Decent start to the series
In Vampire Academy, we meet Rose and Lissa, currently on the run after leaving St. Vladimir’s Academy two years ago. Rose is Lissa’s best friend and protector. As a dhampir (half-human, half-vampire), Rose is trained to protect Moroi (mortal vampires), including Lissa, from the immortal and cruel Strigoi vampires. After being caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s against their will, Rose and Lissa return to school and find themselves dealing with nasty gossip, Rose’s growing attraction to her older mentor, and anonymous and frightening threats against Lissa.
In the oversaturated world of vampire romance, Vampire Academy holds its own by having an assured, kick-butt type of heroine and a story grounded in folklore. The background in real Balkan folklore lends strength to the story, and Mead does an excellent job of providing a well-explained mythology behind each type of vampire and half-vampire and their roles. Pacing is also strong, as things start where the action begins, and the book is written in an easily readable style. Refreshingly, the story focuses on the strong relationship between Rose and Lissa, two female friends who are not competing with one another. There’s also a nice feminist touch in that female dhampirs are depicted as being as physically capable as their male counterparts.
Though a fun and action-filled read, there were also some problems. Rose’s character, while the most developed, often came off as caustic through her overly sarcastic and sexual demeanor. As the narrator, she was frustrating to listen to sometimes. Other characters, including Lissa, were not well-developed; I felt like I only really knew anything about two characters, Rose and Christian. Dimitri, for example, was flat as a love interest, other than being told that he was hot and skilled at combat. He had some moments of development but not enough to make him a good leading man. Too much of the plot depended on a thread about girls getting back at each other through rumors; while that’s something that happens every day, it made all of the characters involved (including our protagonists) seem shallow and immature. The expository parts of the book were important to the mythology but came across as clunky, and the conclusion wrapped things up too easily with lots of telling instead of showing. Finally, typos and formatting problems drew me out of the story.
Overall, Vampire Academy was a decent start to the series and interesting enough for me to want to read more. In future books, I hope Mead focuses more on developing the characters and the relationships between them (especially the romance between Rose and Dimitri) and that she shows more instead of telling.