Series: Vampire Academy #1
Publication Date: August 16th 2007 by Razorbill
Genres: Young adult, urban/dark fantasy, paranormal romance
My Rating: 5 Stars
St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger… Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.
Vampire Academy, oh Vampire Academy, wherefore art named Vampire Academy?
I know that’s probably a tad bit too dramatic, but Richelle Mead’s young adult series has gotten a lot of flack over the years since Twilight
became a successful franchise. Apparently, if there’s vampire
in the title and if it’s aimed at teenage girls, nowadays that inevitably means the book is going to suck balls and will be either a copy of Stephanie Meyer’s romance or of the television show The Vampire Diaries
. But believe me, the book title’s impression couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a sad, sad world where vampires have become synonymous with weak female leads and romantic fools of male protagonists that can’t decide whether they’re the good or the bad guys. That’s why I feel like Vampire Academy
has the potential to put the genre back into perspective. Back with the first literary vampires – Lord Ruthven and Carmilla – the genre started out as a way for the Other
– women, homosexuals etc. – to break free from patriarchal world views, and Mead is perfect to re-establish a series of books that manage to capture not only the struggle of womanhood to break free of such chains (which is sadly still needed, especially with Bella Swan as a role model for millions of young girls), but also a bold new approach as to how the vampire species evolved. While a lot of books of the genre build their worlds and vampire societies on old literary works (mainly Dracula
), Mead went deeper into Slavic myths and based hers on ones barely explored. In a time in which Buffy the Vampire Slayer
TV show to turn to, Mead contributes to a positive turnaround with originality and kickass heroines a la Buffy Summers and Faith Lehane. Funnily enough, her two female protagonists are pretty similar to those two characters. Vampire Academy
revolves around Rose Hathaway, a half-vampire, half-human Dhampir, who along with her best friend Lissa Dragomir, a royal vampire (or Moroi), ran away from St. Vladimir’s Academy prior to the book’s opening chapter. After a 2-year-absence from the school, the two are retrieved and brought back to campus by its guardians – dhampir protectors. With Lissa being the last of the royal line of the Dragomir, Rose finds herself having to work extra hard in order to not be expelled and still be able to become Lissa’s guardian upon graduation. Settling back in isn’t as easy as they expected when there are anonymous threats being made against Lissa that Rose is determined to undermine. Rose, an active fighter, stands out with her open sexuality, quick wit and unshakable loyalty, while Lissa, a more passive protagonist, struggles with depression and not only peer pressure but that of an entire royal line. Lissa may seem like a damsel-in-distress type of character, but she ultimately rises to the occasion and becomes her own fighter, relying more on her telepathic Moroi magic to find a footing.
With Moroi attending Vampire Academy to learn of their history and magic, the dhampir train to become their bodyguards against the third vampire species – the soulless Strigoi. Since all of Mead’s vampire characteristics are deeply rooted in Slavic mythology and based on their centuries-old superstitions, there are twists to every aspect that create a darker tone to the High School setting of the story. But Rose and Lissa not only struggle to become better versions of themselves, they also have to face a society that seems stuck in their old ways and needs some help (or, you know, upheaval) to return to their old glory.
I could pretty much write you a 50-page-essay on why I am in love with Mead’s characters and world building, but let’s just say that next to a brilliant vampire mythology, the first book in the series also features badass heroines, an awesome sister-before-misters mentality, a decent amount of romance (hey there, Dimitri and Christian), evil fiends and twists that keep the plot balanced enough in order to enjoy it as a young adult novel as well as a great representation of modern vampire literature.