Pack your bags, we're heading to Russia. Richelle Mead's fourth VA book, Blood Promise, is a lot about self discovery as well as the fight for love when it seems the whole world is against it. It starts with a lot of backstory, almost like a 'here's what you missed' as if we hadn't been waiting in anticipation for this book, and then brings us back into the world of Rose and her journey to find Dimitri after the catastrophic ending in the last installment. It is a story jam-packed full with new characters, some important and some not so important, that highlights who Dimitri was away from being a guardian as well as introduces new concepts and abilities that come from being 'shadow-kissed'.
At the end of the last book, Rose says goodbye to Lissa to start her journey to Russia to save Dimitri's soul. She is plagued by the feelings of missing her best friend and doubts that she'll find Dimitri since she doesn't actually know where he is, Russia being a mere educated guess (which is a very cliched 'I know everything about the love of my life' side to romances that people want to believe). She is still a very bad-ass character on top of the romantic escapade she is on, fighting and torturing Strigoi for answers, but it doesn't stay this way for the whole text.
While on her journey to find Strigoi-Dimitri, we are introduced to a character called Sydney, who is an Alchemist. Alchemist's are the middle ground of humans and vampires, and they pretty much make sure that the human-race don't find out about Strigoi, Moroi and Dhampir's by covering up their tracks and keeping them safe. This leads to Sydney not trusting Rose or any Dhampir or Moroi, thinking that anyone associated with that side of life as unnatural night monsters (and she's not wrong, really). They travel to Siberia together, where Rose uses her shadow-kissed abilities to see what Lissa and her friends are doing. A new story-line is introduced through this, with the addition of a girl called Avery who starts to badly influence Lissa. During the multiple times during the story that Rose looks through Lissa's eyes, Rose has moments where she wishes she never left so she can help her through her troubles and stop Avery from her bad influences, and there are indeed a lot of incidences that occur that causes a lot of issues. There are also times where Adrian meets her in her dreams, and Rose is able to impart some knowledge to him about being careful, but it doesn't always turn out well for them with both getting into arguments about a lot of things. It is through this book that we see the true feelings Adrian has for Rose.
Rose eventually finds herself in Baia, the town that Dimitri grew up in. This is found on accident after a violent tussle with Strigoi and (coincidentally) she is looked after the Belikov family. There she meets another shadow-kissed pair, Oksana and Mark, and learns of how to stop the darkness intruding her and Lissa. During her time there, she becomes friends with Dimitri's family and learns a lot about him outside of being a guardian. She also meets Abe, a mysterious man that Sydney calls 'Zmey'. He tells her to go back to the academy, but the good ol' Rose we know doesn't just do what people tell her without much of a fight. In the end, she teams up with a few immature Strigoi-fighting group of Russian Damphir's to try and find more information on Dimitri's whereabouts.
Eventually, she finds Dimitri. Ruthless, red-eyed Dimitri who is loving life as this hybrid of Vampire. He captures her and shows her a new life as a Strigoi, promising her they can be together if she just lets him turn her. There are many blood-lust days between them, which dulls Rose's mind and senses, and she is continually shown in the midst of 'perfection' of the evil surrounding her. She also knows that, if she doesn't become a Strigoi, there are only two ways out of the situation, her own death... or Rose having to kill the love of her life.
Blood Promise shows us the threat of death and the pain of losing someone, or something, that is important to you. It also shows the different ways a person can react to such pain, may it be through losing one self in love or through drugs and alcohol.
What I thought
I picked up this book with the same anticipation as I did the one before it. I thought the concept of Rose leaving Lissa behind in search of her Stirgoi-Dimitri was very dramatic and I was very interested to see how this story would progress. I'll have to admit that of all the books so far in this series, this would have to be my least favourite.
There is a strong focus on the concept of Rose having to kill Dimitri, which is what I expected, and I was hoping this idea would be played around with a little more creatively. Characters that were introduced, such as Abe and Sydney, seem very important, but there were times that their appearances felt forced and thrown together. I felt Sydney to be quite rational with her beliefs but there were times where I felt her beliefs to be too strong after repeatedly seeing that Dhampir's and Moroi were, in fact, not as bad as she thought. The mystery behind Abe was interesting but I found the plot twist at the end to be very cliched and too lighthearted an idea after such a dramatic ending. Other characters, such as Oksana and Mark, seemed disconnected with the storyline, almost as if they were thrown in to add to the power of shadow-kissed pairs. Their addition to the fight at the end through Rose's mind to connect with Lissa also seemed very odd, but of all the things that happened in the story that was probably one of the parts I liked since it added a new dimension to the power of Spirit.
I liked the way Dimitri was presented in this text, although I feel like he could have been a little more... evilly. Strigoi have been depicted as bloodthirsty and mindless beings that, through sheer determination and hatred of other beings, have only just started working together. Dimitri has some of that attitude but also shows a relaxed demeanor and there are times where Rose thinks that he is being kind or loving and that the 'old him' is still in there. I feel like if there was a bit more bloodthirstiness in Dimitri I would have been a lot more interested in his Strigoi character and that part of the story would have been more intense. SPOILER: I also think the end, with the very dramatic escape and Rose 'staking' Dimitri and watching him fall from the bridge could have been done differently since it is very obvious that Dimitri cannot be dead. Whether it have been Rose escaping from Dimitri completely and there being no trace of him afterwards, or even if Dimitri actually died would have been a big plot twist, but I just felt like the whole ending between them wasn't much of an ending at all.
Then there's the Lissa situation, and I was a bit frustrated by it all. I can understand the loss that Lissa would have been feeling and I liked the idea of her getting into mischief with this mysterious new character, Avery, since it gave Lissa her own form of bad-ass that I like to see. However, the flow didn't seem right at times. The way Rose was able to find out what had happened in between when she last looked through Lissa's eyes to the present staggered the story line, which disappointed me. I also thought the way Avery was presented made it very obvious that she was a bad character, but I felt the inclusion of this other baddy in the midst of Strigoi-Dimitri was only put in so that Lissa also had some drama to deal with.
Overall, I was disappointed by this book since the last three in the series were very enjoyable. There were parts that I enjoyed, like how much action there was, but altogether I thought the flow wasn't there and the plot twists were too easy to guess as the story progressed. The ending came as no surprise and felt very rushed, but it gives me some hope that the next book will bring a lot of action and political conflict after some of the events in this text.
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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.