Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vampire Academy #1-3 [Review]

Title: Vampire Academy, Frostbite, and Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say:

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. . . .
What I Say:
It could get confusing and wordy, trying to fit three books into one review, but we’ll see how this goes (no big high-quality-review guarantees, haha). I guess you can say the reason I've only just started reading this series is because I was avoiding it. Like, actively avoiding it. Why? After Twilight spawned a billion other vampire novels, TV shows, etc, the idea of reading another vampire series became a bit of a turnoff. A few days ago, however, I opted to try it. I was impressed by some things, and it didn’t put me to sleep or make me gag or overuse synonyms of the word beautiful. That said…

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Plot: wow
So there’s this girl, Rose, and her best friend Lissa. They’ve just been caught by school officials for a serious case of truancy (two years, count 'em) and are back at St. Vladimir’s Academy for their senior year. What’s weird about that? Lissa (short for Vasilisa) is a Moroi princess, Moroi being vampires in that they drink blood and sleep during the day, but different in that they’re alive and can use elemental magic. Yeah. Rose is a Dhampir, or guardian to a Moroi, and she’s pretty much human if you discount her superior strength and battle training. At the academy, misadventures ensue, Rose is getting all up close with her mentor (Dimitri), and Lissa has a thing for mysterious bad boy Christian - whose parents were evil Strigoi vampires before they were killed.

Huh. There must be a simpler way to do this. Let’s go one book at a time:

Book 1 - So everything’s dandy at the academy, except there’s this snotty girl trying to ruin Rose’s life, Lissa’s beginning to use her mysterious power and it’s making her emo and crazy, and someone out there wants that power for his/herself. Oh noes!

Book 2 - Moroi royal families are being killed left and right by Strigoi (the big-bad-actual-vampires), so the academy is holding Christmas vacation at a ski lodge and everyone’s invited! Really. Rose is still all over her mentor, but he’s (gasp!) possibly all over someone else? There’s also a Christian-being-jealous-of-Lissa-talking-to-a-hotter-guy storyline, but that doesn’t matter because when Mason (Rose’s boyfriend?) runs off to kill Strigoi - and Rose and Christian follow - all kinds of shit goes down and everything before that becomes obsolete.

Book 3 - So the first two-thirds of this book pass and then are rendered obsolete by the shit-going-down part. (Seeing a pattern here?) Main idea: Rose is seeing ghosts and going insane, or is she? Also, a new elite cult club is starting up at school, and they want Lissa to submit her will join. Also, the vampire queen (there’s a vampire queen) is stirring up trouble for our unlikely lovers.

Okay. That’s done. Re-reading this, it was hard to summarize seriously, but not because it wasn’t good. It was pretty good, interesting stuff, trust me! But when you go back and try to remember everything happened, you realize that a lot of stuff happens, some of which has nothing to do with the “big picture” and ends up sounding silly. I did like that I never got bored by details, didn’t have to suspend my belief that much (there weren’t any What? No way is that possible! moments). I just plain enjoyed it. Maybe not on a deep, dark, serious level (though it does get darker and edgier in book three), but it was fun to read. If I have to note anything in particular, it’s that there seems to be a One Character Dies Per Book rule in place here. Also, a First Two Hundred Pages Are Filler rule. Not bad rules, per se, but they don’t help the unpredictability thing.

Characters: meh
So I used to think I thought Bella Swan was annoying, but I think I actually hate Rose. At first I thought, Nice, an edgy character for once! but (at times) she can be so whiny, bratty, needy, immature, hating-people-for-no-reason and getting-in-people’s-faces-at-inappropriate-times that I wanted to hit her in the face. Repeatedly. How can Dimitri stand her? Sure, there are whole chapters where she’s pretty cool, level-headed, and badass, but god, she’s one of the most obnoxious characters (not in a parody or satire) that I ever read.

Lissa was better. Not painfully interesting, but more down-to-earth than Rose. Being part of the Hoi Moroi (haha, I’m clever), she’s reasonable and calm and all that. A bit dramatic and angsty, but with good reason (see Magic Crazy-Making Powers).

From here, there are many sub-characters, and it’s difficult to tell which are most important. Christian may not be the most crucial to the plot, but he’s my favorite. He was my main source of non-bratty snark, which was refreshing. He’s the black sheep of the Moroi, despite being one of the royals, because of the parents-going-evil thing. It makes him the most grounded of all of them, the least clueless, and who can resist a black sheep? I mean, seriously. He’s Christian the atheist. I love it. How can Rose hate him? I have no idea.

Or is Adrian my favorite? Not sure where he came from, but he’s the college-aged Moroi who just shows up at random times during the second and third books. All he does is smoke and drink because of those Magic Crazy-Making Powers, and he’s only more snarky than Christian because he’s a little lady-killer, too. Why can’t this be the Christian and Adrian series? How can Rose hate him? I have no idea. (Seeing a pattern here?)

Relationships: ooh
Do random hookups count as relationships?

Rose and Dimitri - I don’t entirely understand how this relationship works. Sure, I get the whole forbidden love thing, but why choose Rose? Really, Dimitri? Sometimes, it’s fun to read about (especially around book three, hehe) but it’s mostly Nooo-this-is-wrong! Or Nooo-you’re-too-young! Or Nooo-it’s-unprofessional! See, kids? Grown-ups can be whiny and angsty, too.

Lissa and Christian - I actually like this couple. Mostly because of Christian, but Lissa actually grows a little spine around him. The reader doesn’t see much of these two, because Rose is the main character and the universe revolves around her, but (so far) they’re the most normal part of the series. And who doesn’t love that couple everyone disapproves of? Power couple, indeed.

Special Features: ooh
I really was interested by the vampires in this series. The different groups, the social structure, the royal families, the Romanian thing: nothing I’d heard a million times before. Though some of the Dhampir mentality seemed a bit brainwashy at times, which I was glad got some mention in book three. Vampires aren't my big thing, so I was glad it didn't, like, suck. One feature which I felt needed to be addressed are this series’ covers. They’re kind of gag-inducing. I see them and think, Bad bad bad paperback novel, which is sad. They deserve better.

Well, isn’t this the longest post ever? Phew. I pulled an all-nighter reading book three, so you’re welcome, haha. The rest of the series to follow next week (or the week after, we'll see).

For the review of Vampire Academy books 4-5, click here.

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