Book Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy by Richelle MeadVampire Academy - Richelle Mead

Published: August 16th 2007 by Razorbill

Source: local library

Synopsis (Goodreads): 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.

My thoughts: This book came highly recommended to me by supervisor at work, many teen patrons, and many friends on Goodreads. I’m a Buffy fan from way back and I love a good vampire book, so it’s one I’ve been meaning to check out. It’s also on the list of NPR’s Top 100 Teen Novels, and I’ve been meaning to read more of those, not because they are the ones I necessarily think are the best, but because it represents a good portion of the most well-known book in YA. For reader’s advisory purposes, I want to be familiar with these titles for comparison purposes. If I understand the appeal factors, I can more easily help readers find similar titles.

I also realized I’d been reading mostly ARCs and scheduling reviews out months in advance, and wanted to check out some older titles to mix it up a bit. Plus, the movie will be out next year, and I try to read books before I see the film adaptations, so I decided it was time to give this series a try.

The appeal of this book can be easily summed up in two words: Rose Hathaway. She’s a snarky, fun narrator, and her voice is the most compelling aspect of this book. Rose is a protagonist who makes things happen; she drive action in the story, which is always refreshing. Even if she is half-vampire, her thoughts felt authentically teen.

Rose’s friendship with Lissa was also a bright spot. I’m hard-pressed to find another YA paranormal story where a relationship between two girls is front and center. The story of how the two became friends was endearing, and while their psychic connection seemed most useful in allowing Rose to narrate scenes she wasn’t present for, it also forged their bond.

Since this was the first book in a lengthy series, it included lots of explanation of the mythology of these vampires. While this particular brand of vampires is unique, it’s not particularly appealing to me. There’s very little interaction between vampires and humans, and for me, the draw of vampire stories has always been about monsters who look human, and in fact, once were. The premise behind these vampires has some who are “evil” and some who are “good” and then a class of half-human, half-vampire hybrids who act as guardians of the “good” vampires because the “evil” vampires crave their blood, rather than the blood of humans. It’s a unique concept, but doesn’t resonate with me.

Beyond that, the story is typical high school fare, even if the characters are all vampires (or half-vampires). There are the typical cliques and parties and shopping trips and dances. There’s the older, hot guy who seems unattainable and yet inexplicably interested in Rose, and I’m not trying to discount the appeal of Dmitri. Perhaps sometimes less characterization is actually more when it comes to paranormal love interests (but really, who thinks ponytails are hot?).

The writing is really quite terrible, and the editing even more so (really, typos that spell check should have caught in a paperback edition? I kid you not). It is better than Marked by P. C. and Kristin Cast, which is quite possibly the worst book I’ve ever read, so it definitely has that going for it. At just over 300 pages, it was an easy, fun read and I didn’t feel it was any more a waste of time than re-watching old Buffy episodes (which I still sometimes do with my sister).

I’m continuing with the series, mostly out of curiosity. These books are so beloved by so many, but when I try to examine them more objectively, I’m surprised that they have such a large fanbase. I even find myself enjoying reading it, even though it features many writing elements I hate: info-dumping, poor characterization, heavy-handed foreshadowing, clunky prose, lots of recaps and over-explaining. It’s strangely compelling.

I have a few theories as to why they engender such appeal, but I’m going to save those observations until I’ve read all the books (I’ve finished with #3 as I write this). If you have read and have a strong opinion on this series, I’d love to hear about it—drop me a link to your review or your thoughts in the comments! 

I haven’t mentioned anything about the way the sexuality of young women is portrayed in this book, because I have so many thoughts I think it deserves a separate post. I’ll discuss that later this week.

Second opinions:

April at Good Books Good Wine: ” I thought Vampire Academy was funny, dark, sexy, and gripping.”

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

  1. Half-Vampires? That’s interesting. I’d always thought of vampirism as an all or nothing kind of condition. I’ll probably pass on this book, though. I’m not a huge fan of vampires, and, having just finished Jennifer Miller’s The Year of the Gadfly, I’m done with prep schools for a while.

  2. VA is one of my favorite series of all time. I love it because it is so easy to read. For some reason I can deal with the info dumping because when I read the series I had to wait about a year for each book to come out so by the time I got the next book I had forgotten somethings, but I can see how that can be a bit annoying now that all the book are available.

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