For the third installment of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, Shadow Kiss reaches a whole other level of suspense and emotion. After leaving the second book in a mixture of emotions, both heartbreak and happiness, Mead shows her prowess and her rapidly increasing skills in the this wonderfully crafted third book that has us anticipating what's going to happen next before we open it. It is a story filled with new adventure and excitement, and also begins the proper look into the odd spiritual connection between Rose and Lissa.
It is the time for Rose and her peers preparing for their qualifying exams, which involves them being paired with a student Moroi to protect them from the teachers who will test them by randomly attacking them as if they were Strigoi. She expects to be given Lissa to protect, since her main goal has been to become her guardian, and she is under the false pretense that their special bond gives her an advantage over the field. However, she is given Lissa's boyfriend to protect, Christian, while her friend Eddie is assigned to Lissa. Rose, with her known anger and defiance, argues with the teachers and demands that she be given Lissa. The teachers reject her pleas and she finally accepts the decision (not happily, although that is expected in someone like Rose) and works hard to protect Christian, feeling silently confident in her abilities after the events in the last book.
There is high expectation on Rose, with her two new molnija marks on the back of her neck marking the two Strigoi she killed after they murdered her best friend, Mason. However, the first 'attack' on Christian does not run smoothly when she sees a ghostly figure nearby that takes her attention away from her assignment and leaves her being seen as a failure by her teachers. She doesn't tell them of the figure she saw, not wanting people to think she is crazy or traumatised by the events in the previous book. There are also odd things happening to some of the Moroi at the academy, and Rose learns of a group called the Mână who are approaching Moroi to join them, although she can't figure why or what they stand for. On top of the exam they are facing and this mysterious group formed at the Academy, Rose learns that Victor Dashkov's trial would soon be happening and she persuades Dimitri--using his feelings towards her--to get them into the trial. However, it is not Dimitri but Adrian that gets them into the trial. Adrian and Lissa are growing closer as they learn more about Spirit together, which makes Christian become jealous of their relationship. Rose finds herself in the middle of a fight between them, which is suddenly fixed by a few words by her. Later she feels very unlike herself, being plagued by a lot of dark emotions.
During the flight to the Royal Court for Victor's trial, Rose is suddenly inundated with pain as a migraine sweeps through her. She shakes it off once they arrive at court and they watch as his final sentence is given. It is during this visit at the court when we get to learn more about Queen Tatiana, who is introduced in the first book, and see the way she really acts around Lissa and Rose. We are also introduced a little later to a Dhampir called Ambrose, who works at the Royal Court and shocks Rose since she always expected Dhampirs to be guardians. Through him, they meet a fortune-teller, who disappoints Rose but gives Dimitri a very sullen prediction that he would lose what he values the most, so he should treasure it while he can (unsubtle foreshadowing, but definitely not what you expect).
Among the political games played at the Royal Court, the secret relationship between Dimitri and Rose, and the constant harrowing of ghostly figures that plague Rose, Shadow Kiss provides us with a lot of answers surrounding the bond between Rose and Lissa. There are more discoveries about the power of Spirit, and Rose and Dimitri find themselves in a nightmare that seems inescapable.
What I thought
This story really shows how much Richelle Mead has improved in her writing of these books, and after the heartbreak of the last book I could not think of any other way that Mead could break my heart again. However, the tissues were back in action by the end of the text. In saying that, the foreshadowing in this text is done in such a way that I found myself predicting what would happen (For example the fortune Dimitri is given), but even so it still took me by surprise because it was not exactly what I imagined, so I do think Mead did a very good job with this. I found myself having a bit of a laugh at some things at the end (SPOILER: Dimitri and Rose FINALLY let out their growing sexual tension. I mean I get that people going through a lot of emotions can equal to having sex and I suppose it had some romantic aspects, but I laughed at the timing nonetheless). It all seems pretty good for Dimitri and Rose at that point, but Mead had a twist up her sleeve (you'll have to read the book to find out what I mean).
This story is definitely more action packed, and we are further introduced to the levels of class in the Moroi society as well as the stereotypes that live among both Moroi and Dhampirs. I enjoyed the Rose's disgust at Ambrose not being a guardian because it brought a bit of humanity into the text by showing that there is a level of expectation on certain people in society, which can be translated into real life. The political games that also start to be played by Queen Tatiana, Lissa and Rose is also quite interesting, and I hope they continue in the later books since they do seem quite important to the plot line. The group created by the Moroi students complemented the political games as well, foreshadowing an uprising among the Moroi. And then, of course, there's the qualifying exams that are very important for any prospective guardian. This test and the challenges Rose faces during them shows that not everyone is perfect and how high expectations can really disadvantage some students. It is through these themes that I connected with the story, and I'm sure many other people can too.
If you have read this far into the series, I wouldn't be surprised if you find yourself gripping tightly onto this book as you read it because it is definitely hard to put down. The story is written magnificently for a paranormal romance YA book and the plot twists leave you quite stunned. There is less focus on the romantic sides of things (although it still is quite relevant in some parts) but this allows more work to be put into the main plot points of the series. This includes the ongoing threat of the Strigoi, what is happening to Rose and these ghostly figures and horrid migraines, and the sacrifice that Dhampirs have to make. I can also tell you that, after Mason's death, Rose has grown in her maturity, so I found there myself not wanting to tell Rose to grow up in this book compared to the last two. Don't get me wrong there, she still has her moments (which is not helped by the growing darkness) but it's her bad-ass attitude that makes us love her.
The ending, well, lets just say that it's a little predictable, but the way Mead writes it definitely pulls at the heartstrings. I can definitely say that the anticipation I felt before opening this book will mostly likely be there when I go to open the next.
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.