I was very hesitant in picking up Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. Not because I heard it was bad - I've heard many amazing things - but because it seemed like I wouldn't enjoy it. Honestly, I went into it thinking it was just a book about a bunch of vampires all stuck in a boarding school trying to fight their heightened hormones and not have sex all over the school. To my surprise, this book hardly contained romance at all.
To my ultimate surprise, I rated this book 5 stars.
Not that I'd call it a favourite, (I've read books that I like more) but alas, the Goodreads 5-star system doesn't always fulfill the true needs of rating a book. I think if I had ten stars to pick from, it would've earned maybe a 9 or even an 8.
And so, in my doubts, I checked this out from my school's library and am now wishing I had the whole box set...
Before we get to the synopsis and my thoughts lets clear up a few things;
My vampire knowledge consists on reading the Twilight Saga fifty times in grade 8, Dracula in grade 9, and watching Van Helsing at least once a year since I was eight. Vampire Academy was different in anything else in that there are different species of vampires, so here's your glossary:
Dhampir: half-vampire, half-human, have heightened senses like a vampire but do not feed on blood, are slightly tolerable to sunlight but not completely, cannot reproduce a dhampir with another dhampir but can with a Moroi. They also train to be guardians for members of the seven royal families of Moroi.
Moroi: mortal vampires, all your typical vampire stuff with the exception of aging, being able to contract disease, and a minor tolerance for sunlight. They can harness different elements; wind, earth, fire, and water. They believe in only using this magic for good and not evil. Seven royal families consist in this species and all others seem to be servants to them.
Strigoi: immortal vampires. Dhampirs, Moroi, and humans can be turned into this species by a bite from a Strigoi, or a Moroi can turn into one by killing a human whilst feeding on them. They have zero toleration to sunlight and have no elemental powers. (I'm also pretty sure that they're stronger than moroi)
Vampire Academy takes place in the point of view of Rose Hathaway, a dhampir and guardian of princess Vailisa Dragomir, the last of her royal family. In the very beginning of the book they're on the run from the people of St. Vladimir's Academy, a school they once attended. Why are they on the run? You'll have to read it to find out. However, that is not the entire book, it's only the first chapter.
And so we watch as Rose and Lissa struggle to fit back into life at the Academy... well it's only really Lissa, Rose has a much easier time getting back into it. All the while, Rose and Lissa have a "bond"; an emotional link between them in that Rose can sense Lissa's emotions and sometimes take residence in her head, something very rare between a Moroi and their guardian. But all is not well when they return to the academy cause some weird shit starts going down.
Since Rose is behind at school, the headmistress assigns Demitri Belkov as her tutor. Of course, they develop feelings for each other but not without drama getting in the way. I suspect their relationship has a lot of development to come with five other books, especially by the way this book ended.
Throw in royal drama, blood whores, church, and a mysterious guy named Christian Ozera, and you've got Vampire Academy!
Like I said earlier, this book really surprised me - it could be because I went in almost-blind with only having seen the movie trailer, but I think it would surprise many other people as well. I mainly rated this 5 stars because I couldn't see any reason not to; I had fun reading it, I couldn't put it down, the concept was intriguing, the characters were well written.
I'd recommend this to anyone who has been thinking about reading it and hasn't yet, or people who enjoy non-gothic fantasy. I do plan on picking up the next book when I get the chance and I think I might see the movie.