So I finally got around to reading Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead! Everyone I know has raved about the series so far and I've said it a few times now that I felt incredibly left out as everyone ended up being hugely excited earlier in the year when the last book in the series was published. I really wanted to feel wrapped up into that excitement.
But for me, reading the graphic novel last month was my real motivator for beginning the series. I felt like I got a great overview of the characters and the main plot, but there was still lots of questions that had been raised by reading the graphic novel and I knew that reading the novel would go a bit deeper into character development and backstory as well as give me the much needed details that I was craving. And just as I found the graphic novel to be interesting and engrossing, I found Vampire Academy to be just as exciting and addictive reading.
We have our main characters, Lissa (a full and mortal vampire) and her best friend Rose (half-vampire whose role in life appears to be protecting full vampires). Lissa and Rose were both students and St.Vladimir's Academy until two years ago when they ran away under mysterious circumstances. Now they've been caught and sent back to face the consequences of their escape. Both Lissa and Rose end up with quite tarnished reputations for different reasons and they need to work hard in order to find the right place for both of them in the vampire world filled with hard social rules.
What really strikes me about this first book in the series is how much it felt like I was being thrown into a new world with all these characters and vampire heirarchy and while the story is explained to me, it was done really subtly and over time. I love that there isn't a big info-dump right at the beginning to confuse me. I think part of the reason I was always put off with reading the Vampire Academy books is the vampire royalty aspect of it as well as the different types of vampire (Moroi, dhampir and Strigoi) but everything is fairly well-explained and thankfully there isn't a huge deal of Vampire Queen etc talk, which is something I usually roll my eyes at.
No, what I liked about Vampire Academy are the characters and their relationships to each other. I liked the strong bond between Rose and Lissa. I liked the building tension between Rose and Dimitri. It was interesting to see how other secondary characters are percieved throughout the book, most noteably Christian. There also seemed to be a great deal about class differences and prejudices as well as the harsh treatment of women, especially the double standards involving sex.
There's also quite a bit of mysteries to be solved. The real reason behind Rose and Lissa's departure from the Academy two years earlier, Lissa's unusual gifts, and also who is behind some of the more ghastly events that occur throughout the novel. I had a lot of fun being introduced to these characters and to this world. I am definitely sorry that it's taken me so long to pick up this book and I'm hugely excited to read more in the series!