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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Book Review: Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead

Published in August 16 2007 by Razorbill

Goodreads description
St. 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.

This review has been pretty long overdue considering I first read it over two years ago, but due to a lack of books in the house, I decided to re-read the whole series and give a review to one of my favorite series out there. The first time I picked up this book, I was rather skeptical because as the title implies, it is about vampires. So I guess you can't really blame me for going, "Another one?" with an added eye roll. But anyway, after some searching, I found that this series came highly recommended and that there was a character who had the same name that I had been obsessed with ever since I saw 20th Century Fox's Anastasia (1997). And that name was Dimitri. And according to some of the Vampire Academy reviews that I had read, he was a sexy traffic-stopping-hot badass Russian vampire-killer, who was also a major character. So, I decided: Why not? You can't really go wrong with "Dimitri" in there... And words cannot describe how glad I am that I did pick it up over two years ago because my life would have not been complete without this series.

So first off, something that's nice to know before everything else is the terminology, which Richelle Mead does a fantastic job bringing into the story. 

"Moroi" are living good vampires who usually wield magic in the form of one of the four elements: air, water, earth and fire. They are generally peaceful and live among humans (and yes, they drink blood from willing victims in exchange for the endorphins that are released when a vampire feeds). Moroi are usually pretty tall, slender and pale.
"Dhampirs" are half human, human Moroi. They have the best of both races, given human traits (that are able to withstand the sun), athleticism, and immunity to most diseases like the Moroi. Dhampirs generally train to become bodyguards (AKA "guardians") for the Moroi to defend them against the Strigoi (explained below). Most dhampirs (but not all) are somewhat tanned (from training outside) and normally shorter than their Moroi counterparts.

"Strigoi" are the undead evil vampires. They are not born but created. There are two ways to become Strigoi: 1) If you were originally a Moroi, you had to drain the blood of your victim or 2) Be forcibly turned by another Strigoi which requires them draining your blood and feeding theirs back to you. As undead creatures, they can be of any race (Moroi, Dhampir or Human) and if they were originally Moroi, they have lost their magic with this change of existence. They love to feed on Moroi and they kill for no reason, so Dhampirs are trained to kill Strigoi.

Anyway, moving onto the plot. Vampire Academy centers around a Dhampir named Rose Hathaway and her best friend, the Moroi princess, Lissa Dragomir, the last of the Dragomir clan. Due to prior events in the book, as Lissa's to-be-guardian, Rose took Lissa away from St. Vladimir's, the boarding school they were originally at, from unseen danger, but after two years on the run, they were finally caught by the school's officials and dragged back. As the one who organized their getaway, Rose is given two choices: 1) Be expelled from the school and forced to live elsewhere or 2) Take supplementary combat lessons from one of the school's guardians. So not really a choice if Rose wants to be Lissa's guardian when she graduates. Obviously, she picks the latter and then becomes Dimitri's student. And the fun begins.
Rose is a super kick ass character. She's strong willed, takes on challenges, throws witty comebacks and her loyalty to Lissa never falters. Everything she does is for Lissa's sake. As her guardian-to-be, Rose wouldn't hesitate to risk her life to save her friend's. Due to the reason that she missed the last two years of guardian training, Rose struggles to match her classmates, but with her determination and will power, she is able to with Dimitri's help. When things start to go wrong shortly after their return to St. Vladimir's, Rose does everything in her power to find out what's going on to protect her friend. Although she can be a little hard to relate to, Rose's motives are generally good and her personality is always fun to read about. With her big dark eyes and her dark brown hair that seems nearly black in dim lighting, Rose often refers to her appearance as looking like a "semi-exotic desert princess". If I could cast her by just appearance alone, I'd pick Odette Yustman. I originally pictured Nina Dobrev as Rose, but Nina seemed a little too sweet and nice.

Next up: the reason why I read this book... Dimitri Belikov. He is a 24 year old (7 years older than Rose) dhampir guardian, with a faint Russian accent, gorgeous expressive chocolate brown eyes and chin-length hair that he often ties into a ponytail. He is also 6'7 and lean, muscular and physically fit. Deemed a "god" by some of the guardian novices, Dimitri has killed a fairly large number of strigoi and is normally rather anti-social. When he isn't on the job, Dimitri loves listening to old country music as well as music from the 80's. Never seen without his cowboy duster, Dimitri is also often seen sprawling on the floor while reading western novels, which Rose rolls her eyes at. Although he is very strict and has a no-nonsense attitude, Dimitri is very patient towards Rose and doesn't mind her snarky commentary as long as she does well in her training. He was first introduced as someone who was very mysterious and brooding, but as the events in the book take place, he shows some of his less-intense sides of his character to Rose, which the latter starts to have mutual feelings for him. Dimitri is very dedicated to his job and given the temporary role of Lissa's guardian, he looks after both Rose and Lissa with a careful eye. Picking an actor based solely on appearance, I'd say Ben Barnes, though the only problem would be their difference in physique. But that aside, Ben Barnes definitely has the right facial look.

When I first picked up this book, I was rather doubtful that I'd like it due to the sudden vampire hype that was going around, but I found that I couldn't put the book down as I got further and further into it. Richelle Mead did a great job keeping me interested and I love the interaction between Rose and Dimitri. The super serious mentor and the reckless student who is trying to find her place in the world. It was nice to see that both of them allowed the other to change for the better. Dimitri was able to soften up a little while Rose was able to lose some of her flamboyant attitude and become more dedicated to her rose as Lissa's future guardian.

I enjoyed learning more about Richelle Mead's vampire world as it is quite different from the other vampire stories that I've heard of. There was quite a lot of suspense throughout the story to keep the reader guessing and intrigued to learn more. What I didn't like as much was some of the flashbacks in the story which made it hard to keep track of what happened when. Although they were informative, it was a little difficult to know when they ended and you had to pay attention to the wording to realize that it was over. But everything else was fantastic and I agree with the rest of the book blogosphere that this series is highly recommended.

Source: Owned (and signed/personalized by Richelle Mead!)
My Rating: 4 coffee cups (Enjoyed it immensely)

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