Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead

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Vampire Academy is a series of six books, written by Richelle Mead, a bestselling author of urban fantasy books for adults and teens. Mead created her own vampire world where the 6 books take place. To make it easier for you to understand, I will start with a little bit of background.

So, basically there are three “species” in Mead’s world: humans, half-humans and vampires. The humans are the normal people like you and me, dear reader. The half-humans are born to a human and vampire, or more so nowadays, to another half-human and vampire. They are called dhampirs, and that is what Rose (short for Rosemarie) Hathaway, one of the main characters is. They are quicker, faster, more agile and more flexible than humans and they can train to match the strength of the vampires. They also heal quicker than humans, but slower than vampires and they don’t need blood to sustain themselves. They usually grow up to become Guardians, who are the protectors of the vampires or they can also choose to start a relationship with a vampire, to create more dhampirs (they cannot have children amongst themselves).

Then we come to the vampires and to make things even more complicated, there are two kinds: the Moroi and the Strigoi (basically the good guys and the bad guys). The Moroi are taller and slimmer than humans and possess a supernatural beauty. The best example is Lissa (short for Vasilissa) Dragomir who embodies the sweet, graceful and peace-loving Moroi. They need blood to sustain themselves, on top of regular food. Moroi have twelve royal families and the oldest child in those families gets the title of prince or princess. Out of those, a ruling king or queen is chosen, who can never be succeeded by someone from their own family. The royals also have two dhampir guardians to protect them from harm. On top of that, they have magical abilities that are linked to an element: air, fire, earth, water or spirit (which is something like “life force”). They also have compulsion, which allows them to force their will on others through eye contact.

Then there are the Strigoi, or bad vampires. Humans, dhampirs and Moroi can be turned into Strigoi by making them drink the blood of their victim and making the victim drink Strigoi blood. Moroi can also choose to become Strigoi: if they purposefully kill another person while feeding, that Moroi turns Strigoi. They then lose their magical ability, can no longer walk in sunlight and are banned from holy grounds. Strigoi are immortal but since they lose all sense of morals, they are mostly sadistic, cruel and vain undead creatures. You can think of Strigoi as some kind of super vampire: they are stronger and faster than Moroi because they live of Moroi blood. They also have stronger compulsion and better senses, making them better than the Moroi in a lot of ways. They also have a much stronger thirst for blood and can subside on any kind, but they prefer Moroi because it makes them the strongest. They can be killed by a silver stake to the heart, decapitation or burning them to death. And there is one way to save a Strigoi and turn them back into what they used to be (be that human, dhampir or Moroi): a Silver stake to the heart that has been charmed with air, earth, fire, water and spirit.

The first book Vampire Academy starts with Rose and Lissa on the run: they left St. Vladimir’s Academy two years ago because Lissa was in danger. Dimitri (a dhampir and guardian) finds them and brings them back to school. Rose can no longer act as Lissa’s guardian and Dimitri is chosen to replace her. He, however, feels like Rose would be the perfect guardian for Lissa since they share a psychic link. So he decides to tutor Rose to help her become a better guardian. Lissa and Rose struggle through their classes and try to navigate the social life of high school. Both girls fall in love and at the end of the book, Lissa is kidnapped by an evil Moroi royal who wants her to use her Spirit element to heal him as she is the only one who can save him. In the end, Rose and Dimitri save her, helped by Lissa’s boyfriend Christian Ozera.

In Frostbite , the second book, things aren’t going very well for Rose on the romantic front. Even though Dimitri and she professed their love for each other, they can’t be together for numerous valid reasons. But when Strigoi attack St. Vladimir’s Academy, Rose need to fight to protect Lissa. All available guardians come to the school afterward to help protect all the Moroi on their annual ski trip. During the ski trip, a few guardians decide to go find the Strigoi and take their revenge for the attack on their school. Rose and Christian (Lissa’s boyfriend) go after them. They find the guardians and Strigoi and manage to escape. Rose kills two Strigoi in the process, which is very remarkable for someone her age who hasn’t even graduated. It earns her a lot of popularity and respect.

The third book is called Shadow Kiss  and it’s even more intense and action-packed. Victor’s trial (the evil Moroi who kidnapped Lissa in the first book and escaped in the second) finally takes place and he is convicted and sent to prison. Back in school, Lissa and Dimitri are attacked by a big group of Strigoi. They split up and all guardians manage to drive the Strigoi back. But it turns out that they have taken people with them so the guardians stage a rescue and save most, except for Dimitri. When Rose learns that he was forced to become a Strigoi, she decides to leave school and everyone she knows behind to go look for him. Because they promised each other long ago that if one of them became Strigoi, the other would kill them. So at the end of the book, she sets of to kill the man she loved, against Lissa’s wishes.

In book four, Blood Promise, Rose is scouring Russia looking for Dimitri in order to kill him. Eventually, it is Dimitri who finds her, because he heard she was searching for him. He knocks her out and locks her up where he keeps on drinking her blood which keeps her high and in a haze. He then tries to convince her to choose to become Strigoi so they can rule the world together. She manages to escape and tries to commit suicide after staking Dimitri. But she survives her fall and returns to school. Lissa, in the meantime, has been struggling in school without Rose. She encounters an evil spirit user who tries to take her life but she manages to fight back (with the psychic help of Rose). At the end of the book, Rose gets a bloody stake and death threat/love letter from Dimitri and she realises he isn’t dead after all.

Spirit Bound, the penultimate book of the Vampire Academy series starts with Rose and Lissa getting ready to break Victor out of prison so he can help them make the stake that will save Dimitri. After being on the run and a lot of intrigue, they eventually learn how to do so. Rose and her friends return to court, where Dimitri kidnaps Lissa and Christian as bait for Rose. This makes Rose vow to kill Dimitri once and for all, giving up hope of saving him. She leads a group of guardians to his hiding place and is just about to kill him, when Rose and Christian step in and return him to the dhampir he was before. But then Rose is arrested for murdering the Moroi queen, who was found murdered with her stake. She needs to go on trial and will be sentenced to death if found guilty.

Before her death, the queen send Rose a note telling her to find Lissa’s half-sister so that Lissa can become the next queen. So, in the sixth book Last Sacrifice, Rose breaks out of jail to go find out who really killed the queen and to find Lissa’s half-sister. During their time on the run, Rose and Dimitri finally come together again and they eventually find Lissa’s half-sister and discover who killed the queen. They return to court, to unmask the murderer and get Lissa elected queen. During all this, Rose jumps in front of a bullet meant for Lissa and it hits her in the chest. She wakes up days later to Dimitri taking care of her. She managed to heal by herself, breaking the “shadow-kissed” bond with Lissa, who was elected queen. Both of the girls end up getting everything they wanted, and their man on top of it all.

Wow, that was quite the summary, and believe me, I left a lot of things out! Now, what did I think of all this? Well, as happens often in these kinds of books, I thought it was a bit much. I mean, we’re just supposed to believe that all of this happened to one girl in so little time? Yeah right! But I did like the way Mead managed to create a believable world without too many inconsistencies. I liked the fact that both Lissa and Rose kind of ended up with the people they love. Though the final chapters do speculate a lot towards what will happen in the future. A lot of the storylines are not tied up at the end and Mead even starts up a new storyline in the final book that obviously refers to the next series of books. She also did not give me a satisfactory happy ending, not only because of all that was left untied, but also because she speculated that even though Rose had all she wanted at the time, a lot of other people didn’t. So it’s like saying, yes I give in to what the fans want and let the two main characters have a happy ending, but I need to spoil it by pointing out all of the people who were screwed in the process. And OK yes, that makes the story more real, but the end of a book doesn’t need to be real! It needs to let your readers close the book and feel like that was the end and that they can now move on. I get that you want to sell more books, but this is not the way to do it! Therefore I refuse to read the next series.

Mead published the last installments of Bloodlines (the name of the spin-off series) mid 2015. Really? I get that you have created a successful universe and want to keep exploring it, but now you’re just running your storylines to the ground. At least have the decency to close off one storyline and start again several years later with their children, or use the same world for a completely different story with different people in a different timeline. Not this crap! Wow, sorry guys, this kind of thing just really frustrates me. I can understand Mead thinking that she got a goldmine on her hands and didn’t want to finish it so soon (even though you can’t really call six books soon, but still) and that maybe she had hundreds of other ideas that didn’t fit the first books and that she wanted to work those out over more books. But too much is just too much. I think she lost a whole lot of fans because of it. Though I’m sure a lot of people will say exactly the opposite, that they are happy with more of the same and that they became even bigger fans because of it. Well not me, but hey that’s just my opinion.

And now, this post has gone on for more than long enough :). Have you read this series yet? What did you think? Or, if you want to answer a more tricky question, what do you think of the author creating a second set of six books after the first one’s success?

Happy reading,

Loes M.

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