Your evil ex-lover wants you and your friends dead, you're facing your final exams to get into the position you want to be in, and you're current boyfriend is a sobering up alcoholic and smoker who loves you dearly but you don't know if you actually want to be with him since his great aunt is also the queen of your race and doesn't seem to like you at all, and you also keep fantasising about your evil ex-lover. These are just some of the issues that Rose faces in the second-to-last installment in the VA series, Spirit Bound. This book brings us back to the original concept of the series, which is that it is a paranormal romance YA novel series.
It starts with Rose preparing for her final exams. This involves her having to go on an obstacle course to show her prowess and protect a 'Moroi' from 'Stirgoi' in a range of tests. However, it turns out that a part of her exam, where she is attacked on a bridge and has to make the decision to possibly endanger her Moroi's life and cut it down, was only included in her exam and not in her peers since she had already had a lot of experience fighting in the real world against real Strigoi, shown on the back of her neck with her molinja marks and star. Among all of this, she is also receiving letters from ex-lover and now Strigoi Dimitri, and she is now trying to find a cure to bring back his soul.
In her quest to find a cure, she is looking for a man called Robert Duru, who turns out to be the brother of the other evil guy (can you keep up with all of them?) Victor Dashkov, who is locked up in one of the most secure prisons in Moroi history. Her father tells her he can't get any information out of Victor, but Rose and her friends come up with a plan whilst at the Royal Court for their graduations to get Victor out of prison and get information out of him. In the midst of all of this is Rose's new boyfriend, Adrian, and their relationship is growing fast, even with the continuous jealousy of Rose's obsession towards Dimitri. Rose doesn't tell him of her plans to cure him or that they are going to break Victor out, but uses his credit card to get herself, Lissa, Eddie and Victor over to Las Vegas to meet Robert and get answers. Ultimately, this leads to Adrian finding out about everything.
After a fight or two, Adrian tells Rose that his feelings towards her are stronger than his anger and he will support her through it. She is thankful for it, and together they find out that Robert had changed a Strigoi back to it's original state by infusing a silver stake with Spirit and stabbing it with the weapon. However, when a fight breaks out in Las Vegas against them and Dimitri's gang, Victor and Robert disappear, and Rose and co are forced back to the Royal Court, where Rose and Eddie are punished for endangering not only Moroi but Royal Moroi lives. Their punishment involves manual labour, and with Rose unable to be by Lissa and Christian's side, Dimitri is able to kidnap them and hold them for ransom to get Rose.
The guardians plus Rose come up with a plan to free them. They are successful and in the midst of the fighting Lissa stabs Dimitri with a spirit-infused silver stake and transforms him back to a Dhampir. No one truly believes that he has transformed since it seems impossible, but eventually people begin to see that he isn't evil anymore. Rose is thrilled but now is in the middle of being in love with Dimitri but also in a relationship with Adrian. She tries to see Dimitri but he doesn't want to see her, feeling guilty after everything that happened between them and all the bad he had done, convincing her that he did not love her and that the only person he wanted to see was Lissa. She becomes jealous of Lissa who is able to see him and is treated like a saviour in his eyes, and she pushes her frustrations onto her own relationship.
With Victor Dashkov on the loose again, and with the love of her life telling her that he would never love her again, Rose is thrown into an emotional whirlwind. On top of this, Moroi are uprising for the ability to fight side-by-side with their guardians, while the Dhampir way of life is under threat with new political schemes in motion to force them to graduate earlier and defend the lives of Moroi from the age of 16. In the end, Rose finds herself in the middle of a controversial murder with all evidence pointing towards her being the culprit, and her life is again on the line.
What I thought
This book redeems the series after the last disappointing book. Although it isn't as good as the first three books, Spirit Bound brings back the interesting plot twists and the tension that made me fall in love with the series at the beginning. Nonetheless, there are still parts of this text I felt weren't necessary, like some of the family dinners with the Ivashkov family and also the weird masquerade, but overall I think it was an enjoyable read.
I enjoyed how action packed the book was, although some parts felt a bit rushed, and I felt like the fighting scenes were easier to read and had a better flow compared to the ones in the previous text. I really enjoyed that the final exam was included in the book at the beginning as it brought back the whole 'we're studying at school to have future jobs and that's important' aspect of the series that can sometimes be lost in other YA novels. However, I felt it very cliched that Rose was given something extra in her exam based on the fact that she had experience in the 'real world' and completed it so well. Firstly, it seemed unfair that she would be tested differently than her peers (which she also thought, which I was happy to read), and secondly it makes her seem more like a hero who can do anything, which isn't far from the truth with how the story goes but makes some other events in the story seem over-exaggerated (getting so brutally punished for 'endangering' Moroi lives or being threatened with losing a possible guardian position).
The romance is brought back into the forefront again, which I believe helped make the story better than Blood Promise, but there were some parts of it that I wasn't happy about. Her relationship with Adrian makes sense. He is such a lovely guy who would do anything for Rose that it seems pretty selfish for her to go gallivanting off with his credit card and to use his love against him to achieve her own goals, which is ultimately be with Dimitri. I was most frustrated with Rose when, in the midst of her frustrations of wanting to get back with Dimitri but being forcefully pushed away, she throws herself onto Adrian in a bid to prove to him that she only wants to be with him and offers him her blood rather than having sex. It goes against her hatred towards 'blood-whores' but also makes the reader feel like she's using him when it is so obvious she will never get over Dimitri. I also thought the relationship between Dimitri and Rose after he was brought back to being a Dhampir as overly dramatic, but it brought back the usual YA conflicts of romance. It also evoked emotions of frustration and sadness, so the text was successful in making me feel connected with the characters again.
Getting Victor Dashkov out of the prison was an interesting twist and it brought back the conflicting feelings I had with Rose's decisions in the past books, which I don't mind having since it entices me to read more. I thought the plan was a bad idea but I understood it was necessary. However, it was very obvious that it was all going to go wrong and they would escape, so I was a little disappointed with the predictability. In regards to the other events, such as the political disarray to do with Dhampir futures and the Moroi uprising, I found myself intrigued by it all since the characters are getting older and, since she is a Royal, Lissa will ultimately have something to do with politics. However, I felt some of it, as well as the hierarchy and class issues, to be a bit messy and, again, predictable. Nonetheless, I do like the addition of it, and with how the book ended I assume there will be more politics played in the last book, which I look forward to reading and completing this long and turbulent series.
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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.