Satisfying but mostly predictable conclusion to the series
In Last Sacrifice, the final installment in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, the stakes for Rose and her friends have reached their breaking point. Rose has been accused of the Queen's murder and awaits trial and possible death, Dimitri is still struggling with his restored dhampir state and people's distrust about his transformation, and Lissa has been thrust into court life as the last living Dragomir. While wrestling with her feelings for both Adrian and Dimitri, Rose must find a way to free herself, clear her name, and find the missing Dragomir heir to ensure Lissa's rightful place on the Council.
LAST SACRIFICE will please most fans due to its ending and the wrap-up of the most significant storylines. Resolution occurs regarding the missing Dragomir heir, the queen's murderer, and the love triangle between Rose, Adrian, and Dimitri. While much of the plot is predictable, the twist regarding the identity of the Queen's murderer was a nice surprise. For the main characters, the story ends in a conclusive place where the reader can imagine their futures (or lack thereof) without needing to know more detail. In this book, Lissa and Rose also become more of their own characters as they are forced to face challenges apart from one another, and Dimitri and Lissa show significant growth and resilience. In addition, I finally felt some of the connection between Rose and Dimitri, which I hadn't in prior books.
On the downside, the many dropped or unresolved plot points about secondary characters seemed obvious as set-ups for the forthcoming spin-off series, [b:Bloodlines|8709527|Bloodlines (Bloodlines, #1)|Richelle Mead|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41XIucT3GuL._SL75_.jpg|13582374]. The writing remained decent but not overwhelming, and the repeated use of ellipses (...), em dashes (-), and empty phrases like "so, so" became noticeable. Pacing also lagged significantly during the first 400 pages, and the book felt like it could have been much shorter, especially given the predictable outcomes of many plot points. Rose's first-person narration also failed at times because of the unbelievable lack of self-awareness on her part; and similar to [b:Blood Promise|5996153|Blood Promise (Vampire Academy, #4)|Richelle Mead|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41STNnlJc4L._SL75_.jpg|6651007], Rose's ability to "see" Lissa's experiences became too convenient and repetitive as a plot device. As a character, Rose remained impulsive and abrasive, so when she did have moments of growth in this book, they felt manufactured. Finally, while I liked that Mead depicted a romantic relationship based on equality and trust, its presentation sometimes felt forced, like a teaching moment.
Even with these faults, Mead's Vampire Academy is, by far, the best and most engaging young adult vampire series out there. Fans will undoubtedly find this final installment satisfying, and certain loose ends promise readers more action and intrigue in BLOODLINES next summer. Though I was never able to fall in love completely with these characters or their stories, I'm sure I'll pick up BLOODLINES to see what happens next.