I’ve been *so* obsessed with this series! I found it while browsing through a list of popular young adult books a few weeks ago and decided to give it a try. I started reading the first book and I just couldn’t put it down! It usually takes me a few chapters to really enjoy a story, but this series had me hooked from the first few pages. I couldn’t stop reading until I reached the last page of the sixth book. I was so tempted to write a review for each installment, but my desire to continue reading wouldn’t let me put the books down long enough to do so. Now that I’ve finished them all, I can get down to writing this entry.
Now before you go “oh no, not another vampire story“, hear me out first. I admit, I’ve always been sort of attracted to vampire stories ever since I can remember, but I also know that not all of them are good (I’m guessing I don’t have to name any examples here …) Vampires are extremely over-rated these days so I was a little hesitant to start reading the books. It just seems as if most vampire stories I’ve come across recently had similar plots and themes. I gave this series a try with the idea that I could always just stop reading if it bored me, but I ended up being totally addicted. The books had the perfect balance of action, romance, friendship and humor. I love how the main character is a strong girl who is willing to put herself in danger to protect the ones she loves. (And when I mean put herself in danger, I don’t mean rushing into doing stupid and suicidal things without thinking, I meant chasing after enemies to save her friends’ lives.) She’s a girl who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to take action to get it.
Before I continue my review I think it would be best if I first tell you what the books are about. There’s really no easy way for me to summarize all six books without giving spoilers, so if you plan on reading the books, you might want to stop reading this now. But first let me paste this short summary of the first book which I stole from the author’s website to give you an idea of what its about:
Two races of vampires walk our world. One, the Moroi, are alive and wield elemental magical. The other, the Strigoi, are undead and evil–feeding on the innocent to survive. Rose Hathaway–a half-vampire with poor impulse control–is training to be a bodyguard for a Moroi princess. Learning to decapitate and stake is hard enough, but Rose’s real danger may lie in an illicit romance with one of her instructors…
I know that that summary makes it sound like the whole book is about a taboo relationship between Rose and Dimitri, but the story is actually much deeper than that. Sure it contains a lot of romance, but friendship is also a big theme in the book. The story focuses on Rose, a dhampir (half vampire) who is a student at St. Vladimir Academy training to become a guardian for her royal Moroi best friend, Lissa. Lissa’s family were recently involved in a car accident, leaving her the only Dragomir left. Rose was in the same car during the accident and all evidence suggests that she should have died along with the rest of Lissa’s family, but somehow Lissa’s spirit magic was able to bring her back to life, creating a special bond between the two friends. And I don’t mean a something like “you saved me, you’re now my best friend forever” kind of bond, but an actual connection that allows Rose to have constant access to Lissa’s emotions and thoughts. In some instances the connection is so strong that she can enter Lissa’s mind and see the world as Lissa sees it. It’s a useful thing to have since it lets Rose keep a close eye on Lissa, especially since several strange incidents at the academy suggests that somebody out there is out to get her.
The series is comprised of 6 books:
- Vampire Academy
- Shadow Kiss
- Blood Promise
- Spirit Bound
- Last Sacrifice
Vampire Academy – This was where the whole idea of the Moroi (good elemental vampires who are mortal), Strigoi (bad immortal vampires who feed on Moroi) and dhampirs (half human and half vampire beings who live to serve and protect the Moroi) was introduced. I absolutely loved the world and the different classes Richelle Mead created and the concept of mortal vampires that needed protection, as opposed to immortal creatures who gets what they want through seduction. I was also really intrigued by the spirit element and the idea of being shadow kissed.
This first book focused a lot on high school life. In a way it reminded me of Gossip Girl (even though I’ve never read the books) in the sense that Rose and Lissa had to deal with a lot of school stuff (classes, rumors, popularity, etc). And I also loved how we were introduced to the forbidden romance between Rose and Dimitri (her guardian instructor), as well as the complicated friendship/love story between Lissa and Christian. I loved this book because there was so much mystery about the spirit element and I enjoyed reading about it played out in the made up world that the author had created. There was also plenty of humor, action, and romance which is good. And I liked that the ending wrapped the story up pretty nicely and can stand alone if readers don’t feel the need to continue reading the other books in the series. I’m not sure why they would decide to stop after this book though, because although I can say that this is probably my favorite out of all six books, the rest are just equally as good.
Frostbite – The story starts off when the Moroi community is thrown into chaos after several consecutive Strigoi attacks on royal Moroi families. St. Vladimir decides that the best way to keep its students safe is to stick together, so everyone is forced to celebrate the winter break together (along with other Moroi and dhampirs) at a ski resort. A few new characters are introduced in this book : Janine Hathaway (Rose’s mother), Eddie Castile (he is mentioned in the first book, but plays a bigger role here), Tasha Oreza (Christian’s aunt) and most importantly Adrian Ivashkov (another spirit user who has the ability to walk dreams). I loved Adrian’s character immediately, he was charming and a bit of a rebel (the kind of guy most girls would probably want to avoid). With Adrian’s help, Rose and Lissa learn more about Spirit and its uses. In this book, Rose and her friends get caught up in a horrible situation which leaves one of them dead. It came as a shock, especially since the character who died was portrayed as someone strong, but I did like the way Rose and her friends fought the Strigoi and eventually ended up killing them. It is also in this book that the idea of Moroi fending for themselves instead of relying on guardians was introduced. I liked it because although Moroi are weaker than Strigoi, they still have the ability to control certain elements and can learn to fight.
Aside from the first, this is the only other book in the series that has a solid ending, one that wraps up the book nicely. The following books all end during pretty climatic events which will have the reader running off to get their hands on the next one to see how things will turn out.
Shadow Kiss – This third book is a lot darker than the first two of the series, with Rose mourning over the loss of a friend during their previous encounter with Strigoi. Soon, Rose starts seeing ghosts following her as a result of her being shadow kissed. To top it off, the senior guardians at St. Vladimir take their field test and are assigned one Moroi to protect for six weeks. To Rose’s shock and dismay, instead of being paired with Lissa as she expected, she is assigned to protect Christian instead. It is in this book that Rose finally understands the true weight of the guardian motto “they come first” (“they” referring to the Moroi). She is used to being the center of attention, and we can see that being forced to become a mere shadow to a Moroi bothers her a lot. The only thing that keeps her going is her love for Lissa and desire to protect her.
I liked how Rose and Christian’s friendship develops in this book, especially since they had a lot of animosity towards each other in the first one. Their love for Lissa and shared ideas of Moroi fighting Strigoi bring them together. When a group of Strigoi attack the academy, the two of them work together to bring them down. I also loved how Dimitri’s and Rose’s love story finally got somewhere. After three books, they finally admit their feelings to each other.
Out of all six books, this is the one that caused me a lot of emotional turmoil. I didn’t bawl like a baby or anything, but I definitely shed some tears at the ending, especially the very last line.
Blood Promise – I thought the book started off a bit boring with Rose searching all over Russia for Dimitri and his family, but it got interesting once she found him. I must say, if I were Rose I would have probably given in and asked to be awakened the moment Dimitri suggested it. Especially after how he made it sound so wonderful. I really admired Rose’s strength and determination in this book. It isn’t easy to say goodbye to someone you love, but she was willing to let go to save Dimitri.
I didn’t really enjoy the whole segment about Dimitri’s family but I did like how we were introduced to other spirit users and shadow kissed characters. From the start of the series it gave the readers an idea that being a spirit user makes the person caring and noble, but this book showed that there are those who use their spirit abilities to do terrible things. I missed Adrian, Christian and Lissa a lot in this book since most of the story took place in Russia, but at least we were able to catch an occasional glimpse of what was going on with them through the use of Rose and Lissa’s bond. And I also liked how we were also introduced two new interesting characters – Sydney and Abe.
Spirit Bound – After failing to “release” Dimitri in Blood Promise, Rose receives a lot of notes from him promising to come after her. On top of that, she had just passed her guardian exam and is thrust into the real world of protecting Moroi. But instead of joining the guardians, she takes Lissa and Eddie with her on a quest to break Victor Dashkov out of jail in exchange for information on how to turn Strigoi back into their old selves. After discovering that the risky process could endanger Lissa’s life, Rose gives up on the idea, but Lissa (who is determined to make Rose happy) pushes through by herself and manage to turn Dimitri back with Christian’s help. However, instead of the joyful reunion Rose expected, Dimitri is consumed with guilt over what he has done and refuses to talk or even see her. To complicate their love story even further, after believing that she managed to kill Dimitri in Blood Promise, Rose finally accepted Adrian’s feelings and the two had started dating at the beginning of this book. With Dimitri’s return, she is torn between the two guys. And as if she doesn’t have enough problems to deal with, the book ends with Rose getting arrested for being the primary suspect in the queen’s murder.
There were many parts in this book that I really didn’t like Rose. I thought she was extremely selfish for risking both Eddie’s and Lissa’s life for her quest to save Dimitri. True, Lissa volunteered to go with her and Eddie would do anything she asked after she saved him in Shadow Kiss, but it was such a huge risk to take. She wasn’t even sure if she was going to get answers at all. And of course I felt sorry for Adrian. He clearly had very strong feelings for Rose, but she abandoned him again to try to bring her old “boyfriend” back. She only ran back to Adrian’s arms promising love after Dimitri rejected her several times. But I suppose love makes people do stupid things.
Last Sacrifice – This last book began with Rose’s friends breaking her out of jail and hiding her. They make arrangements for her to stay with Sydney and Dimitri in West Virginia while the rest of them stay at Court and try to find the real murderer. However, instead of patiently waiting, she takes Queen Tatiana’s letter to heart an goes on a quest to find Lissa’s illegitimate sibling. It is the only way that the Dragomir quorum could be satisfied, giving Lissa full rights as a member of the royal Moroi council. In an attempt to create chaos at Court and hinder the Court from searching for Rose, Lissa runs for queen and must undergo several tests to prove herself to the Moroi people. In the meantime, Rose joins forces with the Dashkov brothers to look for Lissa’s missing sibling. During her adventure, she and Dimitri rediscover their love for one another.
Although this was probably the most exciting book out of all six, it wasn’t my favorite in the series because once again there were many times when I didn’t like Rose. This time it was because of her willingness to join forces with Victor Dashkov – the guy who tortured her best friend – and because of how she treated Adrian. I knew there was a huge chance that she was going to leave him and return to Dimitri, but I didn’t expect her to cheat on him! Obviously the author made it pretty clear that Rose and Dimitri were meant to be together, but it still didn’t make what she did right. And to make it worse, she refused to confess immediately because she needed Adrian’s help and was worried that he wouldn’t talk to her if she admitted cheating on him. I’m just glad that Adrian didn’t go all noble and let it slide but decided to let her have it in the end. He’s always been very patient and kind with her, acting mature while trying to win her love even when she obviously still cares for Dimitri, but obviously enough was enough. He believed her when she told him that she would give him a fair chance, but she broke his heart in a horrible way.
There were many things I loved about the series. I can’t list them all down because it would take forever, but here are some of them:
- The whole concept of the Moroi, Strigoi, Dhampirs, Alchemists, keepers, feeders, blood whores, etc. I loved how well the author explained the importance of each class and how they were all tied together. And I liked how she gave us a clear picture of how drinking blood is different for each race. (Drinking from a human is okay but drinking from a dhampir is erotic and kinky, etc).
- The idea of the five elements and how the each Moroi specialized in just one. (This sort of reminds me of Alice Academy :D)
- The forbidden love between Rose and Dimitri. I’m such a sucker for these types of things.
- The whole concept of being shadow kissed and the bond between Rose and Lissa
- I loved that Spirit can be used in so many ways and that each spirit user had their own strength (dream walking, healing, telekinesis, etc.)
- Rose and Lissa’s friendship. These girls are willing to do anything for each other, especially Rose. True, Lissa sometimes needs a wake up call before she realizes how much Rose needs her, but once she steps up pretty much nothing can stop her from protecting her friend.
- Rose’s complicated relationship with her parents
- The political aspect of the story. I’m not usually into these kinds of things, but the author did a good job of adding enough twists and mystery (forbidden romance, bribery, hidden agendas, etc) to make the whole thing interesting.
- The character developments
(As for the things I didn’t like, there really isn’t anything except for when Rose acted selfish, and how she cheated on Adrian. Oh, and I’m not a huge fan of the book covers.)
If you ask me who my favorite characters are, I would have to say Rose and Dimitri (obviously). I know, I know~ I just wrote about two paragraphs saying how much I disliked Rose in the last two books for acting irrationally and for being selfish, but in the end I believe that she did it all out of love and it was pretty much inevitable that someone was going to get hurt. (Although I still wish that she didn’t trample all over Adrian’s heart, hmph.) Sure there were many times that I thought she acted extremely immature but I had to constantly remind myself that she was only 17 (18 by the time the book ended). She was a bit arrogant at times but I prefer confident characters over insecure ones, so its fine with me. I hate reading stories where the main character insists that they are totally average and act baffled when for some reason every other character in the book is attracted to them. Rose knew from the beginning (and the author constantly reminded us) that she was a strong and beautiful woman, capable of so many things. And the fact that female guardians are rare make her stand out even more. She can be a bit manipulative sometimes but I suppose its only natural that she uses her charm once in a while to get what she wants – it just shows how resourceful she is. And despite her lack of self control, she’s still pretty badass and a good friend. After all, she’s been training most of her life and enduring hardships just so she could earn the right to protect her best friend. Like Christian said, “if that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is”. As for Dimitri, he’s a hot Russian guy with a strong sense of honor (although he slipped up when he gave in to Rose in the 6th book) and “godlike” fighting skills – what’s not to like?
Other characters I enjoyed reading about were Adrian, Abe and Christian. I loved Abe and Adrian’s laid back attitudes. I really liked how Abe, despite being called zmey, isn’t afraid to show how much he cares for Rose. The books gave me the impression that many Moroi men don’t really care about their dhampir offspring and ex-girlfriends, but one phone call from Rose’s mom after Rose ran away and he went off to Russia to try to bring her back. Sure he’s arrogant and a bit scary and he uses unconventional methods, but he’s someone Rose can depend on and look up to (kinda). Same goes for Adrian – he’s a total playboy but when it comes to Rose he isn’t afraid to show his true feelings. He acts like things never bother him, but we can see that he cares deeply about people who are dear to him and defends them when they are threatened (Queen Tatiana, his mom, Tasha, etc.) I loved his cute nickname for Rose (Little Dhampir) and the little sweet things he does to win her love, which is why it killed me to see him so broken hearted in the end. As for Christian, I thought it was terrible what happened to his parents, but he stayed strong and fought for what he thought was right. Despite his rebel image, he’s very understanding of Lissa and, just like Rose, he’s willing to sacrifice his own life just to protect her (and other people he cares about) from any dangers that might be lurking. And I love that he’s all for the idea that Moroi should learn how to control their magic and use it to defend themselves.
My thoughts on how the series ended:
The ending definitely left a lot of unanswered questions. All those things Adrian mentioned during his breakup with Rose, and more! What happened to Eddie? Did Sydney get away? What was she hiding and what did Abe help her with? Was Tasha executed? How did Christian treat Rose after she exposed his aunt as a murderer? What’s going to happen between Jill and Lissa? Did anyone find out about how Rose killed Victor Dashkov? What will happen to Adrian? Did Lissa make a good queen? I know that there’s a spin off to this series, so maybe all these will be answered there, but in the meantime it leaves the reader with a lot of questions.
This series was targeted towards young adults, but I enjoyed it immensely. I suppose the only reason it should be categorized as YA is because most of the main characters in the story are in their teens. Because of this, we get a feel of high school life and the typical things people go through at that age (cliques, rumors, first love, a sense of belonging, etc). But aside from that, the story is actually pretty deep and the characters go through a lot which forces them to mature quickly.
I rate this series 4.9 out of 5 stars. (I would have given it a perfect 5 if it wasn’t for the loose ends. Hopefully all those unanswered questions will be resolved in the spin-off.) It was light enough that I can read it every night before going to bed and first thing in the morning, but it still had plenty of twists to keep me on the edge of my seat. (There were several nights that I went to bed at midnight and ended up falling asleep at 3am because I couldn’t put the book down.) This is one of those series where I found myself trying to read the books at a slower pace just so I wouldn’t finish the entire thing too quickly. I’m just really thankful that I discovered this series after the author finished writing all six books because I can’t imagine having to wait months for each book’s release. I pretty much read the whole series nonstop – I’d pick up the next book as soon as I was done with the previous one. And after I finished the final book, I immediately went back to the first book again and started reading it again from the beginning. If that’s not a good story, then I don’t know what is.