Book Review: Vampire Academy

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Mead’s absorbing, debut YA novel, the first in a new series, blends intricately detailed fantasy with a contemporary setting, teen-relevant issues, and a diverse…cast of supporting characters. Occasional steamy sex and a scattering of vulgar language demand mature readers, but teens able to handle the edgy elements will speed through this vamp story and anticipate the next installment.

VOYA – Erin Kilby

This story is no ordinary vampire tale. Mead has done her homework on Romanian folklore and Orthodox Catholic saints, and she uses it to weave a unique and mesmerizing mystery with a whodunit ending that even the most skilled detectives will not predict. With social angst that every teenager can appreciate and sexual tension that leaves Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight looking like a children’s book, this little gem is sure to be a hit.

My Thoughts

Back in the day when this series first came out, I read the first book of the series, but as I had so many other things on my plate, I forgot all about it. It wasn’t until I saw previews for the movie did I think back and realize that I needed to read it again. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I saw the movie before I had a chance to read the first book again.

But I made sure I finished it before seeing the movie a second time.

Right away, there are differences between the film and the novel, and while this would normally drive me up a tree with how annoyed I’d be, I found that I liked the little changes made in translation from the page to the screen. There’s so much information in books that it’s hard to get it all onto the screen, and I feel those who were responsible for the translation did an admirable job of keeping all important aspects of the novel. Things were tweaked here and there for dramatic effect, but nothing that changed the story in any way.

But let’s get back to the story.

As this is a vampire novel, it’s easy to put up walls before cracking the cover. There’s so many other novels out there that are just rehashing what another author already did. Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy is different. She has managed to change up the mythology in a way that doesn’t take away from the horrific nature that vampires originally evoked, but put her own twist on it. That’s something I can always get behind.

Many young women reading this novel and the rest of the series will be able to relate to either Rose, the best friend to the princess of the vampires, or Lissa, the princess. Rose is the tough, beautiful, take-no-bullshit type of comedic character that complements and protects Lissa, the seemingly fragile, innocent, hopelessly romantic princess of an ancient race of vampires known as the Moroi. Rose herself isn’t a Moroi, but a Dhampir, or guardian charged with protecting her best friend even with her own life.

Although this may be a Young Adult novel and the characters in high school, the story itself is very dark and filled with situations those from an older generation may relate to a little easier. However, most who pick up this book will enjoy it nonetheless as it offers lighthearted comedy, forbidden love, and tragedy that leaves you wanting to read page after page.

The story progresses rather quickly, and sometimes its easy to get a sense of reader whiplash. To me, this happens when the author will jump times rather quickly, whether that means that its constantly switching from present to past to present, or just jumping from weeks to months in the timeline. It can be hard to follow if not done correctly. At points this was an issue, but as the story progressed, the transitions became smoother and the story eventually slowed down. Mead managed to pack so much story into the first half of the story that can make it hard for the reader to grasp everything that’s going on, but it’s important information that’s needed to understand the complexities of the situation that Rose and Lissa have found themselves in.

I still think it could have been spread out just a bit more to give the reader a little break.

This was probably one of the most enjoyable vampire novels I’ve read in a long time, and while it did have its cliche moments, i was surprised that there weren’t more of them. For starters, there was the typical forbidden romance. Rose falls for her Dhampir mentor, who is almost ten years older than her, and while he brushes off her advances, it’s clear that he’s feeling the same way. Even though it is very cliche for the genre, there’s still no denying that it will get the reader invested in the relationship and hot and bothered by the romance and passion between the two. There is a clear balance between the cliche and the nuances that make it unique to the couple.

On top of the romantic relationships, the whole “high school” bullshit permeated the story. Yes, it was crucial to part of the storyline and not just thrown in because the characters are of high school age. Regardless, I think it was still slightly overplayed. By omitting just a few run-ins, bullying, or typical high school cliches like boyfriend-stealing, rumor-spreading, and lying to friends, I think those instances could have been that much stronger. But as it stands, this is still a Young Adult novel.

Overall, I feel this was a great introductory novel to the rest of the series, and I can’t wait to get my eyes on the next one. Mead makes you interested in the characters on a personal level. She makes you invested in their future, their relationships, and what will happen to them during the war they are caught up in. For those interested in the vampire genre should definitely check out this series. I have a feeling that as the series progresses, the storyline will move further away from the trivialness of high school and focus more on serious issues, branching out into a wider audience of readers.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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