Uneven third installment, 2.5 stars
In the third book of the Vampire Academy series, SHADOW KISS, the students of St. Vlad's have returned to campus after the harrowing events of holiday break. Rose, fresh from her first Strigoi kill and the loss of a good friend, is feeling distracted and volatile. As trials for the novice guardians are underway, Rose starts seeing a possible ghost and Lissa begins experimenting more and more with her spirit magic. As her relationship with Dimitri intensifies, the actions of a rogue student group put everyone in danger and Rose must decide what to do.
Compared to the first two books, SHADOW KISS does better with developing the nuances of the relationship between Rose and Lissa; the expansion of the shadow-kissed mythology adds dimension to their connection. Lissa also grows in her leadership position and confidence, and the story directly addresses the aftermath of the Strigoi attack and Mason's death on Rose. The continued presence of Adrian adds humor and guile to the story, and I finally felt a connection between Rose and Dimitri near the end. The second half of the book has a very quick and tension-filled plot; I felt genuinely concerned for the characters and the outcome, even if it was predictable. The book also had less repetition than FROSTBITE, and the dated references found in the second book were absent.
On the downside, the overall pacing was off, with the first half very slow before the action of the second half. Though there was some character development, the story was driven by the plot, not the development of its characters. Rose's character came across as very immature and irritating in the first half of the book (even though the reason was explained later), and again, it was difficult to understand Dimitri's attraction to Rose, especially after her behavior. The outcome at the end of the book was very sad, but it was also very predictable. Mead continued her trend of telling, instead of showing, and there was at least one significant continuity error in Rose's narration.
With all of these combined, I did not enjoy SHADOW KISS as much as the first two books in the series. Nonetheless, with the fascinating world that Mead has built for her characters, I know I will keep reading each new book. However, I hope that BLOOD PROMISE and the books to come will have less predictability and more character development.