Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review: Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead

Or: How I Learned that "Young Adult" Does Not Mean Annoying Children

Collage by the talented Wench Olga Daniels
Sometimes you go into a book certain that you will love it. Sometimes you know nothing about a book, with no notion of what to expect. And sometimes you start a book reluctantly, certain that you won't like it, but wanting to give it a try because your sister, your niece, and your favorite author love it. This is a story about the last kind of book.

I started reading Urban Fantasy, almost exclusively, in 2011, and since then I've read lots of UF series. But I avoided picking up any Young Adult series, wanting to only read adult books. I wasn't interested in reading about teens--I wanted adult themes, adult behaviors, and adult language. I've had a few YA series recommended to me, and I've seen interesting suggestions pop up in my Goodreads feed, but if I saw the "YA" tag, I marked it off of my list. But Vampire Academy was recommended one too many times, and a movie was coming out so I finally decided to check it out.

Did I enjoy Vampire Academy? Did I read the entire series, a sure sign of being hooked by an author, or did I quit after one? Am I a Richelle Mead fan now? Click through to find out if my trepidation was justified or if I'm ready to take a chance on more YA titles.



I started Vampire Academy with about two weeks to go before the movie released, and I just wanted to get through that book so I could see the movie, since I'm a sucker for vampire movies, regardless of what I thought about the book. It turned out that I was so completely hooked that I finished all six books, plus the two short stories, by the time the movie premiered.Each book was different, with some installments stronger than others, but overall the series was a delightful surprise. Let's take it book-by-book, shall we?

Vampire Academy


I was shocked. Truly shocked. Having been actively avoiding YA books for some time, I didn't really expect to like this book. But I did. I really did. It was slow starting but the relationships pulled me in and left me completely riveted and needing to know more. I figured out who the bad guy and his accomplice were pretty early on, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of the story one bit. Rose and Lissa's relationship is really lovely and I was eager to see how that developed. Rose and Dimitri's relationship was captivating, leaving me dying to see more. The treatment of Lissa's depression was so interesting, something I don't often see handled in any UF/PNR. The high school clique drama is irritating but relatable. I was quite pleasantly surprised, and hooked enough to move right on to the next book.

Frostbite


Wow. Just...wow. I had been boycotting YA books for so long that I truly didn't think I could possibly get sucked into one, but I did. I was completely invested in these characters, totally shocked by the developments at the end, and so happy to see Rose growing, shedding her childish ways and thoughts, while at that same time, I had nothing but sympathy for the reasons she was growing up. I was so riveted by this book, that I finished it at work--something I almost never do--because I could NOT wait until I got home to find out what happened.


Shadow Kiss


Riveting story, excellent character development, fascinating supernatural elements. Shadow Kiss was fantastic. I was SO bummed though, because I accidentally read the beginning of a synopsis of later books, giving the big shock in this book much less emotional impact than it would have had, had I not read the summary of book six. Everything else about this book, though, I loved. I have grown to adore Rose; she ranks up there with some of my favorite, most kick-ass UF heroines. And I want to be squicked out by her relationship with Dimitri (I was a teacher, after all) but it is just so lovely, so pure, and they really did try hard to fight the attraction. I can't be mad at them, although I'm sure there will be fallout when everyone finds out. I also loved the conflicted emotions Rose struggled with in this book. It's so relatable. Just an excellent chapter in this surprisingly good series.

Blood Promise


This book was absolutely wonderful! Even though I was spoiled and knew how the big problem would eventually turn out, I did not expect what happened in this book. Rose's journey through grief, her adventures, her struggles, the people she met along the way, her strength and badassery...all completely captivating. This was one of those books that made me wish everything in my life could just stand still for a day so that I could devote myself to discovering Rose's story. I am awed by Richelle Mead's skill and storytelling in this book, from a totally unique story development (something that is rare in UF/PNR these days) to the wonderful trick allowing us to follow both Rose's adventures and Lissa's experiences back at St. Vlad's to Rose's struggle to reconcile the man she loved with what he'd become. I am awed. Truly, completely awed. Coming late to the Vampire Academy party, it seems that Shadow Kiss was the book that was supposed to kill me, but it was this one. I laughed and sobbed (ugly, wracking tears), which is always the sign of a great book for me.

Spirit Bound


Apparently I was so enthralled, so consumed by the world that Richelle Mead crafted, that I didn't stop to write a review of this installment of the series. Which, in itself, tells you how wonderful this series is. This chapter in Rose's journey was one of the most frustrating but it was also incredibly exciting. From hope and fear to awe and heartbreak, tempered, as always, with Rose's sarcastic hilarity, this book had everything and kept me turning pages as fast as possible to find how Rose's tale would end up. I wasn't thrilled that a love triangle developed, and that remains my one criticism of this series. I felt it was unnecessary, since there was plenty of authentic relationship angst without it.

Last Sacrifice


Unfortunately, I was spoiled on so many things in this books, that it just wasn't exciting for me, and took out all of the anticipation. All of the major plot points, I knew how they would turn out. I hate spoilers. I REALLY hate spoilers. It took me so much longer to finish this one, because I wasn't excited. Again, not because it wasn't a good book--Richelle Mead has floored me with her world-building, her kick-ass heroine, her unique twist on a plot point that so many UF/PNR series do, and the wonderful relationships she built--but because I knew too much about how things would turn out. It was a great story, but didn't have the emotional impact I enjoy in first reads, and I hate that.

Bottom Line


I absolutely loved this series. The relationships grabbed me from the first book, the character growth was stunning, there was enough adult language to keep me happy, and the main romantic pairing had such wonderful, unique, obstacles to overcome that their journey was absolutely riveting. The handling of difficult subjects such as depression, inappropriate attraction, both personal and institutional prejudice, death, grief, parentage, etc., show me that, if this series is typical of Young Adult books in the Twenty-First Century, they are not like the YA books I read as a teen. Which I think is a beautiful thing.

Wench Rating:
It would be five, if not for love-triangle shenanigans.

Have you read Vampire Academy, Saucy Reader? Do you love it? Now that I've ended my boycott do you have any suggestions of other YA/UF books that I need to check out? Share your thoughts below!

2 comments:

  1. I absolutely love VA! And I love your post. I read the series a couple of years ago and reread it this year. Happy to know your YA boycott is over. I recommend wholeheartedly Angelfall and World After by Suzan Ee.

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  2. Well, now I'm going to have to break down and read this series! I've had it on my radar since Merit recommended it to me, but I'm usually a little hesitant of YA myself. I have already added it to my e-reader and look forward to enjoying the whole series when the right opportunity comes along. Thanks for this great review!

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