Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead
Number of Pages: 336 pages
Release Date: 16 August 2007
Publisher: Razorbill Publishing
Source: I won my copy at a blog contest at The Book Guru
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Razorbill Publishing, Amazon, Book Depository US
Grade: 4.5 stars
Goodreads appetizer: 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: I kept hearing everywhere how everyone loves this YA vampire series, and after some time I finally got around to read it. You have to understand that my reluctance was due to the fact that this is a YA series and I'm not such a big fan of YA novels. But I got sucked in the story after the first few paragraphs and gobbled up Vampire Academy in less than a day!
I was amazed at the universe and vampire traits Richelle Mead created because not only are they original, but they also fairly differ from the usual canon. In the Vampire Academy universe there are two kinds of vampires: the Moroi: the living and quite vulnerable "nice" vampires and the Strogoi: the dead, preternaturally strong and fast evil vampires, whose goal is to turn/kill the Moroi. There is a third supernatural category, the Dhampirs. They are half-breed hybris having one Moroi and one Dhampir parent. Dhampirs are stronger than Moroi and are trained to serve as bodyguards to the Moroi.
The heroine of the series is Rose Hathaway, a dhampir girl who is training to be the bodyguard of her best friend, Lissa Dragomir who is a Moroi princess. Rose is a pretty, snarky, tomboyish girl, whose whole existence revolves around protecting Lissa from all harm and hurt. The girls are more than simple best friends they are like sisters and share a special bond through which Rose is attuned to Lissa's feelings and thoughts.
The series is narrated by Rose (except for those few scenes where we see the scenes from Lissa's POV), and Rose is a very likable and entertaining narrator. Wherever she goes trouble ensues and it's guaranteed nothing will be dull. What I liked about Vampire Academy and Rose is that even though she is seventeen and of course she shows some teenager traits, otherwise she is extremely mature. She has a main goal in sight (becoming the best guardian she can be to protect Lissa) and she surrenders everything to achieve it. Her determination and sacrifice sets her out of the usual whiny angsty teenage heroines.
Rose and Lissa are complete opposites, besides their look (Rose is dark haired while Lissa is pale blond), Rose is the outspoken, gutsy even hotheaded smartmouth while Lissa is the quiet, prudent, vulnerable one.
There are quite a few supporting characters who will be back in the following books, and I enjoyed how well developed they all were. My personal favourite was Mason. He is a classmate of Rose, her best guy friend. Mason is also a dhampire and training to become a guardian after graduation. Mason brings the witty light humour to ease Rose's spirit. He is there for her, be it for moral support, protection or simply just to goof around and laugh off the steam.
Besides Mason there are two other major male characters: Dimitri Belikov, the 24 year old darkly brooding, silent ,drop-dead-gorgeous, god-like guardian who is training Rose; and Christian, offspring of one of the royal Moroi families but who is a bit twisted due to his past and what happened to his family. I won't get into details, because it's better if you read the book without too many details known beforehand, but I just want to say that both characters are fantastic. Dimitri is the typical dark, quiet, charismatic, power-oozing hero. Love how controlled he is, his restraint is amazing. And Christian is the character - besides Rose and Mason - who made me laugh the most. His snarky lines are so refreshing. :-D
There is everything in Vampire Academy to make it an enjoyable page turner: thrilling mystery, forbidden romance, humour and a snarky, witty narrative with enjoyable characters. After devouring Vampire Academy I got myself Frostbite immediately!
If you haven't read this series yet, start it now. I bet you'll soon have the whole series on your shelf and will devour all 5 books in a mere couple of days ;-)