Slow and predictable - had hoped for more
In BLOOD PROMISE (Vampire Academy, Book 4), Richelle Mead's fourth installment in the series, everyone at St. Vladimir's has just come off the devastating Strigoi attack on the school. Most horrifying for Rose, Dimitri was turned into a Strigoi against his will. Leaving Lissa and school behind, Rose sets out to Russia to find and destroy him. In the process, she learns more about her shadow-kissed state, her relationship with Lissa, and just how much she can or cannot do (or resist) for love. Back at St. Vlad's, Lissa is experiencing her own problems as the burdens of being a spirit user begin to grow in Rose's absence.
BLOOD PROMISE is the lengthiest book in the series so far, and it suffers for it. The first half of the book is very slow, because, as readers, we know that the build will be to when Rose sees Dimitri again and what will happen then. The writing relies heavily on telling, instead of showing, and character development is limited, especially for Rose. In the second half of the book, her character takes a significant turn for the worse that doesn't mesh well with her personality found in the first three books. Plot devices, such as Rose being able to slip into Lissa's head, seemed obvious as ways to keep the story going, and there were continuity problems between the timing of events between Lissa's and Rose's worlds. In addition, there were repeated attempts at retroactive continuity in the form of flashbacks or memories, especially regarding Rose and Dimitri's relationship. The greatest shortcoming was the ending, which felt contrived; it provided no closure, just a predictable set-up for the plot of the next book.
On the positive side, the second half of the book was fast-paced and eventful. The distancing of Rose and Lissa as characters allowed them to make their own decisions and to be seen as individuals. Also, while it felt artificial, the use of flashbacks allowed me to finally feel the emotional connection between Rose and pre-Strigoi Dimitri, which had been lacking in the first three books. The introduction of many new characters (Abe, the Alchemists, Sydney, Mark and Oksana, the Belikova family) should add to coming books and provided some significant plot points. There was also character growth for Adrian, especially toward the end.
Even though I've felt let down by the past two books, I know that I'll continue reading about Rose, Lissa, and Dimitri until the series concludes. In SPIRIT BOUND (Vampire Academy, Book 5)and LAST SACRIFICE (Vampire Academy, Book 6), I hope that Mead brings better pacing, closure to Rose and Dimitri's relationship, and more consistent character development, especially for Rose.