004 – Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy cover Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires-the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a Dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi,who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests in Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger… and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever…
Characters: Soooo this is going to be another one of those books we disagree on, mostly in terms of characters, and probably better illustrates the how subjective a book-reading experience can be. In Vampire Academy, we have two heroines, best friends Lissa and Rose. Rose is the narrator, but they share the role of protagonist, and we even occasionally get to warp into Lissa’s head for a brief spell and experience events from her point of view. It’s in our evaluations of the characters that we differ, and it affected both of our reading experiences pretty greatly.

Kayla: I totally connected with Rose as a heroine in many different ways. She wasn’t a perfect, do-no-wrong character; she was a normal teenage girl. There were times when things were just too much for her, and instead of her slowing down and getting her head in gear to figure out just how she should act, she messes up. This, to me, makes her a flawed, legitimate character. She makes a mistake and has to learn from it to figure her way out of it. I connected in the sense that had I been in her position, I to would have made some of the same decisions she had. Also, though it was irritating occasionally, she was very selfless, which to me is very inspiring. She gives up everything, even her true love, for Lissa.

Cynthia: Personally, I almost hated Rose, and it really impacted how I ended up feeling about the book as a whole. I found her bitchy, petty, skanky, irresponsible, stupid, and immature, not to mention a boozer. Even the attempts at making her sarcastic and funny just sort of fell flat for me, because her attitude was so shitty. She embodied essentially everything I dislike about people in general, and teenagers especially. Though she showed some promise of developing out of her petty teenager-ness as the book went on, towards the middle she fell out with Lissa and reverted back almost completely to the way she was at the start of the book. Though I do admit that she was very devoted and selfless where Lissa was concerned, the overwhelming majority of her personality traits were just obnoxious as Hell to me. I couldn’t relate to her as a character, but this is probably because her personality and mine are just completely different.

Despite our difference of opinion on Rose, we are in agreement about our feelings on her best friend and co-star, Lissa Dragomir. Lissa isn’t so much another heroine as she is the damsel constantly in distress in this story. Rose is her hero, her white knight, and even though we like Lissa in general, her weakness and inability to do anything for herself is irritating. We do understand that this weakness and dependancy has a lot to do with her position in the book, and the powers that she wields, which take a toll on her mental stability. Rose mentions multiple times that the Lissa pre-power-discovery was a very different, vibrant person. But the Lissa in the book, the broken, self-mutilating, emo-as-shit girl ever in need of saving from herself just as much as other people, is very difficult to connect and empathize with.

There are technically two love interests in Vampire Academy – one apiece for Rose and Lissa. Rose gets Dimitri, her gorgeous, stoic mentor and fellow Guardian. For Lissa, there is Christian, a sarcastic, antisocial disgraced royal Moroi and the school’s resident freaky loner.

We both like Dimitri, although to varying degrees. He’s a nice break from the traditional YA vampire story love interest; he’s mature, responsible, reserved, and introspective, although this doesn’t really help much to make him a very interesting book character. He mostly stands around and does the right thing and is there for Rose to crush on and fantasize about. I expect he might be more interesting if he spoke a little more.

Christian, on the other hand, is your typical YAVS lead. He’s a bad boy, a loner, charming and handsome, with a dash of creepy violent stalker, although he doesn’t even attempt to justify this as anything but being a creepy violent stalker, which is to his credit. We both liked him both for and despite the creepy thing, because fuck, at least he’s honest about it.

World: The world created in Vampire Academy is actually pretty cool, and by far one of the most unique ones out there in the YAV genre today. As mentioned in the intro, there are two types of vampire – Moroi and Strigoi. Moroi are mortal, relatively peaceful, and can wield various elemental magics. Strigoi are their stronger, faster, more predatory immortal, evil counterparts. Dhampirs are the half-human, half-vampire protectors of the Moroi. They are raised in the titular Vampire Academies, learning and training to become full-fledged Guardians, alongside the Moroi, who train to use their magic to serve society. The Moroi are almost totally unable to defend themselves, which is why they need the stronger, faster, more combat-capable Dhampirs, although it is implied this was not (and will not) always be the case.

It’s a pretty cool world for the most part, and again, pleasantly unique, but there are some aspects that bug. The helplessness of the Moroi is one of those – they have extremely powerful magic, but almost all of them refuse or don’t know how to use it to defend themselves, and it’s very taboo to do so. But it’s hinted that this may change in future books with the help of Lissa and Rose.

Another issue is the role of women in Dhampir society. The alternative for women who choose not to go to school to become a Guardian for Moroi is to become ‘blood whores’, or women who are there for the Moroi men to impregnate, to create more Dhampirs. It’s also implied that women who do become Guardians must give up some aspects of their lives as women. They are not allowed to have relationships with other Dhampirs because they will not result in children, and those who do happen to have relationships with Moroi and become pregnant, like Rose’s mother, tend to give up their children, because they are too busy and dedicated to their lives as Guardians to raise them. There are very few choices available to female Dhampirs – they must either give up their right to be mothers and wives entirely, or be just that. There is no such thing as balance.

This woman? Not a Dhampir.
Plot: The plot for this particular installment of Vampire Academy was…just okay. It was, obviously, mostly an introduction to the characters and world, but aside from that, the core story and ideas explored are a bit different from the usual vampire fare. The summary on the back cover leads you to believe that this book would be more about vampires and fighting and slaying the Strigoi, all action, all the time, but it’s not. If you were explecting something along the kick-ass chick fighting an epic big bad, you’ll probably be disappointed.

Vampire Academy is more about teenage drama – high school, angst, depression, love, family, finding your place – with the vampire aspect mostly providing metaphorical parallels to real-life issues. Nothing especially epic about it. The only real action scenes take place in the very end, and seem to lead up/tie into an over-arcing plot for the series. That being said, the few bits of action that took place showed promise, at least in theory. I’m told that as the series goes on, the Moroi offensive magic and Guardian ass-kicking start being used together, and it has the potential to be pretty cool.

As a whole, Cynthia says:

Three Stars

And Kayla says:

Four Stars

If you can get along with the heroine, and wade through some PSA teenage drama, you’ve got a unique and interesting world that’s worth at least taking a look at.


5 Responses

  1. D_A Renoir

    August 23, 2012 4:54 am, Reply

    Huh? If dhampirs are half-human half-vampire, what’s the problem with the Moroi men going out to marry HUMANS? Why the need to pick up dhampir women to make more dhampirs?

    Oh well. I might give this a try. We’ll see if I like it.

    • Kayla + Cyna

      August 23, 2012 4:56 pm, Reply

      Eh, possibly they need some sort of specific type of crossbreeding to make usable dhampirs. More likely because THAT’S JUST HOW IT WORKS OKAY? Lol.

      Also apparently the moroi are super-snobby aristocrats, so they probably consider that sort of thing beneath them

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