Vampire Academy is the first book of six written by US author Richelle Mead. It is a young adult paranormal romance that intervenes the classic vampire myth and categorises different hybrids of vampires by calling them Moroi (good vampires), Dhampir (protectors of good vampires) and Strigoi (bad vampires). These terms have existed in a range of mythic stories and legends in different parts of the world but are reimagined by Mead in this modern story set at the fictitious St Vladimir's Academy in the US.
It starts with two girls, Rosemarie 'Rose' Hathaway and Vasilisa 'Lissa' Dragomir, who are in hiding since they have run away from the academy for reasons hidden from the reader (although there are hints that it has something to do with an unknown power of Lissa's). It is quickly established that Rose is a Dhampir protecting Lissa, a royal Moroi, from the academy as well as possible Strigoi, but it is shown very early that she is incapable of the job since she does not possess the skills to keep their pursuers away. They are sent back to the academy where Rose starts to show her defiant side, which appears constantly throughout the story, and Lissa and her are thrown back into the world of studying.
As a form of punishment as well as a way to get her back to the same skill levels as her peers, Rose is given a personal tutor, the guardian Dimitri Belikov, which begins a very unsubtle sexual tension between the two (Duh, all they do is get hot and sweaty around each other). Part of their education is on the history of their species and other general subjects, such as mathematics and English. However, Moroi and Dhampir have different classes for their species, Dhampir's focusing on fighting and protecting the Moroi from Strigoi and Moroi focusing on enhancing their specialised powers (water, fire, air and earth). However, Lissa has not learned what her specialised power is, which is seen as a mystery for someone her age. Even so, there is something going on with her that nobody understands that is leading her to self-harm.
Other characters are introduced, such as mysterious bad boy Christian Ozera who Lissa becomes interested in, Mia Rinaldi who acts as a rival to Lissa and Rose, Mason who is Rose's best friend and is obviously in love with her, and Victor Dashkov, an uncle-like figure in Lissa's eyes and the father of Natalie Dashkov. Each of these characters play important roles in the plot of this story and also foreshadows a lot of conflict and tension between the two main characters and what they will face in later books. It is also described that Rose and Lissa have a special bond that allows Rose to feel exactly what Lissa is feeling and see through her eyes, which Lissa feels is a breach of privacy. However, Rose uses it to keep an eye out for her in case she is in danger or in need of help. They keep this bond a secret since they don't really know why they have the bond or how it works. It is hinted that Sonya Karp, an ex-teacher at the academy, knew of their bond and the reason behind Lissa's inability to specialise in a power. There are also hints of St Vladimir, the saintly Moroi the Academy is named after, having similar issues as Lissa, which foreshadows the reason behind Lissa's problem.
With an anonymous person leaving dead animals around for Lissa to show signs of an abnormality within her, teenagers throwing rumours around about the two girls that impact their reputations, and an impending threat to the Moroi way of life, Vampire Academy introduces us to the complexities of the education system and being a teenager in the universe where vampires exist.
What I thought
I was given this book a very long time ago as I was going through a phase of loving supernatural stories after reading Twilight. When I first read it, I loved it. It was exactly the kind of stuff I was into and I fell in love with the characters instantly. I also had really enjoyed reading from the perspective of someone supernatural who was a bad-ass and I immediately pictured her as myself because I wanted to have that kind of passion for sticking up for my friends and what I believed in. I didn't expect to read it again since I find a lot of supernatural romances are very predictable and seem to share the same patterns. However, I picked it up at the beginning of the year on a whim and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
It was a bit hard for me to get into at the beginning since the suspense that was meant to be there felt a bit unnatural. However, pushing through it I found myself enjoying the journey. First books in a series can sometimes be a hit and miss, and with some parts in this text it was close to being just that since I found myself cringing at some of the events or Rose's immaturity. What really impressed me were the plot twists. Even though I had read the story before, I had forgotten some of the key twists and turns, and it was through those moments that drew me in. For a story to be a young adult text, it does need to follow similar patterns as others, so the main characters, all adolescents, faced issues (which seem quite trivial for supernatural beings) based around the coming of age, such as relationship issues and hormonal urges. This is also played around with by the very unsubtle attraction between Dimitri and Rose, and this battle of hormones between them adds a complexity to their relationship as tutor and student as well as guardian and prospective guardian. Being a YA novel also brings a simplicity to the writing style, which makes it very easy to read. I personally had no issues with this since it meant the story went straight to the point without wasting time in the descriptions or focusing on unnecessary things. I also enjoyed the constant foreshadowing of Lissa and the mystery behind her. Mead does really well in this aspect, which is how the plot twists came as such surprises for me, and I am really impressed by how it grew within the book without me guessing exactly what was going on, as well as introducing the lore behind the different species of vampires.
For a text that is meant to act as an introduction to the series, I think it did well in doing just that. However, there is a lack of action in regards to fighting and the dangers of Strigoi, the main event happening at the very end. For this particular story, this isn't much of an issue since the conflict does need to be around the darkness growing inside of Lissa and the bond between the two girls. If you're someone who likes reading supernatural tales for the action, this probably won't hit the mark for you, but I would suggest you to try and push through it since there is definitely a sense of upcoming action hinted for the next books in the series. I would recommend this book if you are into YA paranormal romances and want to start indulging in a long series, or if you're looking for a casual, easy read since it is an enjoyable book.
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.