Book review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy

Title: Vampire Academy

Author: Richelle Mead

Genre: YA, paranormal, romance

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: August 2007

Paperback: 332

Stand alone or series: First in a series

How did I get this book: Bought

I’ve spent the day (I finished VA this morning) trying to figure out whether I liked this book or not, and I’ve just decided to say how I felt right when I finished: I both like and don’t like this book. There are things that I really liked about VA and then there are other things that I really didn’t. Let me try to tell you what I mean.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis (from the book jacket):

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires—the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a Dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladmir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger…and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lisa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever…

What I thought:

So I chose to use the summary from the book jacket instead of writing my own because I think it really gives you a good idea, pretty much the whole idea, of what the book is about. It does a good job at summarizing the story, so I figured I’d just go with that.

I want to start with the things I really liked about the novel: the plot and the ideas behind the different types of vampires. The plot is pretty interesting. You’ve got a vampire princess who, along with her ‘guardian’, slip out of a super protected fortress school, but are dragged back. Once there, they’re dropped back into the social scene of a school full of vampires, which has changed slightly from the way they knew it. There’s a crazy, spiteful vampire named Mia who has taken over Lissa’s position, along with her ex-boyfriend Aaron. Rose has a new, older guardian named Dmitri giving her extra lessons to try to catch up with the other novice guardians. We’ve got a creepy but also sweet outcast named Christian who sparks an interest in Lissa. It’s a somewhat typical, drama filled high school story, but then there’s vampires and sort-of-superpowers and queens and dead birds showing up, and you know it’s not so typical. Pretty cool plot. Then add in the way that the queen/king is chosen in this world: the current queen/king chooses their successor from among several other royal families but is not allowed to choose their own offspring for the role. The plot moved along at a decent pace, so my attention was kept the whole time. There was a fair amount of action and generally interesting happenings (dead animals, people being lit on fire, you know, happenings). Additionally, Mead’s writing style wasn’t all that bad, so that’s another plus.

I love vampire stories. Like, a lot. Well, except that really well-known one about some Mary Sue and her creepy, sparkly vampire boyfriend; you know the one. But new takes on the vampire origin/history are one thing I really enjoy, so the different types of vampires in this novel were fascinating. You’ve got the Moroi, the Strigoi, and the Dhampir. The Moroi are vampires, but they’re mortal and they have an affinity for harnessing one of the elements. The Strigoi are pretty typical vampires: they feed on blood, are extremely sensitive to sunlight, and want to kill people. However, the way they become vampires is sort of different; they can be bitten by another to turn, but they can also be a Moroi and drain another vampire/human/Dhampir of blood until they die to turn. Then you’ve got Dhampirs: the offspring of a Moroi and a human trained to protect the Moroi; they don’t feed on blood, have no powers, but do have increased strength and are generally badass. Cool, huh?

I also really liked Christian: outcast, creep, but all-around sweetheart. He’s an outsider at St. Vladimir’s because of his parents’ conscious decision to turn Strigoi, but after Lissa returns, they start to develop a really sweet little romance. He’s dark and brooding and a loner, but he becomes softer when Lissa is around. Their romance was one of my favorite things in the book. It felt realistic and was adorable. I was definitely rooting for them.

So now I need to talk about the things I didn’t like.

Rose is an asshole. I’m sorry for the language, but in my opinion, that is the best way to describe her. She’s so extremely shallow. Here’s two of the things she says about herself:

I knew I was pretty, but to Moroi boys, my body was more than just pretty: it was sexy in a risqué way. – Page 51
I knew perfectly well that there weren’t a lot of girls at this school who looked as good in a bra as I did. – Page 121

If she’d just said something like this once or twice, I think I could have handled it, but she talked about how hot she was several times. SEVERAL. But it wasn’t just when she was talking about herself (which she did a lot). Her ‘romance’ with Dmitri, her older (by seven years – totally illegal) guardian mentor, was super shallow as well. Like, holy crap. I definitely could not handle them. To me, the only reason there was a romance here was because they were both ‘hot’. In fact, after denying his feelings for Rose for a while, he kind of admits to it, but even says it’s partly because of her body. I just didn’t feel their romance at all. If you could even call it a romance. Near the end of the book there is a short little justification for their feelings for each other, but it is only briefly mentioned and didn’t give me any more reason to believe in their pairing. It was weird, awkward, and forced.

Rose is the type of girl who would date someone just because of how hot he was (e.g. Jesse). I also think that Rose was really bitchy and mean just to be mean. She totally destroys the burgeoning romance between Lissa, who is supposed to be her best friend, and Christian. And just because she was jealous; Christian is taking up Lissa’s time, so let’s destroy him, even though Lissa obviously really likes him.

She tried so hard to be the fierce, independent, badass character, and while she is pretty badass (I mean, she’d totally kick my ass), she wasn’t exactly the strong, independent woman I strive to be every day. I will say that she was rather funny at times, and I did like her sarcasm. I found myself continuing to read to find out what stupid thing she was going to get into next, which I’m not sure is a plus or negative.

I think this novel was just a bit too immature for me. Please don’t take this the wrong way if you loved it. I’m not trying to insult anyone. This was just firmly in the TEEN genre for me. I’ve heard later books in the series get better, so maybe I’ll have to see about that. I don’t see myself buying any of the others, but I might check them out from the library.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I think I prefer the movie version of this book (which I saw in theaters). At any rate, I preferred movie-Rose to book-Rose. I am glad that I watched the movie before I read this book, and therefore had movie-Rose’s voice/looks/actual humor in my head while reading it, because had I not seen the movie, I think I would have seriously hated book-Rose. Being able to have the fully-developed characters from the movie in my head allowed me to fill out the characters in the book.

The bottom line:

This book was very readable, but its main character/narrator was obnoxious. There were things I liked and things I didn’t, though I did want to keep reading. I have mixed feelings about it, but I’d say it is worth a shot to any fans of vampire stories, school stories, and female leads.

Rating: 6 – Good, but not great

Have you read Vampire Academy? What did you think? I’d love to hear your opinion; don’t be afraid to comment if it’s different than mine!

Reading next: Gone by Michael Grant – yay for the first on my Bout of Books list!


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Unique Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, bloggers post a list of ten books under a theme laid out on The Broke and the Bookish blog. You can find the list HERE.


This week’s theme was the top ten most unique books you’ve ever read. Let’s go!

1. The Passage by Justin Cronin

This book has such a unique back story to the creation of vampires and the subsequent outbreak of the disease in the modern day. It’s creepy, full of horror, and brilliant. 1000 pages of awesome.

2. S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

Metafiction at its best. This book is a work of art. The book you pick up is not even the book you read: you read Ship of Theseus, which centers on S., by fictional author VM Straka. The two characters reading Ship of Theseus, Eric and Jennifer, attempt to figure out who Straka was while figuring out who they are. It’s full of letters, photocopies, postcards, pictures, and various memorabilia. So cool.

3. The Radleys by Matt Haig

Another unique take on vampires. This one is smart, witty, and altogether very clever. The Radleys are vampires, but the parents, Peter and Helen, haven’t told their two children, Clara and Rowan. They follow the Abstainer’s Handbook, guidelines to living without blood,, but when a shocking, violent act occurs, they must tell their children everything. It’s so well-written and different. I loved it.


4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

It’s not necessarily the story that’s unique, but the beautiful illustrations that are included are amazing. I saw that they now make a version of this book without illustrations. I’m not even sure why you’d want to read it without them. That’s what makes the story. They’re gorgeous!

5. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Completely plausible werewolf story. I thought the background story was very unique and realistic.

6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This was the first book I’d ever read like this (well, the only one, really). It’s written from the perspective of an autistic 15 year old boy who sets out to find the murderer of his neighbor’s dog. It was eye-opening, moving, and beautifully written.

7. Lolito by Ben Brooks

Sort of modern take on Lolita written from the perspective of the young, male “victim”. I flew through this book. It’s hilarious at times, disturbing at others, and just all around unlike anything I’ve ever read.

8. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This book centers around Don Tillman, a man who reminds the reader of Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. Don doesn’t fit in, but in a way to find himself a female life partner, he designs the Wife Project, a logic-based compatibility quiz that should match him with a partner. It’s funny, sweet, and optimistic.

johndiesattheend9. John Dies at the End by David Wong

Horror done in a way I’d never seen it before. Don Coscarelli, director of Phantasm I–V and Bubba Ho-tep said, “David Wong is like a mash-up of Douglas Adams and Stephen King . . . ‘page-turner’ is an understatement.” I couldn’t have said it better.

10. The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan

The most unique take on mythology I’ve ever come across and truly enjoyed.


What books would be on your list?

Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner


Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Delacorte Books

Publication Date: October 2009

Paperback: 375 pages

Stand alone or series: First book in a series

How did I get this book: Bought

Do you ever have a book on your to-read list for a long time, but you just never seem to get to it? Well, for me, that was The Maze Runner. I have heard great things about the series and have wanted to read the books for years, and yet I always had other books to read. I think it was the impending approach of the release of the movie based on the first book in the series that pushed me into finally buying them.

I wish I’d done it sooner.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis:

The book begins when a boy awakens in a darkened elevator, ascending into the unknown. He is unable to remember anything about himself or where he is from except for his name – Thomas. When he reaches the top, he is brought into the Glade – a giant courtyard that includes a farm, a slaughterhouse, and a homestead where a large group of teenage boys lives, all of different ages and sizes. These boys are like Thomas: they were sent to the Glade with no memory of themselves but their names. The Glade is surrounded by a giant labyrinth, called the Maze, the walls of which move every night after the doors leading into it close. Most of the group of boys tends to the Glade each day, farming, cleaning, killing. But there is a small group of boys that head into the Maze every day to try to solve it, making maps of what they find. They believe that if they solve it, they will find the way out. Only the fastest and smartest boys are able to be Runners, because they must be quick and get back before the doors close lest they fall victim to the monsters that roam the Maze, the Grievers – large, blubbery, half-mechanical beasts that can sting you with their various metal arms.

This has been the way of the Maze and the Glade for two years. Until Thomas arrives. The day after he comes out of the elevator, what the Gladers call The Box, someone else comes up, something that shouldn’t happen for another month. But that is not the most shocking part to the Gladers; what is frightening is that it’s a girl. She brings with her a disturbing message – everything is going to change. Though they cannot explain it, Thomas and the girl are connected, and they believe that it is their responsibility to figure out the Maze and lead the Gladers to safety.

What I thought:

This book consumed me from the beginning. The world that Dashner has created is frightening, intense, and everything I look for in a dystopian novel. The characters are isolated and fighting for their lives, and there is basically non-stop action the entire book. There are a lot of questions to be asked in The Maze Runner, but each time one is answered, another, bigger question is left in its place. I have to say that I have read books that have done the same thing and it has irked me to no end. However, Thomas is in a similar situation as the reader; he cannot remember anything about his life, so he is asking all of the same questions that the reader wants to know the answer to. Thomas is a well-rounded, developed character. He is clever, curious, and brave, and he knows the questions to ask. As Dashner keeps us guessing, Thomas keeps asking, making this an effective, and not-at-all annoying device to keep readers just out of reach of the truth. I don’t want to say too much about the questions that Thomas is being forced to ask, but let’s just say that Dashner can write! His prose is crisp and irresistible, keeping you turning pages and unwilling to lay the book down.

As for the world, it’s terrifying. Somehow, from somewhere, this group of boys has been transported into the middle of a gigantic maze, which is miles across. Its walls are hundreds of feet high and look to have been there for hundreds of years. Weirdly, none of the boys can remember anything about their lives previous to their time coming up in The Box. The Maze’s walls change every night and there are huge, frightening creatures that roam inside it at night. The reader will be just as curious as the Gladers – have they been sent there for an experiment? Is there actually something outside the Maze, and if so, what is it? Is this a prison that these boys have been sent to for crimes they cannot remember? How was this place created? The Maze Runner keeps the reader guessing, keeps you turning the pages to find answers. But don’t worry; the questions are addressed. I think there is something to say about an author who confuses you constantly, but makes you want to keep reading anyway.

One of my favorite things about the novel is Dashner’s made up slang employed by the Gladers; they use words like “shank,” “greenie,” and “shuck.” It is somewhat strange at first, just as it is strange to Thomas, who has no idea what the other Gladers mean when they say these things. And these other Gladers are brilliant characters, each with their own distinct personality. There’s Newt, Minho, Chuck, Alby, and the hostile (though we’re not sure why at first), Gally. Some of these characters are leaders in the Glade, while others are relative newbies, giving Thomas and us a range of knowledge to be had in the ways of the world. Throughout the novel, these other characters are developed just as well as Thomas, and the reader connects with them and empathizes with their situation.

Then there’s Teresa, the girl who was sent up in The Box to deliver the ominous message that everything was about to change. We don’t get much of her in this book, as she’s in a coma for part of the book and then ostracized for much of the rest of the book. However, I can say that this is remedied in future books.

The novel takes us on a journey while Thomas, Teresa, and the Gladers work to solve the Maze and find their way to safety. I won’t give anything away, but I will say that you will continue to be surprised until the very end – watch out for that cliffhanger, guys!

The bottom line:

If you couldn’t tell, I LOVED The Maze Runner, and I flew through its pages on the edge of my seat. The fast-paced, thrilling plot, engaging characters, often confusing answers to questions, and Dashner’s brilliant writing makes for a very successful novel. Almost immediately after finishing Book One, I began reading Book Two, The Scorch Trials, as I couldn’t handle that cliffhanger and needed to know what happened next. I’ve currently read Books One – Three, and I’m reading the prequel to the series, The Kill Order. At the same time that I was wanting to read them even faster, I wanted to take the time to savor them. I would highly recommend this book, as well as the entire series, for anyone who likes post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, action packed, thrilling adventures, especially if you’re into series. They are unputdownably good.

Rating: 9 – Practically perfect

You can read an excerpt from the first chapter of the book HERE 

See more from James Dashner on his website 

Reading nextThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman