Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill (an imprint of Penguin Books)
Guardian-in-training Rose returns with her best friend, and Moroi princess, Lissa, to St. Vladimir’s Academy after a two year stint on the run. But what made them run? And are they really safe from the malicious Strigoi?
I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong to Richelle Mead and Razorbill. Excerpt taken from Page 1:
“I FELT HER FEAR BEFORE I heard her screams.
Her nightmare pulsed into me, shaking me out of my own dream, which had something to do with a beach and some hot guy rubbing suntan oil on me. Images–hers, not mine–tumbled through my mind: fire and blood, the smell of smoke, the twisted metal of a car. The pictures wrapped around me, suffocating me, until some rational part of my brain reminded me that this wasn’t my dream.
I woke up, strands of long, dark hair sticking to my forehead.
Lissa lay in her bed, thrashing and screaming. I bolted out of mine, quickly crossing the few feet that separated us.
“Liss,” I said, shaking her, “Liss, wake up.”
Her screams dropped off, replaced my soft whimpers. “Andre,” she moaned. “Oh God.””
The story is a first- person narrative told by Rose. At times, there is a change in the narrative voice. It doesn’t happen enough to be considered a problem and it’s not as blatant as some of the other instances that I’ve seen in YA Fiction.
“As it was, things didn’t look good for our heroes – or heroines rather.”
The above, is a snippet from Rose’s commentary when she is being returned to St Vladimir’s Academy. Mead could have replaced “heroes” with “heroines” and cut the last part to tighten up the sentence structure but more so, notice the distancing lapse in narrative voice. The narrative voice, for the most part, is on point, as expressed when Guardian Alto humiliates Rose:
“I felt my cheeks burning, but in a great show of self-control, I stopped myself from telling him to fuck off.”
The mild vulgarities in the text reflect teenagers today and further reinforce the sassy narrative voice. Overuse of the “b****” word results in it losing its effect and shows an over-reliance on crass vocabulary. On occasion, Rose tends to come across a bit melodramatic and I found this to jerk me out of the story. Her description of being sent straight back to class as “beyond cruel” is way too melodramatic for her character and moreover, neither her nor Lissa is injured in any way. What does she expect?
Rose is a breath of fresh air. She’s funny, sassy and overall, likeable. The connection she shares with Lissa – on both a psychic and an emotional level – adds another layer to the plot. On the downside, Rose’s affections for Lissa sometimes come off the wrong way. Rather than playing the part of protective best friend, it seems she almost wants to play the part of “lover”. Mia, as an antagonist, is particularly cruel and conniving and when the reasons for this become clear, it forces Lissa to face some hard truths. Headmistress Kirova, as the authority figure, is flawless. Natalie is an interesting one as the quiet, mousy girl that adores Lissa as is her evolution throughout the story. I have no issue with Dimitri but I’m not sure how I feel about the relationship between him and Rose. It’s not the age gap or the notion that they can’t be together as Guardians that I find off-putting. It’s the student-teacher relationship that unnerves me.
The plot works at a reasonable pace with the obstacles growing in magnitude each time. We’re teased with tidbits and revelations slowly leak into the text. We’re never overwhelmed with information and what is revealed is not always immediately explained, whetting the reader’s appetite and keeping those pages turning. Take the introductory passage (above). Who is Andre? What is the twisted metal Lissa dreams about? Where was the fire? How did it come about? How is Rose able to access Lissa’s dreams? We find ourselves asking questions; some of which are answered, some of which are explored later on both in this book and in the series itself. There’s a slow release of information, allowing the reader to absorb the facts, piece them together and enjoy the world that Mead has created.
Mead demonstrates the world-building abilities of a seasoned Fantasy author. Not through setting alone but also through character – the Guardians, the Dhampirs and the Moroi, particularly the Queen. These different strands weave together to allow us to witness not a place – St. Vladimir’s Academy – but rather, a world where the Moroi live, feed and learn. Mead’s knowledge of Orthodox Catholic saints and Romanian folklore lend a great deal of credibility to this world.
Where mother and daughter failed in Marked to balance the seriousness of what was happening to Zoey, her humour and her juvenile dramas, Mead blends them all together perfectly. Rose is funny at the right times. Her humour doesn’t undercut the tension. The ending is fulfilling. I honestly didn’t see it coming. She could have went down the predictable route but instead, she decided to throw us a curveball. In a market saturated with Vampire Fiction, Read manages to stand out as a contender.
Read it now before its debut on the Big Screen!
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