Best Friends to the End: “Vampire Academy” by Richelle Mead

The is the movie poster. I prefer it to the book covers.

The is the movie poster. I prefer it to the book covers.

Watching the movie before reading the book seems the best way to go. I first tested this theory with Beautiful Creatures. I enjoyed the movie so much that I forced myself through the first pages of the story to discover a book I enjoyed. Again, the theory proves true for Vampire Academy. The movie was entertaining and Zoey Deutch, who played Rose, was funny (after reading the book, I realized that she did a great job of capturing the character).

Quick summary:

Rosemarie “Rose” Hathaway and the princess, Vasilisa “Lissa” Dragomir, are best friends connected by a one-sided psychic bond that allows Rose to access Lissa’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences. They attend St. Vladimir’s Academy, a boarding school for vampires (moroi, the good vampires) and their guardians (dhampir, half-vampires that protect the moroi from strigoi, evil vampires). When the novel begins, Rose and Lissa have been on the run for two years. St. Vladimir’s is no longer a safe place for the princess so Rose, who proclaims herself Lissa’s guardian, hatched a plan to ditch school and seek protection in the wide, unknown world.

But within a few pages, a gang of dhampirs catch the girls and carry them back to the academy to face the headmistress, who scolds Lissa and threatens to expel Rose. However, Lissa uses her power of persuasion on the headmistress to lessen Rose’s punishment. The girls are instead given tighten security—Lissa has Dmitri Belikov, who led the dhampirs that recaptured them, as her bodyguard, and Rose is placed on a tight leash. The girls, who were once popular due to Lissa’s background, soon find that the social hierarchy of the academy had changed during their absence and there’s a new queen bee on top. Though this nettles Rose, she decides to remain cautious and advises Lissa to remain on the periphery of the in-crowd to avoid attention. However, this does not stop the threats that first propelled the girls to ditch school. Someone is leaving injured, sometimes dead, animals for Lissa to find which leaves her distraught. Unlike Rose who is dark, wild, and meddlesome, Lissa is light, innocent, and docile. She loves animals and hates to see anyone or anything hurt. She is very passionate.

Lissa also has a strange power—another reason why they ditched school. Moroi are usually able to manipulate one of the four elements—earth, wind, water, fire. But Lissa shows no propensity in either of these and that worries her. Her powers are far more strange and powerful and she is cautioned not to use them. The matter of her powers coupled with the threats and life as a teenager at a school where status is everything stresses Lissa so she at first finds solace in the chapel (churches do not repel these vampires) and develops a friendship with an unlikely chap. Meanwhile, Rose does her best to protect Lissa while training to become a guardian and developing a major crush on her mentor, Dmitri. Things take a turn for the worse when Rose is hurt and Lissa uses her power. In the end, the girls discover that those they least suspect are the ones who wish them harm.

My reaction:

The story was an okay read and the movie wasn’t spectacular but both were entertaining. Actually, it was the intensity between Rose and Dmitri that incited me to read the story. I wanted to know if the characters were as passionate in the book as those in the movie. (I think the passion between Rose and Dmitri is stronger in the book. Danila Kozlovsky was a bit stiff in his portrayal of Dmirti.) I also wanted to know if the book was as highly suggestive as the movie. I thought this aspect of the movie was unnecessary but after reading the book, I think it fits. As such, Vampire Academy reminds me of the T.V. show Gossip Girl with a paranormal twist.

Vampire Academy gif

There are a few things I liked about this story. First is the different take on the vampire/paranormal romance trend. Though the novel is set in the U.S., the cultural influence is Russian. I also like the addition of saints who were once vampires. For me, that’s a major twist. Vampires are generally seen as monstrous creatures that prey on innocent (virginal) souls so it’s interesting to see such monsters as not only a part of the church, but driven to do good. The strength of Rose and Lissa’s friendship is also a bonus. Usually in novels such as these where social status is of utmost importance to the characters, the female characters are usually at each other’s throats trying to claw their way to the top. But despite all that has happened to them, Rose and Lissa always try to protect each other even when they fall out. They are the bestest of friends.

Now I both like and dislike this psychic connection between the girls. It does help to move the story along without the author having to write from two perspectives or shifting from the first-person narrator but sometimes I wished we could read from Lissa’s perspective and see how she feels about having someone in her head even if it is her best friend. Sometimes Rose does selfish things for the sake of protecting Lissa. How does Lissa feel about that? There is that one time when Lissa lashes out but I prefer hearing from her perspective because she’s usually quiet otherwise. The torture Lissa endures is an annoyance. Although we later learn why Lissa is being taunted with injured animals, I found that it was too drastic an act for the explanation. From such taunts, I expected that someone intended to seriously harm Lissa or even kill her and though the real reason is just as damaging to her person, I think the gruesome acts could have been lessened or the reason for them heightened.

Vampire Academy gif2

And then there is Rose. I admire her spirit but it took a while for me to warm up to her. She can be selfish and petulant, and she seems to lack self-respect due to her somewhat promiscuous nature. She is a complex character and therefore the reasons why I alternately like and dislike her are often the same. She is sultry, flirtatious, and fiesty, which I like; but I didn’t like that she sometimes seems to encourage the disrespectful innuendos the guys throw at her. She is a tough girl, though, and I admire that. She tries to stay positive and strong for both herself and Lissa which is admirable given their circumstance but her apparent toughness is overcompensation for her vulnerability…I guess her wantonness with her self-respect is overcompensation for her vulnerability as well. I think she has abandonment issues since her mother is away (Rose was raised at the academy) and is not very affectionate.

Overall, the book was a quick read. I bought the e-book because I wasn’t sure if I would like the story but I did. I am tempted to conitinue with the series to learn more about Rose’s relationship with her mother and Lissa’s powers. As stated before, I did enjoy the movie but I disliked the unnecessary changes made to the story. I guess the intent with the movie was to make the story more comical. Even so, I did not like how the headmistress was portrayed. She was highly incompetent. And I also did not like how Lissa was portrayed when she started to use more of her power of persuasion. She seemed a bit evil in the movie. However, I do think the strigoi attack at the beginning was great. It was a good way of introducing them into the story. With that said, I recommend you watch the movie before reading the book as well. There’re less chances of getting upset with the changes that way.

Frostbite (book 2) —>

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4 thoughts on “Best Friends to the End: “Vampire Academy” by Richelle Mead

  1. Pingback: Reflecting on 2014: Reading | Zezee with Books

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