I haven't read Twilight. The last book I read about vampires was...over a decade ago, back when I was school. It was The Vampire Promise by Caroline B Cooney. I was petrified when I read it, and gave up on vampires. Then, there was Buffy. I enjoyed vampires after that, yet still never ventured into vampire fiction. I didn't get the deal with Vampires, why they made such cool characters, why everyone raved about them. That was until Vampire Academy.
Vampire Academy is the first in a trilogy, already out across the pond in the United States of America. It's the story of Rose Hathaway, unofficial guardian to Lissa Dragomir, a vampire Princess. The only survivor in her family.
For reasons I will not divulge, the story begins with Rose and Lissa as runaways from St Vladimir's Academy. The guardians at the Academy unceremoniously drag them back to school. However, it isn't as safe as all believe it to be.
The Academy is home to other royal vampires, and novice guardians. There's the usual school atmospheres: cliques are formed, popularity is uppermost in most students' thoughts. Superficial friendships related to the constantly run popularity contests run alongside more recreational relationships. Surrounded by this, and the real threat of expulsion which will keep Rose away from Lissa forever if she caves in to her wild nature, is the mysterious bond the two girls acquired after the accident two years prior to their escape.
It's a bond on a physic level, one which neither will tell the teachers about. The bond saves Lissa's life countless of times. There's more than just the bond that's kept secret: Lissa, although she doesn't show particular aptitude in any of the four magical elements which the students study, has another skill, one which forced the two to run away from the Academy. Now they're back, the skill begins to consume Lissa, changing her from the sweet, vampire princess she used to be into a literally manipulative princess. She has many redeeming qualities, the level of compassion she has for anyone, or anything hurt, and the way she's not keen when other students exploit Feeders - humans who enjoy being fed off.
Rose definitely holds the crown for snarkiness - the story is told from her point of view - but Lissa doesn't keep her fangs hidden when issues she care about arise.
That's what drew me to Vampire Academy: the fact that it wasn't told from the POV of the princess, but from her friend - her unofficial guardian (technically Rose is still in training). I don't see this happen a lot in fiction, at least not the books I've read up until now. I've always wanted to know the stories behind the protectors, how they developed their fighting skills, how they strengthened their minds to protect their charges no matter the cost.
Rose believes that she can take on the Stirgoi, the type of vampires who never die. Think super-tough, with abnormally fast reactions and pure evil minds. The scariest thing about them? They can keep their nature hidden for a while.
Dimitri, Lissa's personal guardian, volunteers to help train Rose. He pushes her hard, but not as hard as she pushes herself once she learns the reason behind the seemingly useless exercise.
relationships raised the paperclip level to three. There's some coarse language, a fair amount of innuendo and a little detail on adult relationships.
That didn't stop me from sitting glued to my book, oblivious as my parents kept picking up and putting back oven gloves on my lap this evening. The way sensitive topics that until not long ago were a taboo area are addressed makes me want to hand Vampire Academy out in schools around the country. Depression and self-harm are portrayed in a startling accurate manner. It shows the view from the close friend, seeing what the sufferer is doing to themselves, not quite understanding it, but accepting that it's a part of them. I won't spoil the outcome of that story line, but its one which touched my heart.
Vampire Academy has opened up a new genre for me - Vampires. (Yes, I may now go and read Twilight. Maybe). You can guarantee that I'll be waiting for the post when the second installment, Frostbite comes out in October. It's bound to have more plot twists and edge of chapter page turners than this one.