January 19, 2012

Vampire Academy: Outside My Comfort Zone Review

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Goodreads' description: "Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger...

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever..."

Technically I read this one last year, even if I didn't get around to reviewing it until now, so I'm counting it towards last year's "Read Outside Your Comfort Zone" Challenge. (I'm not hosting this challenge this year, but I will still be trying to broaden my comfort zone boundaries a bit, so you'll probably see a few reviews like this throughout the year.)

Why is it outside my comfort zone? Vampires...something about the whole sucking-your-blood gorefest has me more than a little wary of this sub-genre of paranormal YA.

Did it win me over? Why or why not? Okay, I have to admit: I was wrong about this series! It's dramatic, very addicting, and so much fun. The parallels/allusions to mental health issues (depression, schizophrenia, addiction) were really fascinating, providing a connection to the 'real world' despite the fact that this is a book all about vampires. For someone with a psychology background like me, this added an extra layer of interest.

The characterization and world-building were solid, but I took some issue with the plot. This is one of those books where dribs and drabs of information are handed out to the reader as the story goes along, but it's information that the protagonist knows and is just withholding from the reader for the moment. I'm sorry, but that always feels like a bit of a trick to me. It was executed quite well here, but the device itself I personally find kind of annoying.

Best aspect? Difficult to pick! I enjoyed both the characterization and the world Richelle Mead has created.   

I liked seeing the bond that Rose and Lissa share, though I took issue with Rose purposefully using that connection without informing Lissa of it. I found Rose to be a complex character — immature in some ways, but I'm hoping to see her grow throughout the series. Her ethics are shaky, she uses guys and even her friends sometimes, she spreads rumours, and she's a tad too quick to judge people. She can be rude, abrasive, and dishonest when she wants to be. She acts (as she admits herself) recklessly and impulsively, and she often views the world in black and white...but she has some wonderful qualities too. She's extremely loyal and brave; she sticks up for what she thinks is right, but she'll admit when she's wrong (although it might take a bit.) She's tough, and very protective of Lissa.

Mead has laid out a solid foundation for the social strata of this world. Each group of beings has a clearly marked role in society to play — the Moroi to beget more Moroi, the dhampir guardians to defend the Moroi, the feeders to keep the Moroi sustained, the "blood whores" to be treated as deviant social pariahs, the Strigoi to threaten the Moroi. I think there's a lot of potential in the way the society is structured for interesting dynamics and interactions to occur between the different groups, and for the stereotypes of each group to be challenged.
If I could change something, I would... raise the stakes for the climactic scene — it wasn't exciting enough for me,
and the villain reveal in particular was somewhat disappointing. The whole thing ended up being less "epic" than I had anticipated (although I suppose considering it's a series the author wanted to start small.) 

Also, a couple of the tactics used by the villains were far-fetched and require a serious suspension of disbelief (spoilers, highlight to read: seriously, a *lust* charm? Couldn't Victor have incapacitated Rose and Dimitri in some less convoluted way, that didn't rely on Rose actually deciding to wear the necklace? It seems a bit obvious that this was an attempt by the author to get the chemistry between Rose and Dimitri happening. Also, Natalie rotting the bench...how could she have had any idea Rose would jump up on it? Unless she was spying on her? This is never properly explained.)

Just one more thing I want to mention:  I wasn't entirely on board with the Dimitri/Rose dynamic. Perhaps it was the age thing, but it felt a little weird to me. However, I liked that she'd found someone she wanted to be with in a romantic way, that she actually connected with emotionally rather than just physically, someone that she respected.

Would I read more like this book? Yes! I'm definitely continuing on with this series.



He let go of my arm, looking disappointed, and ran a hand through his bronze-colored hair. Yeah. Not being able to hang out with him was a damned shame. I really would have to fix that someday. "Can't you ever get off for good behavior?" he joked.

I gave him what I hoped was a seductive smile as I found my seat. "Sure," I called over my shoulder. "If I was ever good."

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars.
I was really engrossed in this one!

Note: this book contains some violence, mature language, and sexual content.


  1. I totally ride the train of age is just a number. My parents are 9 years a part & have been married for 25 blissful years with 5 wonderful (if I do say so myself xD) kids. It annoys me, beyond limits, how if a somebody under 18 goes out with a person older then her by 2 years, not only is that illegal but basically immoral. Yet when Hugh Hefner wants to marry someone SIXTY years he's junior, I dont see anyone calling rape. So yeah, Dimitri's age wasn't even a thought to me. I liked the contrast between him and Rose. The mature, quite man & insane reckless girl. Opposites sure do attract!

    I actually liked Rose for the bad & good too. She's only 17, yeah she's immature at times, yeah she judges too quickly, yeah she's rude but then again, aren't we all? we all have our moments when we're like that and the teens I'm surrounded by everyday from 7 AM to 3 AM DEFINITELY are like that. Frankly, I'm sick of plain jane perfectly imperfect characters in books. The people with personalty's like Rose have stories to be told too.

    Anywasy, I know it seems like I'm butt heading with you but not really, this is a great review:D I can't wait to see what you thought of book two!

    Racquel @ The Book Barbies♥
    -thank you&come again.

  2. The Vampire Academy series is one of my ultimate favourites! I'm more of an Adrian fan myself, but you can't deny the off-the-charts chemistry between Rose and Dimitri. They really do understand each other so well.

  3. Yes ! this book definitely made vampires more appealing. The series only gets better!

  4. I read this series and, although the first part was more or less ok, the rest didn't manage to persuade me. Especially the "they killed him and he escaped later" trick (I won't tell you who and in what part in order not to spoil).

  5. I'm so glad you enjoyed Vampire Academy, it's one of my favourite series! Rose and Lissa are such great characters. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series too.


  6. I super loved this series - it was so fabulous :)

  7. What is it with vampires and bronze coloring? :P

    I haven't read this series yet, but I want to. Everyone seems to like it, even people who don't like vampires much. I didn't know about the psych aspects, but I'm not surprised it's you who picked up on them :)

  8. Interesting! I'm more than a little over paranormal right now, and don't know how likely I am to actually read this series, but I will say that this post, more than pretty much anything else I've seen about these books makes me want to read them. :)

  9. Great review! I'm glad you enjoyed this book too! I wonder if this series will ever be made into a TV show? I would definitely watch it!


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