this series. I don't know if I will like it or not but I'm glad you enjoyed it. I will just try this one and see what happens. Great review!

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  16. Great review! I felt the same way about the series, it was so hyped up. I started it once, couldn't get into it and finally read it a few months back. Wasn't as great as I hoped it would be but I loved the mythology of the vampires. I may get around to reading the rest of the series!

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  17. @Stephanie: Aw, thanks! But what you've said: EXACTLY... I've read a few books I thought were sort of patronizing to teens, and I loved the absence of that in VA... the books seem to have a somewhat adult sensibility... and seriously: I've been reading these books back to back this week, and you're so right about being put through the ringer! SO looking forward to Bloodlines.

    @Lan: Uh, YESSS! You know what, I LOVE Rose, which I kind of find odd. IN the first few books especially, I loved her, even though I felt like, if I was at school with her, she'd beat me up and not necessarily be the kind of person I'd be friends with... it's that towering self-confidence that makes her so likable, but also so intimidating!

    @Mesa: Oh, they're so worth it. If you like YA paranormal, I swear this is the best of the best. Come book 3, the series really hits its stride, so you need to be patient ;)

    @Megan: You know what? I read VA, then didn't move on with the series. Despite liking it, I was still kind of wary about where the series was going, and pessimistic about its future. I read Frostbite earlier this week, then Shadow Kiss, and I was hooked. The series has a slow start, but I love where it's gone. Come book 3, it's unputdownable good :)

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  18. HEE! Your first bite of this series (and I think you're probably finished by now or at least close to!), I'm so happy you have embarked on this momentous journey fully of smexy romance and throw-your-head-against-the-wall moments. Because isn't that what Richelle does best? :D

    So agree with what you wrote about VA. Richelle really nailed that characters struggle with self-harm and I so, so love the Rose/Lissa friendship that remains strong throughout the series. They have their ups an downs, but in the end, what they share can't be severed <3 MORE BFF's IN YA, PLEASE! And dayum... Rose/Dimitri are so HOT.

    Awesome review, Sarah!! <3 Now go bury your nose in the rest of LS!!

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  19. Glad to hear you loved this one more than I did!!!! I wasn't a big fan but your review makes it sound soooooooooo awesome!!!! It makes me want to try the rest of the series :)

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  20. @Brodie: YESYESYESYESYES! I finished LS last night (SO. GOOD.) and I'm in total love. The Rose/Lissa relationship is almost as perfect as the Rose/Dimka relationship XD

    @Jaskirat: I LOVED the series. You know, I actually liked Vampire Academy (the book) more in hindsight. Don't get me wrong--I still liked it, but appreciate it more with space. But you should seriously read the series. The first two books are good, but the rest of the series is unbreakinglievable. Come Shadow Kiss they're AMAZING.

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  21. Only 3.5 stars *sad panda* but at least you didn't hate it! I'm glad you were proven wrong since this is one of my favorite series (what is the plural of series?!?!) ever! I do agree that these are realistic characters despite the unrealistic vampire aspect :p One thing that makes put a big fat X on books is stereotypes and it was nice to see in VA that each character is fully developed & 3D without any stereotypes to help that development. One of my favorite thing about Mead's writing<3 I also liked how Mead didn't shy away from sex & partying in the teenage world because HELLO, I'm a teenage girl and my school day consists of not paying attention to the teachers, reading and hearing about who killed everybody in beer pong at so & so's house, how the cops crashed that certain party and who got the booze for the weekend. Sure this might not be every teen's life but in my high school of 3000 students, it is! I wouldn't have minded if you started on Dimitri, my love<3 I wait to see what you thought of the other books:D

    Racquel @The Book Barbies
    -thank you&come again.

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  22. I really need to start this series out! I know there's a lot of mixed reviews on it, so I need to see what the fuss is about. Great review!

    Stephanie
    My latest post: From the Review Pile (1)

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